Critically assess the argument that advances in media technologies from printing to the Internet always go hand in hand with major social and cultural changes.
New media is defined as “the forms of communicating in the digital world, which includes publishing on CDs, DVDs and, most significantly, over the Internet. It implies that the user obtains the material via desktop and laptop computers, smartphones and tablets. Every company in the developed world is involved with new media.” (9/1/12
Advances in media technology over the past decade and century have no doubt had a large influence on major social and cultural changes throughout the world, if we look back at what has happened throughout 2011 alone we can already see this is true.
The turn of 2011 showed the revolutionary wave of events in the Middle East known as the Arab Spring. The events that have been happening over the past few years in the Arabic countries has been thought to be largely down to online web-logging and social networking websites. A group of young revolutionists set up a group on Facebook called “April 6 Youth Movement” (9/1/12 http://www.facebook.com/groups/38588398289/) where protests and events were organized. Blogging and social networking was used as a medium of organizing these events as it is a lot harder for the governments of these countries to limit what their people view as it only takes a matter of seconds to duplicate a web page, where as if they see someone handing out flyers or putting up posters they can just arrest them. This social change means it is easier for people to communicate on a large scale, quickly.
However not everybody agrees; Malcolm Gladwell (11/1/12 http://gigaom.com/2011/02/03/gladwell-still-missing-the-point-about-social-media-and-activism/) says that people protested and brought down governments before Facebook was invented. They did it before the Internet came along. Although this is a valid point, it wasn’t the new media technologies that caused these events, but it was these technologies that meant how widespread and quickly news could be passed on. This is due to a large amount of people having access to the Internet, you can maybe fit a few hundred people in a lecture theatre to debate a topic and arrange an event, but with online forums, the numbers are unlimited, thus giving anybody the opportunity to participate and contribute into creating these events. They can also do this without fear of arrest, with the use of proxy servers and VPNs you can make yourself practically anonymous, without the worry of anything being traced back to you.
By the mid 2000’s nearly everybody was using digital photography as opposed to the old film photography that was used in the previous century. This meant photos could be instantly uploaded to a server and shared throughout the world via the Internet, which is much faster and a lot more cost effective, rather than buying a new roll of film, having to use it all up before you can take it to get developed and then have to wait for it. On top of that, this social change meant people can now have near instant fame from their photos due to photojournalism web sites such as Flickr. Previously it could have taken years before a photograph was really appreciated and one would have to hire a gallery, which is expensive to get the exposure they need.
On May 12, 2008, China fell victim to a large earthquake, measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale. The last time there was an earthquake in China, which was in 1976, it took 3 months before the government would admit it to the rest of the world. However, now due to new media technologies, including social networking websites such as Twitter, and the ease of uploading photos through mobile technology (i.e. camera phones and smartphones) the earthquake was reported as it was happening (2011 Clay Shirkey Pg 136 Revolutions in Communication).
The effects of what social networking and digital photography has had on the current world means that now you don’t have to be a journalist by profession to report what is happening around the globe. This social change has led on to many people reporting on anything from current affairs to fashion using blogging websites such as wordpress.com, this has come to be known as “citizen journalism.” However, although many people blog post as a hobby, it has become a serious thing for others and to some extent a part time job. Popular bloggers not only earn money from advertisements on their page, (13/1/12 http://www.problogger.net/archives/2011/09/09/13-ways-for-bloggers-to-make-money-with-advertising/) they also gain opportunities to go to events related to the genre of their blog. Take for example Millie Cotton, author of the young persons fashion blog “itsaldnthing,” she is regularly invited to the opening event nights of new brands, or high street chains; companies do this so that bloggers like her, who may have a different audience, than say for example a top magazine, will be able to promote their things, thus gaining publicity and a good reputation, as long as the night goes well (13/1/12 http://www.itsaldnthing.com/2011/12/onepiece-launch-shoreditch-house.html).
Citizen Journalism has meant that when we hear about a news story via blogging, we don’t read it in the perspective of the social elite, such as Rupert Murdoch and the editors of his newspapers, rather we read it in the perspective of an ordinary person, who will most likely have a job that isn’t journalism, because although people can make money through blogging, unless it is a worldwide phenomenon, the chances of making a decent living off it are minimal. Another change is that now, rather than hear a group of stories from first hand witnesses put together and told by one person, the reporter, many times we will see, hear and read the stories, first hand from the people who were actually there.
