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Do New Media Technologies Contribute to a More Democratic Polity

Nov 9, 2007
Since the introduction of mass media, academic debates in the field of communications and among the everyday discussions of citizens around the world, tend to emphasize on the importance of news and entertainment media as mediums of political discourse, and especially on their role as dynamic forces to nations' democratization. In United States particularly, scholars and observers place considerable responsibility upon the shoulders of new media for the current state of U.S. polity and culture.

When the term new media was first introduced, critics that studied it entered the sphere of hope, trying to evaluate whether the new technological forms could foster participation, increase the level of awareness regarding politics among citizens, and reestablish interaction. Internet chat rooms, talk shows, live TV shows, and all interactive multimedia networks of various forms, fueled and continue to feed this hope, which makes contemporary critics believe that the significance of politics could be understood by the vast majority, decreasing lack of interest. But have things changed due to the introduction and use of these new media forms? Do people feel more democratized and are they better involved in the political processes that govern their everyday lives?

Unfortunately, as different studies suggest, new media have altered not the number of people involved, but actually the scope of their interest in public policy and politics. That is mainly because new media technologies provide both new challenges and dangers. There is the danger that a new technopoly will further colonize everyday life, as consumers passively absorb 500 plus channels of the same old cultural forms. Yet the new technologies also provide individuals with weapons to produce new forms of culture and to program their own cultural environment. The overwhelming increase in media technologies ready to enter the consumer market and attract attention, suggests that there is still hope out there for new media to realize their role in the democratization process of contemporary citizens.

At the same time, one has to keep in mind that a variety of studies argue that a person's critical media pedagogy ultimately requires the restructuring of the media, schooling, and everyday life. Contemporary societies are producing wondrous new technologies and immense social wealth, but it is unequally distributed and often used as forms of domination and destruction, rather than to promote human betterment. Critical media pedagogy must intervene in this challenging and threatening situation and struggle to overcome the worst features of existing societies and cultures by striving to create better ones. Critical media pedagogy actually inevitably intersects with progressive politics and the project of radical social transformation. To the extent that these outcomes contribute to the democratization of today's citizens, they are advancing both the theoretical base of analysis and peoples' political interest, in the present ambiguous political moment.

A rich American tradition of critical media analysis and pedagogy can aid people make their way further into the corporate-dominated, advertising-saturated, information-and-communication-based, world economic order of this century and beyond. As more and more people are getting increasingly sick of politics as theatre, confrontation, conspiracy, cynicism and policy emptiness and they do have a hunger for substance, they search for ideas that really do seem to be addressing the problems they are experiencing and feeling in their daily lives, will lead them to find the political players who will share those pre-occupations and be able to relate to them at a direct and human level.
About the Author
Jonathon Hardcastle writes articles on many topics including Business, Employment , and Travel
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