LONG READS – MEDIA AND THE MARGINALISED


How do new media technologies contribute to the development of resistance communities and empower marginalised groups?

 

 

Marginalized groups have been empowered through the liberalization of their efforts with a bid to respond to the long-standing issues that affect them. Through the contemporary drive for western capitalism, marginalized groups such as women and youth employ strategies that mirror globalization and democratization of negotiation with the spectrum of a paradigm shift in regard to the development, leadership and decision making realms. Marginalized groups adopt initiatives of social movements as well as mobilization at the grassroots level to ensure that they are empowered. New media technology refers to applications that are geared towards transferring information by utilizing digital frameworks, computers and data networks. Creation of blogs and micro-blogs has been one of the ways wherein new media technologies have made it possible to help resistance communities as well as enhance empowerment among marginalized communities. This essay will try to address how media technologies contribute to the development of resistance communities and empower marginalized groups.

With the use of the Internet, we are able to create and publish discussion and/or informational sites (Kline and Burstein, 2005).  These sites have been the work of individuals or groups of individuals who wish to connect with others and share their points of view; or rather they are themed with a common subject and people connect around are those sharing the ideology of the common theme. The development of Twitter as well as other “micro-blogging” sites has helped in integrating blogs into societal news streams (Ringmar, 2007). The development of blogs and micro-blogs in the late 90s came together with the development of web publishing tools that made posting contents by low-skilled users easier. In the past, there was a need for knowledge in such applications as FTP and HTML to be able to publish blogs and micro-blogs. This has changed, making it possible for more people to air their views as well as use them as a source of important information such as on political issues (Bruns and Jacobs, 2006).

Majority of the blogs and micro-blogs are usually interactive, making it possible for those visiting the site to comment as well as be able to send messages to each other through GUI widgets (Rosenberg, 2009). This capability for interactivity is what has allowed blogs and micro-blogs to be tools for civic education as well as the creation of resistance communities. Most of the blogs and micro-blogs offer commentaries on a specific subject. The capability of visitors to leave a comment in an interactive form is a significant contribution to the attractiveness of blogs and micro-blogs (Gaudeul and Peroni, 2010).

The use of the new media technology has been evident in different events such as revolution outbreak, Occupy and London protests (Rane and Salem, 2012). Going by the latest events on Wall Street, London protests and Middle East, it can rightly be concluded that social media are greatly impacting communities. The political anger’s wave, which took the form of a protest spread rapidly from Egypt to Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Tunisia because of the role new media technologies, played. Looking at the recent political uprisings and protests, it is easy to understand how the social media impacts on resistance communities and in the empowerment of marginalized communities. While the real genesis of the protests is not clear, it is evident that the largest responsibility for the protests is directed towards the use of new media technology blogs and micro-blogs. Some writers argue that some of the protests would not have taken place were it not for the availability and accessibility of new media technologies. It is also important to note that the protests attained their height and success with the help of these new media technologies. Additionally, the medium wherein a message is delivered can be as authoritative as the message itself (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010).

There are various ways through which new media technologies engage the users by allowing them to generate their own contents, as they desire. The user such as the creation of blogs and micro-blogs generates the content or message to be communicated. The sites provide the users with a lot of freedom in how they engage with the sites and also in the way they communicate with each other. The information shared in new media technologies tends to be what the user wants because of the freedom to generate content. Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) suggest that the information tends to be highly targeted. The impact of the information shared on the sites is great on the people that have access to it. This provides a better chance of expressing personal opinions and views without fear of being identified. The anonymity provided by new media technologies has also made it an effective tool in the creation of resistance and empowerment of marginalized communities. It is noted that because of the capability to generate content, users can use any language they believe would be more effective in communicating their message and expressing their views. For instance, events have happened where the protestors incited other people to join in their cause by making use of languages that can only be understood by the target groups (Jones, 2011).

New media technologies offer platforms for sharing information, photos, videos and blogs. This has played a major role in the social, economic and political lives of many. The technologies are designed in such a way that they connect people. User-generated sites that provide a means to connect or communicate can either be business-related or for social and political purposes. According to Murchu, Brestlin, and Decker (2004), people are able to join these sites and connect easily through online registration or through an existing offline connection. Different effects of new media technology ranges from making friends, shaping opinions, deciding on products to purchase and services to acquire among others have come to light since the development of these technologies. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the effects of the technologies go beyond these. It is from this perspective that the interest of new media technologies in recent political issues such as upheavals has come up.

