We Media and Democracy


Dan Gillmor

“In the past, you believed it, or you didn’t” This quote from Dan Gillmor directly relates to how media was push media in the past, meaning producers gave us products and we took them as there was no choice in the matter. The media wasn’t very democratic because we had no control over what we consumed and there was limited audience interactivity.

1 of 12

We Media Products -Fanzines

However, there has always been we media products like Pirate Radio and fanzines such as Sniffing Glue which give audiences a preferred reading and is a perfect example of citizen journalism and how audiences could give an alternative viewpoint to the mainstream media.

2 of 12

Hegemony - Karl Marx

As Karl Marx said, “people who rule in any society do so by controlling the means of production” which links to hegemony and how large companies and producers ultimately try to control consumers’ views and opinions through the media.

3 of 12

Consumers to Producers

However now due to convergence and web 2.0, consumers have the ability to become producers through sites such as Radionomy which allow people to create their own radio stations with the content they choose. This shows how the media has gone from push to pull. There are changing patterns of media consumption because of web 2.0 interactivity, internet etc as the media is more accessible to audiences so we can choose specifically what we want to consume.

4 of 12

Hegemony - Happy Muslim Video

We media products allow people from anywhere in the world to express their views and beliefs, and we often take we media for granted but some countries and cultures don’t allow it. For example, the ‘Happy Muslim’ video created by a group of Muslims from Iran allowed them to express themselves and challenge the establishment and government’s traditional views by publishing the video online which gained them a huge response. However, the women in the video were punished for being too close to the men in the video and for not wearing their headscarves. It’s evident here, that their hegemonic culture dominates how they live their lives to such an extreme extent. Despite the fact the video was banned, it gained a huge response from people around the world, created more ‘we media’ by recreating the video to show support and raise awareness of what happened in Iran.

5 of 12

We Media - Keenan Cahill, Justin Bieber = Global V

Keenan Cahill is an example of how we media products have started to develop and become part of the mainstream media as he was just an ordinary person creating lip sync videos on YouTube but is now famous for doing that and has a large audience that support him. Similarly, Justin Bieber started his career on YouTube and was then signed by Usher to create his popular record deal. A reason Bieber became so successful in using a we media platform like YouTube to further his career is that he was one of the very first to do it, it was unique at the time and so people were new to the idea of becoming famous via YouTube. The Global Village theory can be applied to this idea in the way that it could be argued that the world is becoming a smaller place as a result of the internet bringing people closer due to convergence and advances in technology.

6 of 12

Breakdown of scheduling

The breakdown of scheduling has impacted the way we all consume the media and we now consume in different ways. For example, I like to watch shows on catch up because I’m usually too busy to watch them when they are aired, however my mum enjoys watching them live because that’s what she has always known and is used to which shows again, how products have gone from a push to pull media because we can access whenever we want. This relates to the breakdown of the traditional narrative in the way we watch and what we expect to happen and how audience fragmentation occurs because of the lack of scheduling which results in the narrowcasting of products in order to appeal to niche audiences. Ultimately, the media is more democratic than it was in the past because now everyone can watch a show that they will enjoy, whereas in the past, there was limited choice and availability in the shows on television.

7 of 12

Illusion of Democracy

Event TV such as The X-Factor and The Voice used to be more common in the past, however now with regular shows, it doesn’t matter whether we watch them live or not. The producers of event TV however, do want people to watch their shows live and they encourage this by incorporating the ‘voting’ system into their competitions. These institutions have to work harder to attract and sustain an audience and often create the illusion of democracy to do this. The media appears to be more democratic because there is more of it however shows like The X-Factor create the illusion of democracy by creating a false sense of representation by hand picking people to be popular to a mass audience to gain more votes thus earning more money. In the most recent X-Factor, the semi-finalists included a gay Finnish woman, Saara Aalto, and a Black British group, Five After Midnight which will specifically appeal to people who can relate to these people in some way or another, through sexuality or race for example. Audience’s believe that the show is representing them but they’re not because the people are chosen from the beginning. Reality TV is about the illusion of democracy and appealing to the masses.

