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Almost all the essays in the collection edited by Marjorie Ferguson add to an understanding of the changing process of public communication and alert us to the danger of facile optimism in the face of technological transformations. Peter Golding premises his discussion upon the importance of communications to democratic citizenship. He reminds us that socio-economic barriers continue to restrict the access to the "necessary information and images to allow full and equal participation in the social order" Ferguson, , p. Golding offers impressive evidence that the information gap within advanced capitalist countries is widening, and counters arguments which suggest that the new communication technologies will reduce or eliminate "the partial and attenuated citizenship imposed by information poverty" p.

William Melody is equally concerned about the threat to "participatory democracy" posed by the global information economy. Unfortunately, Melody's own policy recommendations are palliative at best. Arguing that the role of policy in the information society should be to plan and implement changes "at a pace which minimizes the losses imposed on those who cannot benefit from them" p. In a refreshingly witty discussion of communications regulations in Britain and the European Community, James Michael draws two significant conclusions: first, that as in North America regulatory agencies increasingly have come to regard international economic competitiveness as the measure of public interest; and second, that, oddly enough, increased privatization and liberalization of communication services may go hand in hand with an increase in content regulation.

A greater reliance on markets, coupled with a rise in information poverty and an increase in state censorship, is hardly a prescription for democratic communications. Three articles in the Ferguson volume explore conceptual and substantive issues regarding the media production process. While they do not focus specifically on the role of new communication technologies, they emphasize the need to look beyond technological gadgetry as the principal producers and transformers of meaning.

Jay Blumler deftly probes the growth of the "modern publicity process" as a central component of contemporary politics. Politics has become public relations, as key political actors "struggle to influence and control popular perceptions of key political events and issues through the mass media" Ferguson, , p. While Blumler is sensitive to the audience's ability to create "pluralistic mental frames" p. The contributions of Philip Schlesinger and James Curran hone in on the process of news production. Both articles challenge arguments that the media, the news media in particular, are a subordinate site for the reproduction of the dominant ideology, that its messages are in large measure predetermined by more primary definers.

Schlesinger is adamant that media research needs to take more seriously the "strategic action" of sources, especially the competition among them Ferguson, , p. Schlesinger's emphasis on the potential indeterminacy of new messages is in no way meant to suggest that we live in a world of fair and equitable expression. Instead, one of his key points is that we must better understand the strategies that result in successful "information management" p.

Less pathbreaking, is James Curran's insistence that we accord more attention "to the internal process of control within news organizations" p. Curran's case study of the abolition of the Greater London Council suggests that television coverage of the event was both more balanced and more sensitive to non-dominant sources than the press. His analysis should remind us to consider the contingent relationship between media forms and content; a point that has obvious relevance to the study of the new communication technologies.

Much of the euphoria surrounding the introduction of the new communication technologies focuses on how they might empower and liberate the individual, as audience and as citizen. Likewise, it has been argued that the increasing fragmentation and privatization of reception are welcome because they transcend, once and for all, the homogenizing aspects of conventional mass communication. To assess critically the validity of these claims requires analysis on at least two fronts: First, we need to understand better the moment of media reception, and in particular what Roger Silverstone calls, "the dynamic work of audiences" Ferguson, , p.

Second, we need to situate audience practices within the institutional and organizational structures of the communication process. Silverstone's contribution in the Ferguson volume continues the attempt to reconsider the nature and practices of audiences. Building upon the work of David Morley, Silverstone insists that the relationship between audiences and the technologies of communication must be assessed from within the "complex reality of everyday life," specifically, "the micro-world of domestic and daily existence" p.

Though he employs the concepts of active and plural audiences, Silverstone has little time for such romantic concepts as audience freedom. Instead, in a dense and thoughtful chapter, Silverstone constantly emphasizes the interaction among audiences, texts, and technologies in the context of contemporary relations of power.

Silverstone's work exposes the weaknesses of Schiller's brusque caricature of new research into the audience. Ferguson's own contribution tackles a related theme, though it is by no means as satisfying. Ferguson counters McLuhan-esque arguments which maintain that the new communication technologies have collapsed or even made obsolete distinctions of time and space the instant world of CNN, for example. Ferguson rightly argues that "the new media are not providing a boundless media-land of common understandings" Ferguson, , p.

While intriguing, her argument is laid out in a style which often obscures as much as it clarifies. Since much of the euphoria concerning the information society hinges upon the introduction of interactive media technologies, Kevin Wilson's study of home networking is both timely and penetrating. Wilson's work is an incisive response to the bevy of futurologists and systems analysts who regard the technology of home networking as an autonomous and benevolent force that will help promote greater individual and social freedom.

The central argument of Wilson's Technologies of Control pace Ithiel de Sola Pool's Technologies of Freedom is that the specific development of home networking offers "new potentials for the expansion of systems of data-based social control" , p. A number of commentators have anguished over the surveillance potential of the new communication technologies.

Wilson's analysis of the major trends in the videotex industry and the legal and regulatory restrictions on information gathering in North America will do little to reduce that concern. In fact, Wilson moves beyond the question of individual privacy to focus on the gathering and use of social data. He argues that one of the calculated by-products of videotex and other information systems is "the informational commodity," elaborate social statistics that can be sold for marketing purposes and for long-term corporate planning "to create a truly cybernetic cycle of production and consumption" p.

Systems such as Behavior Scan will allow marketers to trace and package consumer activity and consumer desires to a degree unimaginable two decades ago.


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Wilson's discussion moves from a substantive analysis of the videotex industry to a critical overview of the legal framework that governs information privacy. He exposes the weaknesses and duplicity of North American privacy legislation, especially how little concern there is for the information-gathering activities of the private sector unlike similar legislation in most of Western Europe.

