Here is another guestblog by a POLIS Summer School student, Emily Purser who wants to put some optimism back into the debate about New Media.
The recent rise of New Media has sparked ongoing debate about the role of the internet and whether its long-term effects will be beneficial to the media industry, and indeed to society generally. At POLIS, we spoke of ‘networked’ journalism; this new brand of communication that places value upon international interactivity, connectivity and technology. It is clear that there are two extremes in perceiving the effect of the internet; the utopian side of the coin, which heralds the modern ease of communication and access to information, and the opposite.
I find that it is increasingly easy to get caught up in the dystopian, even pessimistic outlook, which casts a harsh light on the ability to source information about any topic, anybody. I recently spoke to a friend who hypothesised that our future was doomed by this obsessive knowledge-grabbing culture in which we live, the constant dissatisfaction with a firm reality. I appreciate the dangers inherent in the booming internet; the ability and ease of shedding identity and real-life interaction are modern day concerns. Identity theft, paedophilia and all manner of ills are made easier to accomplish with unrestricted communication and information. However, whilst it is essential that we as a society take precautions in placing and accessing information on the internet, it does not mean to say that facilitated ‘networking’ is not a positive, long-term step. Is it right that employers look to Facebook for evidence of unprofessional behaviour? No. But is this risk, this ‘Big Brother’ behaviour, worth not having an account for, worth not communicating with others in the easiest possible way? Likewise, no. The internet makes and breaks, but one wonders that if when we look to countries with limited internet, one could deny that its access would be beneficial?
Take The Gambia, where finding rural internet is like finding a needle in a haystack; surely having access to global information websites, even only those which circumnavigate the inevitable censorship, would reduce the ignorance surrounding issues such as HIV/AIDS. I can’t see a way in which more information, more international communication would have a negative impact on a country such as this.
Certainly there are concerns to be entertained regarding the internet and its abuses. It is prudent not to abandon ‘old’ media or become wrapped up in a self-centred cyber-world. However, imagining modern life without the internet, without, dare I say it, Facebook, is difficult. We live in ‘easy’ times; it is easy to chat, inform, be informed, shop, debate, protest and entertain with the help of the internet, all from the comfort of our own homes. Surely even internet critics appreciate these benefits?
By Emily Purser