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The New Media Revolution?

Stephen Hill | Monday July 13, 2009

Categories: Key Concepts, Other Topics

Fig 3 Poster proclaiming the 90th anniversary of the Russian Revolution of 1917

In Marxist terms the proliferation of user generated media content could be said to constitute a symbolic revolution: the proletariat has seized ‘ownership of the mean of production’ (The Communist Manifesto, 1848) suggesting that the days of the old media elites is now numbered. And indeed Web 2.0 does bypass several destinations in the traditional journey from producer to consumer: an extension of the exposition of the pop process in shows like Pop Idol and Britain’s Got Talent. Except of course that this new world order has been assimilated into the global structure of media industries: the purchase of MySpace in 2005 by Rupert Murdock’s News Corporation being a case in point.

Moreover, before we get too carried away with the Marxist analogy, the empowerment of proletariat in the developed world is of course underwritten by the exploitation of those in the developing world producing ever cheaper and more disposable hardware. And, in this sense the more homogenised relations of power in sovereign states is simply part of the demographic alignment of workers in the global economy. That said the proliferation of the Internet has been destabilising.

Not only can radical groups recruit online but they can also circumvent traditional avenues of political dialogue. From Al Qaeda to Fathers for Justice the symbolic domain is more so than ever an arena of ideological contest: be that in the form of peaceful publicity stunts to the gruesome recordings of ritualised murder. On a very macro level the significance of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York say as much about the power of global media as it does about the American foreign policy. Its ideological effectiveness predicted on the symbolic meaning of the buildings and the opportunity to command news coverage worldwide.

Fig 4 Al Qaeda: Twin Tower (September 11th 2001) and Ken...

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