Assignment #2: Media and Sovereignty

In Chapter 36, Monroe E. Price argues that modern technologies weaken national control of information, national borders, and the cultural images within these borders. Due to their ability to spread information more smoothly, modern technologies are thought of as being a key to the spread of democracy. Technologies have changed over time, from print to radio, to what is now called the “Internet Era.” Like newspapers and radio news broadcasts before them, Internet technology has allowed for information to spread. Today’s media market, according to Price, differs from that of the past because there are more participants and the scope of media’s boundaries is much larger.  Print and radio are not obsolete. Together with the Internet, these forms of media are responsible for how we get or news and entertainment.

The Internet has its advantages over radio and print. News can spread quicker, news can be updated on a website 24/7, it is free (you can browse the New York Times website instead of buying the print edition), and news can cross national borders, as a person living in Europe can view American newspapers’ websites for information, and vice versa. Another important thing about the Internet is it gives everyone a chance to be a reporter, in a sense. Instead of waiting for one’s local news channel to report the news, an ordinary person can simply blog about what is going on in his or her community, posting pictures and videos to accompany their text. While the legitimacy of bloggers is something to take into account, there is no doubt that the Internet opens up the information channel to make it possible for more people to participate in reporting and spreading the news.

The Internet has clearly connected people globally, but the increasing use of social media websites like Facebook and Twitter has made it easier for people to connect locally and nationally as well.  With the Internet so popular, governments may feel weak and that their power is threatened. As Price points out, “broadcast regulation is an effort, within a society, to maintain or adjust the distribution of power among those who are dominant.” A good example of this occurred in Egypt just this year. In January, the autocratic government under Hosni Mubarak shut down that nation’s Internet access. According to a New York Times article, this resulted in a 90% decrease in data traffic to and from Egypt. With a population of 80 million and a modernizing economy that depends on Internet communications and transactions, this was a huge loss to the Egyptian people. A revolution was brewing in Egypt, and it is argued that the use of social media websites helped moved it forward. In the video “Social Networks, Social Revolution,” one of the panelists mentioned that a young Egyptian woman posted a video on her Facebook page asking people to protest with her on January 25. Knowing who easy it was to mobilize anti-government protestors, is it easy to see why the Egyptian government decided to shut down the Internet: they hoped it would cripple the protestors from mobilizing and from spreading their message any further. Although the government’s attempt was futile (Mubarak stepped down), this event demonstrates that the Internet is a powerful tool and has a profound impact on society. Whereas the Egyptian protestors wanted to use the Internet to organize people and promote liberation from a dictatorship, the government wanted to exercise their power even further over the Egyptian people by getting rid of Internet access.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments are closed.