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The internet, along with table tv and satellite broadcasting are examples of new media. The new media has 3 main characteristics:

  • they are screen based
  • can offer images, text & sound
  • allow some form of interaction

Digitalisation: central importanct to recent technolical developments in the media is digitalisation - the shift from analogue to digital coding of information

Digital systems translate all information - images, texts, sounds - into a universal computer language. The use of this common language reduces the boundaries between different media sectors.

Diversity & Choice: the new media have led to more consumer choie

  • e.g. cable tv and satellite broadcasting have increased the number of TV channels
  • Number of news channels also increased e.g. 24hr Arab satellite news - provides different views of world affairs
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Main produces of cable & satellite broadcasting face 'no regulatory directives on either the range or the sources of programme material'

- anxious to make as much profit as possible, they fill channels with cheap, imported material, films & sport

Increased choice therefore does not necessarily mean increased diversity or quality

Inequality: also an inequality of access to the new media

  • as subscription channels & pay-per-view become more popular, poorer people become excluded from key world events - esp. in entertainment & sport
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News on the internet & its effect on other news media:

Sources of News:

  • Survey in USA showed that in 2008 - the internet had overtaken newspapers as a news outlet: 2007 24% reported that the internet was their main news outlet, by 2008 this rose to 40%
  • trend in the UK is similar

Types of Online News:

  • Repackaging - many online news outlets are operated by traditional news providers. e.g. all major newspapers have an online site, information just repackaged
  • News aggregator sites - e.g. google news & Yahoo. Bring together 'aggregate' news stories from different sources. Adds nothing new
  • User Generated content - news content provided by public. Comments from users to show their view - public increasing providing content e.g. events recorded on camera's/phones
  • Blogs - online journal, newsletter or diary. usually created by individuals - deal with vast range of topics from politics to music & celebrities. Many blogs comment on the news, sometimes generate news & occasionally break a big story. Bloggers can become very influencial
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Although internet has provided many more ways of accessing news - has not necessarily given us an expansion of news content or news gathering services.

E.g. Much online news consists of repackaging material generated by more traditional media

HOWEVER - have been some important changes

  • User generated content is a feature of many online news sites & blogging is a growing aspect of online news.
  • Online news is becoming increasinly important - especially for young people
    • may well compensate for decline in other news outlets i.e newspapers

Some would argue that it also may reduce the threat of media concentration - a more diverse variety of views are heard

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Democracy: a political system in which citizens have a say in the way they are governed

Researchers who accept this view of democracy argue that the internet is playing a steadily growing part in the democratic process - Barack Obama's use of the internet in his presidential campaign is evidence of this.

Digital Citizenship - the ability to participate in online society

Many researchers now argue that the ability to participate online is essential for a fully democratic society

  • the internet is now so important that participation is essential if people are to play a full part in mainstream society
  • must have access to the internet & skills to use it
  • surveys show that internet use increases likelihood of voting & participating in the political process
  • The Digital Divide - the division between those with access to the internet & the skills to use it and those who lack access & the appropriate skills - access to internet is not evenly spread, reflects social inequalities
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Repressing the Internet

The internet allows people to participate in a 'free flow' of information & ideas with others across the world.

A number of governments have attempted to suppress this freedom of expression by censoring material on the internet & persecuting citizens who criticise them online

  • Countries accused of internet repression include - China, Vietnam, Iran & Tunisia

Western IT companies such as Microsoft, Google & Yahoo: 

- criticised for 'helping to build the systems that enable suveillance & censorship to take place' & for participating in the suppression of information & identification of bloggers who speak out against their governments 

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The media as a Public sphere:

The idea of a public sphere refers to a space where people can freely debate issues that are important to them as citizens

HABERMAS - argues that it first came about in 18th century coffee houses, where individuals could meet to discuss issues of the day

In Habermas's view, the Mass Media threaten this space as it is primarily concerned with making profit - therefore seek to manipulate your thoughts & behaviour in order to make money

This view of the Mass Media has been criticised as it ignores the pressures on the news media to be 'objective' & does not take into account public broadcasting

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The internet as a Public Sphere

The huge growth of the internet has suggested to some that the public sphere has been regenerated. There are 2 main reasons for this:

  • in contrast to conventional news media where editors/journalists define what counts as news - the internet provides individuals with the opportunity to access a wider range of information & intepretations. Any point of view, no matter how extreme, can be found
  • provides individuals with the opportunity to engage in online discussions & debates across the world - in contrast to conventional news media, where communication is predominantly one way, the internet provides a means through which people can interact with others

The Internet & Democracy - alot of question around whether the internet can really revitalise democracy

  • Some would argue yes - the internet gives voice to those who might otherwise go unheard; it allows powers to be challenged; provides a means for citizens to direct communication, send & receive messages, dicuss & debate - therefore may develop into the Public Sphere
  • Others not so sure - while recognising that there is alot of political activity online, believe it will have little effect 'on the ground'
    • politics will continue as usual
    • some believe the digital divide will widen social inequality - may discorage low income groups from taking part in the democratic process
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E-COMMERCE - commercial activies conducted on the internet e.g. advertising, selling goods & services (Amazon, ebay)

E-commerce has boomed in recent years - in UK internet sales rose by 30% in 2007 to £163 bill.

Some see e-commerce as a positive development:

  • offers more choice to consumers
  • increases competition
  • often leads to lower prices
  • puts consumers in control - can compare prices/pick from a range of products

Others see e-commerce as a negative development:

  • encourages materialism & consumerism
  • furthers capitalist domination & control
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NUMBERS: - have grown dramatically in the last few years

  • Myspace is the biggest - 253 million registered users
  • Facebook second biggest - 140 million registered users

USERS: - research shows that

  • 22% of adult internet users aged 16+ and 49% of children aged 8-17 have joined a social networking site
  • the likelihood of joining is highest among 16-24 yr olds & decreases with age
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Ofcom Research:  - the largest research project on social networking in the UK; based on in-depth & structured interviews with over 6,000 children & adults

Distinct Groups: - the research indicated that social networkers fell into 5 groups:

  • Alpha Socialisers - (minority) people who use sites in intense short bursts to flirt, meet new people & be entertained
  • Attention Seekers - (some) people who crave attention & comments from others, often by posting photos & customising their profiles
  • Followers - (many) people who join to keep up with what their peers are doing
  • Faithfuls - (many) people who typically used social networking to rekindle old friendships, often from school or university
  • Functionals-(minority)people who tended to be single-minded in using sites for a specific purpose

Communication - users communicated mainly with people they had first met offline - 69% of adults use the sites to talk to friends they already saw regularly - it is a means of managing social relationships

User Generated Content - the content of these sites is created & shared by users. Profiles contain detailed info about the user in words, pictures & video

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