An Age of Cyber Enthusiasm & Scepticism [DIGC335]

Social Media. Most of us all use it in one way or another. Whether it is communicating with those long lost friends overseas, connecting with our current peer groups to organise group assignments or simply to gain some insight into someone’s life. It is a digital technology that has in part revolutionised the way in which we communicate.

Most notably though the media’s main focus has been on social media’s powerful ability to assist those seeking democratic change and the fight for the freedoms that they so dearly deserve. The intense media scrutiny on social media is highly unsurprising. The uses of certain technologies such as Twitter and Facebook have been linked as the key reasons for the demise of some of the world’s most benevolent dictators.

Wolfsfeld, Segev & Sheafer’s article introduces us to the idea of ‘cyber-enthusiasts’ & ‘cyber skeptics’ (2013, pg.117). In one-corner cyber-enthusiasts express optimism about the ability of the new media to empower people living in nondemocratic societies and to allow insurgents to adopt new strategies. In the opposing corner cyber skeptics downplay the significance of new technology, arguing that the Internet gives people a false sense of participation and keeps them from actually physically protesting.

Whether you sit on either side of the fence doesn’t matter. What is most important to us all is the ability of the Internet to share information. Newsom and Lengel argue that this is the key reason for the value of information is often mediated by historically powerful entities, though social media can sometimes change that hierarchy (2012, pg.38). However they also argue that the metanarrative structures of social media also act in the same role as the gatekeepers of that historical power.

As I currently browse through my social media platforms I am bombarded by friends and groups asking me to sign up for ‘this’ program or register for ‘that’ petition. Although I am highly unlikely to ever choose either, according to Charles, whilst most still do not participate, they are changed by the fact that they can (WordPress, 2013). User empowerment and a greater understanding of social media has led to the redesign of social activism and a brighter future for generations to come.

References
Charles 2010, The People formally known as the audience = The Community, accessed October 10 2013, http://yousaiditblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/the-people-formerly-known-as-the-audience-the-community/.

Newsom, V, Lengel, L 2012, Arab Women, Social Media, and the Arab Spring: Applying the framework of digital reflexivity to analyze gender and online activism, Journal of International Women’s Studies, vol 13, no 5, pp. 31-45, accessed 1st May 2014, Summons Database.

Wolfsfeld, G, Segev, E & Sheafer, T 2013, Social Media and the Arab Spring: Politics Comes First, The International Journal of Press/Politics, vol 18, no 2, pp.115-137, accessed 1st May 2014, Summons Database.

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