Hello All, below are my thoughts on this week’s readings:
As Castells concludes his research into Communication Power, he summarizes the data-driven research he did into Rupert Murdoch, News Corp, and Murdoch as a major network unto himself. I appreciated the challenge for others to do similar research into others likewise wielding tremendous power as “network switchers.” He has herein provided a theoretical and research structure for similar investigation. It made me want to investigate “switchers” in the U.S. Department of Defense, in the National Security Staff (formerly called the National Security Council), in former White House chiefs of staff, and other U.S. public policy figures, addressing both domestic and foreign affairs.
To begin, one would need the beginning of a story, because each of these positions transition, initial background would be needed to identify the beginning of the story. For the military, I would start with Rachel Maddow’s book “Drift” about the shift in American military policy since the Vietnam War. Not because she is an expert in this area, she’s a pundit – her job is to talk about what other people say – but because in her research of that book, she identifies what I see as the beginning, and one of the first “switchers” in modern military policy, U.S. Army Commander Creighton Abrams, Commander during the Vietnam War. While General Patton, the famous World War II commander would be a likely choice, his army was not the army we have today, so we must begin with the shift to modern policy.
The same would be needed in other areas, for the presidential-campaign-turned-public-policy-wonks we refer to as ‘White House chiefs of Staff,’ I would begin with Jason Johnson’s book, “Campaign Management: One Day to Sell.” And so on down the line.
Regarding the article on the internet and social media in activism, I’d first like to acknowledge academic research on the subject that did not use the Arab Spring as an example. The Arab Awakening, as it was also called, is a fascinating case, and worthy of much study, but it is also such an extreme example that underlying principles of the theme may be difficult to distinguish so soon to the events’ history, and present if the Syrian civil war is to be included.
That being said, I appreciated mostly what the research revealed about how the three regions’ populations felt about the internet, social media, and activism. I appreciated that Americans saw and still generally see the internet as a hopeful mode for equality and change; that the Chinese citizens polled saw these tools as useful to circumvent censorship and get direct access to journalists; and that Latin Americans saw the web platform as a place to increase debate.
Chief concerns were/are also telling. I generally think of the North American characterization of South America as ‘developing’ as neo-imperialist and negative – but to read that 15% of those polled had no access to the internet in their homes is a shock. That is the reality in parts of the world, but I did not expect to see that in the Americas.
I think that each of our regions may have something to learn from the chief concerns of the other. While we don’t deal with much censorship as such in the U.S., our government does over-classify information, which is a more centrally-held form of censorship, censorship the citizen in unaware is taking place. That aside, Americans are less concerned with debate than our Latin American neighbors. However, research shows that international, borderless information platforms like the internet and international news networks do not encourage debate with people of differing views, instead, viewers follow perspectives close to their own, thereby becoming more entrenched in their original viewpoints. Likewise, China might emphasize change along with their very real governmental-censorship problem, and Latin America might look to their own censorship issues in their post-dictatorial regimes.