The role that is being played by the new media technologies in the development of resistance communities and in the empowerment of marginalized groups is a relatively new area of study but has been widely discussed. However, this has caused varying results. Dating back to 1996, Zurawski suggested, “the web offers new possibilities for self-determination and self-representation whereby ethnic minorities can construct their own identities in their own image” (quoted in Mengin, 2004, p. 35). However, in 2001, more research, particularly in sociology, revealed that the Internet did not have any “intrinsic effect on social interaction and civic participation” (DiMaggio, Hargittai, and Neuman, 2001, p. 319). Another statement from Mehra, Merkel, and Bishop (2004, p. 719) posited that

…Internet use has never been an isolated phenomenon, and if we continue to regard the use of the Internet as separate from the social realities of disadvantaged user communities, then true empowerment of individuals in such groups via the use of the Internet will never be gained.

UNESCO, in 2007, gave a statement founded on the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity that read “[…] acceptance and recognition of cultural diversity – in particular through innovative use of media and ICTs – are conducive to dialogue among civilizations and cultures, respect and mutual understanding” (UNESCO, 2007). According to Leung (2005), the utilization of the Internet

…Embodies a wide range of experience, including those people of colour, of imperialism, of religion, of migration. Thus … the meaning of ethnicity is a site of struggle and therefore, in seeking representation of ethnicity, the research examines Web sites or Web pages which representations of ethnicity articulate the struggle between hybridity, pluralism, diversity – and essentialism.

There were also question raised regarding the role of locality as well as the issue of authenticity. The new media technologies have been used both as tools and platforms for creation of resistance in the modern societies. Resistance refers to the defiance or resistance to authority, laid down traditions and various control methods that are clearly set out (Pieterse, 2004). Resistance refers to opposition or defiance to the rules imposed in the society. Resistance can also be defined as a person’s opposition to the various accepted ways of doing things or to the people who are in authority. This change can result from real or imagined pressures, for instance the presence of others, the social expectations and the norms. In the era of these technologies, it remains as one of the factors that have caused and fuelled resistance in the society, because of the recent events where the social media has played a major role in helping the demonstrations to kick off in authoritarian societies by making it more impossible to censor the public, making it easier for protectors to air and share their views and opinions, and enabling them to coordinate demonstrations and pass along information (Atkinson and Dougherty, 2006).

Regardless of the fact that technologically developed regions are still affected by the global dimensions of the digital divide, it should be noted that the World Wide Web and the Internet are not any more the spaces where pioneers explore and stake their claims, because these technologies have been taken into the texture of the day to day lives.

 Exceptionalism, as far as cyberspace is concerned seems dated due to the fact that virtual reality is not an exception any more. It is currently everywhere as well as everything (Nakamura, 2008). Countries that have a high rate of literacy are the most connected areas in the world and therefore have the new technologies playing a very important role. In most of the developed societies, there is freedom of expression. Thus, it is important for the media to play a part in the development of enlightenment and empowerment (Herman and McChesney, 1999).

Most of the countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States have struggled to gain this freedom to ensure that all the members of the society have a voice. However, there is limited control in the kind of multi-ethnic and multiracial harmony law that includes freedom of the Internet (Nakamura, 2008). There is generally the digitalization of society, there are some aspects of the monitoring the new media technologies, and there has been a high level of freedom enjoyed by their users. The Internet has continued to provide “a huge variety of spaces facilitating the discursive construction of identities” (Giese, 2004, p. 23).  

With the increased use of the new technologies, there has been an increase in political upheavals. It is interesting to note that different changes have occurred in a number of countries such as in the Arab world and in Egypt due to the increased use of new media technologies. In different parts of the world, there have been developments and perceptions that a multicultural society is on the rise. This has been viewed as a developed stage of political and social developmental processes that have influenced some societies for the past few decades (Flew, 2007). In another example, for instance in Taiwan, from the 1950s to the beginning of the 1980s, the society was characterized by powerful authoritarian rule and the overriding tenet of the Mainlanders (the group of ethnic Chinese and later Chiang Kai-shek in the year 1949). These leaderships regarded any policy of multiculturalism as being a threat to the allegory of the continuance of the Republic of China. The Taiwanese society has been a century-long migration destination for the Han-Chinese from Guangdong and Fujian, following their settlement by Austronesian aboriginals. There was a need for a development into a “China en miniature”, with the possession of aspects of the Northern Chinese culture (Hall, 1993). 