Many people consider the printing press to be one of the most significant inventions ever. Not only has it had a large social impact on the world, its cultural impact has been even larger. Before print came along, stories and news were spread via the spoken language, and could be easily changed to suit the storyteller or often misinterpreted by the receiver. When print came along, it instantly became the favourable way of passing on information, however in order for people to understand what was being printed, they needed to learn how to read, this lead to a huge increase in literacy rates around the world (2008 JC 13/1/12
Over the past decade, the amount of Internet users has increased 480% (15/1/12 http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm), this phenomenon has lead to many business starting up via the Internet. As fashion group Arcadia, which includes Topshop, BHS and Burton is planning to close up to 260 stores due to not enough sales, online shop, my-wardrobe.com has increased sales by 400% (15/1/12
This cultural shift is due to people wanting to do everything at the click of a button, people don’t want to go out and queue up for the things they want, they want it there and then, as peoples day to day lives get busier, this makes it easier. The cost of items online is also significantly cheaper, for large online companies, they do not need to pay the high rent and overhead costs of Oxford Street for example, rather they just need a warehouse, anywhere in the country, which is going to cost considerably less, thus lowering the price of the items they are selling. This will also lure consumers to buy online rather than in the shops too, which leads back to the reason our high streets are gradually dying.
New media technologies are not only killing of the shops on the UK’s high streets, but they are also making it very difficult for film and music corporations to earn the money they were once making. With the rise of torrent sites such as thepiratebay and peer2peer networks like Kazaa and Limewire (although the Gnutella network as been shut down) CD sales are gradually declining, and although legal downloads are ever increasing, the profits margins being made are not, and this is all due to the rise in illegal downloads (15/1/12 http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/jan/02/uk-music-sales-decline-2011?newsfeed=true). With it being ever easier for albums to get leaked from studios, and the ease it is to instantly copy the files, there is no wonder why people aren’t buying music, however this does not excuse the cumulative loss of £1.2bn to record companies between 2007-2012
Although these new technologies have made it more difficult for record labels and film companies to generate profit, they have created and opportunity for anybody to become famous. Before these technologies, music artists would not only have to play lots of small gigs to get noticed, and then have to hope that someone would spot them and refer them to a record company. But with the new media technologies this isn’t the case; it is now easy to get hold of recording equipment and master tracks with programs like garage band or Cubase, which are both easy to get hold of over the Internet. On top of this, if the artist wants to make a music video, they can do this with a relatively cheap camera, or even on some new camera phones which include HD video capture, and then edit it with other cheap programs. The invention of YouTube made created even more possibility for people to make a name for themselves. Sneakbo, a rapper from Brixton, South London, rose to fame after continuously uploading music videos every few weeks until he eventually made it to 48 on the official UK charts, all done unsigned. (http://dvdfever.co.uk/?p=2862 16/01/12)
YouTube has not only created famous musicians but it has created businesses, entrepreneurs have used the website to their advantage too. School failure and near college drop out Jamal Edwards, 21, now has a business, which started entirely through YouTube that last year alone turned over £110,000. “Earlier this year Jamal signed deals with Sony RCA making him CEO of his own music company, Just Jam Records, and the New Era Cap Company, to release two SB.TV styled hats and become its first and only European flagbearer.” (16/01/12 http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/lifestyle/article-23989269-the-acton-kid-and-his-media-empire.do)
If we refer back to Malcolm Gladwell and his view on social media along side the events that have happened over the years since new media technologies have come about, it is visible to us that it is not the new media technologies that have caused all of these social and cultural changes around the world. Many of these things mentioned early could well have happened without the use of these technologies, however it would take a lot longer to organise and for it to happen. So we can see that the invention of these technologies did not make all of these things happen, it is just how people have used them to their advantage to gain mass audiences and followers with minimal effort.
New media Definition from PC Magazine Encyclopedia. 2012. New media Definition from PC Magazine Encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia_term/0,2542,t=new+media&i=47936,00.asp. [Accessed 9 January 2012].
April 6 Youth Movement Facebook. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.facebook.com/groups/38588398289/. [Accessed 9 January 2012].
Gladwell Still Missing the Point About Social Media and Activism — Tech News and Analysis . 2012. Gladwell Still Missing the Point About Social Media and Activism — Tech News and Analysis . [ONLINE] Available at:http://gigaom.com/2011/02/03/gladwell-still-missing-the-point-about-social-media-and-activism/. [Accessed 11 January 2012].
Bill Kovarik, 2011. Revolutions in Communication: Media History from Gutenberg to the Digital Age. Edition. Continuum. Pg 136
13 Ways for Bloggers to Make Money with Advertising : @ProBlogger. 2012. 13 Ways for Bloggers to Make Money with Advertising : @ProBlogger. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.problogger.net/archives/2011/09/09/13-ways-for-bloggers-to-make-money-with-advertising/. [Accessed 13 January 2012].
It’s a LDN Thing.: OnePiece launch @ Shoreditch House. 2012. It’s a LDN Thing.: OnePiece launch @ Shoreditch House. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.itsaldnthing.com/2011/12/onepiece-launch-shoreditch-house.html. [Accessed 13 January 2012]