Perhaps this is not surprising. First, public administrators have probably been the primary beneficiaries of the surveillance and information-gathering technologies developed to date. Second, there has been little organized opposition to the trend. In fact, Wilson offers a trenchant discussion of the social science traditions of systems analysis in particular that have spearheaded the application of new technologies as instruments of social control.

Wilson's advice to policymakers is simple: "it is imperative that future policy for these systems guarantee the data privacy of individuals while at the same time assuring the public character of statistical social data" p. The technology itself, as Wilson shows, can be designed to ensure that both goals are met. As Carolyn Marvin has remarked in her marvellous study of the first applications of electricity to communications, "the early history of electric media is less the evolution of technical efficiencies in communication than a series of arenas for negotiating issues crucial to the conduct of social life; among them, who is inside and outside, who may speak, who may not, and who has authority and may be believed" , p.

The debate continues. The central question is not whether we can adapt to the new technologies or whether they are inherently democratic, it is whether we can shape these technologies in a manner that reduces information inequality and facilitates freedom of expression, domestically and globally. In short, it is whether or not the new communication technologies can be made to be democratic. Ithiel de Sola Pool is wrong.

Liberation Technology: Social Media and the Struggle for Democracy by Larry Diamond

We need a politics of communication that does more than put its faith in unbridled market forces. The works under review make it clear that we still have a long way to go. Ferguson, M. Public communication: The new imperatives: Future directions for media research. London: Sage. Schiller, H. New York: Oxford University Press. Wilson, K.


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Technologies of control: The new interactive media for the home. Bell, D. Communication technology--For better or for worse. Salvaggio Ed , Telecommunications. New York: Longman. Technologies of freedom. Marvin, C. When old technologies were new: Thinking about electric communication in the late nineteenth century. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

In Democracy in Decline? Plattner—explore these concerns and offer competing viewpoints about the state of democracy today. This short collection of essays is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the latest thinking on one of the most critical questions of our era. Account Options Sign in. Top Charts. New Arrivals. Plattner July 30, The revolutions sweeping the Middle East provide dramatic evidence of the role that technology plays in mobilizing citizen protest and upending seemingly invulnerable authoritarian regimes.

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Read Aloud. Flag as inappropriate. It syncs automatically with your account and allows you to read online or offline wherever you are. Please follow the detailed Help center instructions to transfer the files to supported eReaders. More featuring social media. See more. Ariadne Vromen. This book considers the radical effects the emergence of social media and digital politics have had on the way that advocacy organisations mobilise and organise citizens into political participation.

New Technologies and Democratic Communications: A Review Essay

It argues that these changes are due not only to technological advancement but are also underpinned by hybrid media systems, new political narratives, and a new networked generation of political actors. The author empirically analyses the emergence and consolidation within advanced democracies of online campaigning organisations, such as MoveOn, 38 Degrees, Getup and AVAAZ. Vromen shows that they have become leading political advocates, and influential on both national and international level governance. The book critically engages with this digital disruption of traditional patterns of political mobilisation and organisation, and highlights the challenges in embracing new ideas such as entrepreneurialism and issue-driven politics.

It will be of interest to advanced students and scholars in political participation and citizen politics, interest groups, civil society organisations, e-government and politics and social media. Constrained Elitism and Contemporary Democratic Theory. Timothy Kersey. In February , the Susan G. Komen Foundation reversed a decision to cease funding of cancer screening programs through Planned Parenthood amidst massive public disapproval. The same year, restaurant chain Chic-fil-A became embroiled in a massive public debate over statements its President made regarding same-sex marriage.

What exactly is going on in such public engagement, and how does this relate to existing ideas regarding the public sphere and political participation? Is the public becoming increasingly vocal in its complaints? Or are new relationships between the public and economic and political leaders emerging? Promises and Limits of Web-deliberation. Does the increasing usage of online political forums lead to a more deliberative democracy? This book presents the evolution of the public spaces in a historical perspective, by defining and operationalizing the deliberative criteria of democracy, and by measuring and evaluating the impact of virtualization of the political debates.

Irene S. Bloggers in India used social media and wikis to broadcast news and bring humanitarian aid to tsunami victims in South Asia. Terrorist groups like ISIS pour out messages and recruit new members on websites. The Internet is the new public square, bringing to politics a platform on which to create community at both the grassroots and bureaucratic level.

The Incomplete Political Economy of Social Media

Drawing on historical and contemporary case studies from more than ten countries, Irene S. The Internet does not simply enable faster and easier communication, but makes it possible for people around the world to interact closely, reciprocate favors, and build trust. The information and ideas exchanged by members of these cooperative communities become key sources of political power akin to military might and economic strength.

Book This book analyzes the impact of social media on democracy and politics at the sub-national level in developed and developing countries. Over the last decade or so, social media has transformed politics. Offering political actors opportunities to organize, mobilize, and connect with constituents, voters, and supporters, social media has become an important tool in global politics as well as a force for democracy.

II. Citizen Electoral Observation

Most of the available research literature focuses on the impact of social media at the national level; this book fills that gap by analyzing the political uses of social media at the sub-national level. The book is divided into two parts. Combining theoretical and empirical analysis, each chapter provides evaluations of overarching issues, questions, and problems as well as real-world experiences with social media, politics, and democracy in a diverse sample of municipalities.

This volume will be of use to graduate students, academicians, and researchers, in several disciplines and fields, such as public administration, political science, ICT, sociology, communication studies and public policy as well as politicians and practitioners. Similar ebooks.