This has changed with the emergence of new media technologies, which have led to the development of resistance communities and empowering the marginalized communities. Since the development of the new media technologies, there has been increased participation of the marginalized groups such as the Taiwanese in the political processes of countries. For example, there has been emergence of the initial signs of ‘Taiwanization’ in society. The emergence of the new media technologies has also contributed to democratization as well as a speedy liberalization of society. This is basically due to the creation of awareness as well as the platform for people, including the marginalized groups to express their opinions. For instance, it was only following democratization and liberalization that the society formed a new identity as a post-modern globalised society and began to develop. Through the use of the Internet, there were debates that began to occur regarding the way of overcoming the differences between different ethnic factions so as to create “a community of 21 million with a shared fate” composed of ‘the new Taiwanese’ as the former President, Lee Teng-hui described. The peak of multiculturalism came under the leadership Chen Shuibian, the DPP president, who suggested that Taiwanization means, “to enable Taiwan’s own cultures to interact naturally with Chinese cultures and world cultures” (quoted in Jacobs 2005). It is important to note that the most significant factor in this argument is the fundamental idea of cultural diversity, comprising ethnic diversity that resulted in defined differentiation between Taiwanization and past efforts at sinification (Landzelius, 2006).

The new media technologies are suggested as an extremely significant factor in promoting cultural diversity. With no doubt, the Internet as well as the internet-related new media has provided an increased rate of communication, provision of exceptional elements that operate to promote new diversity as well as hybridity within the global diaspora. This has created novel structures in the globalised world. However, up to date, there is still not much research dealing with the interaction of the new media technologies and issues of multiculturalism as well as the representation of ethnicities. One of the main research subjects has been related to the use of language in the new media technologies. Su (2003) looked at the innovative utilization of language by different ethnic groups. Much of the research has been focused on smaller ethnic factions, looking at the language structures and the use of the Internet in the dialogue of multiculturalism. As concerns the way the new media technology is being used by the minority groups, the Internet has been found to not only accelerate “the communications between people of similar interest, [but…] also rapidly conveys the diverse ideologies of societies overseas establishments worldwide. This socio-technical media fosters a new communicative practice and an emerging terrain of online communities” (Chiu, 2005, p. 24). The author made use of an anthropologically inspired perspective in investigating the virtual ethnography of overseas organisations, categorising different organisations.

The very nature of the technologies makes it effective in empowering as well as creating resistance groups. Various authors have largely documented the ease with which it is possible to organize such communities and gather support. The new media technologies play a major role in initiating groups fighting for change. It is important to note that there are a lot of people who are using the new media. This means that the initiators of the communities have audience among others who subscribe or are sympathetic to their point of views. Most of the people using the new media are those who are not happy with the political or social situation of their country or society. For instance, in the Arab Springs, most people in nations such as Tunisia and Egypt were not happy with the regimes (Rane and Salem, 2012).  Many nations in the Middle East and other neighbouring countries have been under authoritarian regimes for ages without any means for the people to fight for democracy or even express their opinions. With the advanced use of the new media, the people were provided with the means to express their discontent with the political rules. Through the anonymity provided by the new media sites, individuals are able to express their opinions and fight for their rights. The social media has proven effective in advocating for change, fighting for human rights, and expressing opinions (Rane and Salem, 2012). 

Besides initiating the resistance communities, the media has proven effective in facilitating them. Facilitating protests is an important role that has been played by new media in the recent political uprisings. One important proof of this argument is the Egyptians’ dubbing new-borns’ ‘Facebook’ because of the way the new media helped in facilitating protests in the January 25 Revolution (Eltantawy and Wiest, 2011). The mobilization effect of new media is evident in other different regions and countries that have experienced uprisings. The demonstrations and protests in Tunisia were significantly organized via the use of social media, especially Facebook. In the country, the protests were initiated and facilitated through Facebook, which was run by the resistance “April 6 Youth Movement.” This campaign gathered tens of thousands of positive responses to the call of opposition to the policies by the government (Williams, 2010).

With the ease in the flow of information through the use of new media technologies, societies make use of technology as well as the Internet in mobilizing people on a global scale. A common theme among successful resistance communities is the adaptation to communication trends. It is from this point of view that the interest of new media in recent political issues has emerged. Different scholars as well as academics have investigated the manner wherein the new media technologies are involved in motivating and helping to hasten the recent political resistance. Some of the authors suggest that the new media technology is responsible for initiating and facilitating resistance and uprising in the modern world. This has been seen in the recent events where the new media technology has played a major role in helping the demonstrations to begin by making it more impossible to censor the public, making it easier for protectors to air and share their views and opinions, and enabling them to coordinate demonstrations and pass along information.

 

 

 

Reference List:

 

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