Media in the Online Age

‘We Media’ & Democracy
Topic Points:
• What are ‘We Media’?
• Where / how has ‘We Media’ emerged?
• In what way are the contemporary media more democratic
than before?
• In what ways are the contemporary media less democratic
than before?
In The Exam:
• Historical – dependent on the requirements of
the topic, candidates must summarise the
development of the media forms in question in
theoretical contexts.
• Contemporary – current issues within the topic
• Future – candidates must demonstrate personal
engagement with debates about the future of the
media forms / issues that the topic relates to.
• Marxist
• Chomsky – Media Control
• David Gauntlett
• Dan Gillmor
• Fourth Estate
• Chris Anderson – The Long
Cultural Effects: Marxist View
• The dominant ideology of a society is the
ideology of the dominant or ruling class
• The mass media disseminates the dominant
ideology: the values of the class which owns
and controls the media
• Notion of domination
Gramsci: Hegemony
• The supremacy of the bourgeoisie is
based on economic domination and
intellectual/moral leadership
• A class had succeeded in persuading
the other classes of society to accept its
own moral, political and cultural values
• However, this consent is not always
peaceful, and may combine physical
force or coercion with intellectual,
moral and cultural inducement
The American Dream?
Can the working class achieve
• If the working class is to achieve hegemony,
it needs patiently to build up a network of
alliances with social minorities.
• These new coalitions must respect the
autonomy of the movement, so that each
group can make its own special
contribution toward a new socialist society.
• The working class must unite popular
democratic struggles with its own conflict
against the capital class, so as to strengthen
a national popular collective will.
The Frankfurt School Modernist
Mass audience as passive and gullible
‘hypodermic needle’ effects model
Pessimistic claims about media indoctrination
Mass culture disseminates the dominant
ideology of the bourgeoisie
Chomsky: Manufacturing Consent
• The main aim of a media company is to make
• Newspapers achieve this through advertising
• This has an impact on the news values and
news selection
• Can lead to editorial bias
• News businesses that favour profit over public
interest succeed
Chomsky: Manufacturing Consent
• Further distortion through the reliance of newspapers on private
and governmental news sources
• If a newspaper displeases, they may no longer be privy to that
source of information
• They will lose out on stories, lose readers and ultimately advertisers
• news media businesses editorially distort their reporting to favour
government and corporate policies in order to stay in business
Editorial Bias: Five Filters
Size, Ownership, and Profit Orientation
The Advertising License to Do Business
Sourcing Mass Media News
Flak and the Enforcers
Size, Ownership and Profit Orientation
• The dominant mass-media outlets are large
corporations which are run for profit
• Therefore they must cater to the financial
interest of their owners
The Advertising License to do Business
• Since the majority of the revenue of major media
outlets derives from advertising advertisers have
acquired a "de-facto licensing authority".
• Media outlets are not commercially viable
without the support of advertisers.
• News media must therefore cater to the political
prejudices and economic desires of their
• This has weakened the working-class press
Sourcing Mass Media News
• The large bureaucracies of the powerful subsidise
the mass media, and gain special access to the
news, by their contribution to reducing the
media’s costs of acquiring and producing, news.
• The large entities that provide this subsidy
become 'routine' news sources and have
privileged access to the gates.
• Non-routine sources must struggle for access,
and may be ignored by the arbitrary decision of
the gatekeepers
Concept: Fourth Estate
• Is a societal or political force or
institution whose influence is not
consistently or officially recognised
• Print Journalism
• The concept that the press is an
instrument of democracy providing
a check on the abuse of
government power
• It is the myth that the press is a vital
defender of the people? – think
about Chomsky!
Editorial Bias
Concept: Fourth Estate
– The Radical Press
Early 1800s the printing press became accessible to all
Radical journalists starting addressing vital issues through the press
Challenged mainstream editors
Poor Man’s Guardian linked to National Union of the working
Independent of established political pressure and still free from any
commercial influence
A working class movement
Libel prosecution
Press taxes
It was agreed among the elite that it was dangerous to social order
for the working class to have a printing press
Key Thinking Points
• Do we have a free press?
• What constraints do journalists face when
working for a corporation?
• How far is news media controlled or
constrained by those in power?
• Are newspapers really the Fourth Estate?
David Gauntlett: Web 2.0
• Tim Berner’s Lee invented the Internet with the vision that
people would be connected and creative
• “He imagined that browsing the Web would be a matter of
writing and editing, not just searching and reading” –
• Web 2.0 invites users to play
• We are seeing a shift away from a ‘sit back and be told’
culture towards more of a ‘making and doing’ culture
Web 2.0
• Includes a social element
where users generate and
distribute content, often with
freedom to share and reuse
• Has resulted in an increasing
• The birth of a more
‘participatory culture’
• Moving from a communication
model of ‘one-to-many’ to a
‘many to many’ system
Keith Bassett: Cyberspace Democracy
• “The public intellectual of
today must now be much
more alive to the
possibilities for
participating in what could
become a new ‘cyberspace
democracy’ – an expanded
public sphere which is less
academic and less elitist”
David Gauntlett: Web 2.0
• In the case of the media, there is
obviously the shift towards internetbased interactivity
• At least 3/4th of UK population are
regular internet users
• More than 1/3rd of people have a
Facebook account
• More and more people are writing
blogs, participating in online
discussions, sharing information,
music and photo, and uploading
New Media
• Increased interactivity of audiences
• Poststructuralist theory sees the audience as
active participators in the creation of
• In a postmodern world consumption is seen as
a positive and participatory act
• An increased ‘democratisation’?
Citizen Journalism
• Theorist Mark Poster says the internet
provides a ‘Habermasian public sphere’ – a
cyberdemocratic network for communicating
information and points of view that will
eventually transform into public opinion.
Dan Gillmor: Citizen Journalists
• ‘Big media’ have enjoyed control over who gets
to produce and share media
• Effect on democracy
• Who owns these companies?
• Are we represented?
• Gillmor sees the Internet as a catalyst for a
challenge to this established hegemony
• Gillmor calls bloggers ‘the former audience’:
news blogs a new form of people’s journalism
Citizen Journalism in Iraq
• Blogs offered an alternative to the Western
media’s accounts
• Collaboration of wikispaces, children’s news
blogs and Persian networkers using the Net for
a collective voice in a country where free
speech is curtailed
Chris Anderson: The Long Tail
• How the Internet has transformed economics,
commerce and consumption
• Revenue from niche products now adds up to
the same as from blockbuster products
• Internet allows people to look for and share a
wider variety of products
• Range of filtering services
• Broadband allows us to behave in ways that fit
our instincts
Is New Media Equal?
• Not a symbol of ‘participatory culture’, the
Internet is regarded by some as a dangerous
and out of control technology that
undermines civil society
• An instrument of repression?
• ‘Digital divide’
• ‘Myth of interactivity’
• China?
• One side sees the internet as a technology
of freedom that is empowering humankind
• making accessible the world’s knowledge,
building ‘emancipated subjectivities’,
promoting a
new progressive global politics, and laying
the foundation of the ‘new economy’.
• The other sees the internet as an overhyped technology whose potential value
has been undermined by ‘digital capitalism’
social inequality
• The internet came to exhibit
incongruent features.
• It is still a decentralised system in which
information is transmitted via
independent variable pathways through
dispersed computer power.
• But on top of this is
imposed a new technology of
commercial surveillance which enables
commercial operators – and potentially
governments – to monitor what
people do online
For The Exam
• Explore both sides of the argument that media
is becoming more democratic
• Explore the difference that ‘we media’ makes
to citizens
• You must explore two types of media e.g.
news and social networkin
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