8 of 12

We Media on Television

Television also uses we media to appeal to audiences, for example, shows like You’ve Been Framed and Viral Tap are both made up of we media products and have changed the way we respond to TV because in the past, we would never be able to input our own footage onto mainstream media but now we can. Another example of this is how we media now actually can result in ordinary people becoming part of the mainstream media, for example, YouTubers such as Alfie Deyes and Marcus Butler have been on Saturday Night Takeaway and Zoe Sugg has been on The Great British Bakeoff. Other YouTubers like Tyler Oakley and Grace Helbig have created their own podcasts to widen their demographic. Again, this links in with how the media can be considered to be more democratic because now ordinary people have the opportunity to create a career out of what they love doing, and become famous and gain access to the mainstream media. This was not possible in the past because there was a lack of we media to begin with but now because of advances in technology, we media is easier to make and share.

9 of 12

We Media in the news

We media has not only become popular in the entertainment industry, but also with news organisations too. 9/11 was the first example of using we media in this way because without using the mobile footage captured by people who watched it happen, we wouldn’t have seen most of what actually happened and they’re alternative view to what the mainstream media portrays. This became popular and now we media is evident in almost all news websites, recently a headline in the Daily Mirror, “Nicola Sturgeon going full Donald Trump” used tweets from Twitter to engage a wider audience and provide more information. Linking to how the public can influence the news agenda through eye witness reports, paparazzi and citizen journalism like Indy Media such as “Build Gardens not Prisons”, it can offer an alternative view and a oppositional reading and therefore challenge the messages of the mainstream media. The alternative view is often marginalised by the mainstream media because it is more powerful than we media. Arab Spring and Wikileaks has allowed people to have alternative viewpoints and challenge hegemony. We media allows individual voices to be heard rather than the collective voice which is a voice for change and cannot be ignored- for example BBC Radio 6 Music was saved from getting shut down by the power of social media and people’s opinions.

10 of 12

Marx and Gramsci

Linking back to Marx’s quote, “people who rule in society do so by controlling the means of production” we can link this to ownership and Gramsci’s development of the idea of hegemony about how the people at the top, who own companies and institutions, tell us what is important through the media they produce and we consume. During the period of the Royal Wedding, it was on every single newspaper- local and national- they were all homogenized, which enforces the preferred reading that it is important and we should support them. This relates to media imperialism in the way that countries are losing identity due to the dominance of media from larger nations, eg. Hollywood and this further links to cultural imperialism in how western civilisation produces the majority of the money to do so and so they dominate the media around the world. The rest of the world is therefore left with no other choice than to purchase the western productions because it’s cheaper than producing their own which results in third world countries watching the media of the western world which imposes their views and destroys the third world’s native cultures.

11 of 12

Chomsky - Future of we media?

Noam Chomsky’s quote, “Freedom of expression is the most deceitful myth of Capitalism. How can the media be free from the interests of those who own the channels and newspapers, and who employ the celebrated stars of freedom of expression?” which brings me to the question of, ‘will the media ever be democratic?’ It’s hard to know what the media will develop into in the future- we media could expand and overtake the mainstream media as the younger generation is influenced by this and therefore the mainstream media doesn’t provide for the future generations because it can’t. The mainstream media is becoming stagnant and not as accessible. As the way we are consuming media is changing, for example Channel 5 news and now BBC news often show the news in quick 60 second bursts to keep up with our quick and impatient requirements. Big organisations are going cheap which dumbs down the mainstream media. YouTube is constantly expanding and it could be argued that it may end up with its own TV channel to appeal to its large demographic within the mainstream media. TV, print, radio and film are all regulated but internet isn’t which makes it more democratic but it could go backwards and convert back to web 1.0 if they start to regulate the internet as this would take away the freedom people have on the internet and would make it non-democratic. However this point brings me to the argument that the internet does need to be regulated in certain circumstances as people are radicalised on the internet, but it is unknown how regulating such a wide spectrum of information would happen. So therefore we are unable to determine what the media will be like in the future.

12 of 12


No comments have yet been made

Similar Media Studies resources:

See all Media Studies resources »See all Contemporary Media Issues resources »