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Archive for the 'Media Studies' Category

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Social Media and the Lack of Consent

Hunting Girls

“Given the continued use of social media to target, harass, and humiliate young women, it is telling that these technologies were born out of sexist attitudes. In their inception, some of the most popular social media sites were designed to denigrate women.” — Kelly Oliver

This week, our featured book is Hunting Girls: Sexual Violence from The Hunger Games to Campus Rape, by Kelly Oliver. Today, we are happy to provide an excerpt from “Social Media and the Lack of Consent,” an article by Kelly Oliver that originally appeared in The Philosophical Salon. In this article, Oliver traces the “continued use of social media to target, harass, and humiliate young women” back to the sexist origins of many forms of social media.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Hunting Girls!

Social Media and the Lack of Consent
By Kelly Oliver

Social media such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Tinder were invented as part of a culture that objectifies and denigrates girls and women. It is well known that the Facebook founder and Harvard graduate, now one of the richest men in the country, invented the social media site Facebook to post pictures of girls for his college buddies to rate and berate. Reportedly, Evan Spiegel, Stanford graduate and inventor of Snapchat, sent messages during his days in a fraternity referring to women as “bitches,” “sororisluts” to be “peed on,” and discussed getting girls drunk to have sex with them. And the founders of the wildly popular hook-up site Tinder, were both involved in a sexual harassment suit involving their former Vice President of marketing, who claims she received harassing sexist messages calling her a “slut,” a “gold-digger,” and a “whore.”

Given the continued use of social media to target, harass, and humiliate young women, it is telling that these technologies were born out of sexist attitudes. In their inception, some of the most popular social media sites were designed to denigrate women. Of course lots of social media sites, like other forms of traditional media, bank on pictures of attractive girls and women looking sexy or cute, along with pornographic images. Creepshot sites in particular are a telling example of a new phenomenon, namely, the valorization and popularization of lack of consent. (more…)

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

Dismantling Fantasies of Consent and Violence: Three Excerpts from Hunting Girls

Hunting Girls

“From fairytales to pornography, popular culture is filled with girls and women, unconscious or sleeping, “enjoying” nonconsensual sex. And until we change our fantasies, it is going to be difficult to change our realities.” — Kelly Oliver

This week, our featured book is Hunting Girls: Sexual Violence from The Hunger Games to Campus Rape, by Kelly Oliver. Today, we have a few excerpts for you, all of which testify to Kelly Oliver’s gift for drawing connections between literature, film, popular culture, and rape culture. In the first excerpt, Oliver traces a distressing (and frighteningly current) male fantasy back to a fourteenth-century Catalan tale. In the second excerpt, Oliver considers the fraught relationship between the law and consent, exposing the dangers of focusing on one moment of affirmative consent in what is, in fact, an ongoing negotiation between sexual subjects. Finally, in the third excerpt, Oliver examines certain representations in recent literature and film of girls who “give as good as they get,” and shows how these representations send mixed messages–are our Katniss Everdeens and Tris Priors feminist revenge fantasies, or do their actions on screen normalize and valorize violence toward women?

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Hunting Girls!

Excerpt 1

Excerpt 2

Excerpt 3

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Book Giveaway: The New Censorship, by Joel Simon

This week our featured book is The New Censorship: Inside the Global Battle for Media Freedom by Joel Simon.

In addition to featuring the book and the author on the blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of The New Censorship to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, November 21 at 1:00 pm.

“No one understands better than Joel Simon the reasons that press freedom is now in decline nearly everywhere in the world. In The New Censorship, he brings us riveting and powerfully moving accounts from the front lines. For anyone who wants to understand the peril that independent media faces around the world today, this is a distressing, essential piece of work” — Jacob Weisberg, Chairman, The Slate Group

Read an excerpt from the chapter, “News of the Future (and the Future of News)”:

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Camcorders, Democracy, Authenticity — from Video Revolutions

Michael Newman, Video Revolutions

In Video Revolutions: On the History of a Medium, Michael Z. Newman examines the ways in which video has been both valued and denigrated. While some associated it with the low standards of television and contributing to to the decline of the technical and artistic achievements of film, others prized it for its authenticity, its ability to capture the “real,” and its democratization of media:

In the following excerpt from the section “Camcorders, Democracy, and Authenticity,” Newman explains some of these aspects of video:

“The form of video associated with camcorders and citizen media produc­tion was closely tied to ideas about video’s capabilities to capture and document reality in ways that existing media systems had not accomplished.”—Michael Newman

One moment in which this association [with the real] was reasserted occurred on television in the fall of 1980. The FBI’s Abscam sting operation of the late 1970s and early 1980s had caught state and federal legislators accepting bribes from agents including one pretending to be a wealthy Middle Eastern immi­grant seeking asylum in the United States. Secretly videotaped surveillance footage of acts of political corruption in a hotel room, where elected officials met the agents, proved to be sensational and irrefutable evidence in court, leading toward convictions. Soon after the sting was first made public, these events were parodied in a Saturday Night Live sketch spoof­ing The Beverly Hillbillies, “The Bel-Airabs,” reinforcing the linkage between video recording and the real, and videotape’s familiarity as a medium of capturing and documenting actu­ality. After a well-publicized Supreme Court decision allow­ing it, the evidentiary videotape was broadcast on television evening news programs on October 14, 1980, an event marked in popular criticism as a historic occasion for both television and video. The Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales noted the “video vérité” look of the images, and essentially predicted what would later be called reality TV, as surveillance and other forms of taped footage were likely to find their way onto the airwaves in the near future as both news and entertainment. Shales imagined that this would “change the way we look at the tube—and the way it looks at us.” Video cameras had been available to consumers for more than a decade by the time of the Abscam case, but were not widely adopted in comparison to video recorders until the 1980s….

Camcorders also quickly became a way for amateur media products to find their way into professional broadcasts and cable news programs, much as Shales predicted. Some of this video was in the mode of home movies, but the availability of less expensive and easy-to-use new video gear expanded the practice of amateur media production of many varieties. Ama­teur videos were made more famous by the ABC network’s America’s Funniest Home Videos (AFHV), a long-running series based on user-submitted clips, which began as a 1989 special and continued to air more than two decades hence into the 2010s. AFHV and other audience-submission programs such as I Witness Video motivated and encouraged viewers to make and send in a certain kind of videotape, and in the later 1980s and 1990s, shooting camcorder footage was seen as a way for ordinary people to “get on TV” and participate in mass media discourse that had hitherto been closed off to them, claiming a place in the national media conversation…..


Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Images from the Video Revolution

In Video Revolutions: On the History of a Medium, Michael Z. Newman examines how video has been seen in both a utopian and a negative light in terms of its cultural impact.

Newman also includes a variety of images that detail how video was depicted in popular culture and advertising as something that would revolutionize the way we consumed culture. Below are some example and for more images, you can also visit the book’s Pinterest page:

Michael Z. Newman, Video Revolutions: On the History of a Medium
Sony’s campaign sold the Betamax video recorder as a device for time-shifting programs taped off the air. By placing the product boldly in the foreground with the TV set in the background, Sony emphasized video’s value as a technology improving on television.

Michael Z. Newman, Video Revolutions: On the History of a Medium
Illustration by Doris Ettlinger for the article, “For Many, TV Tape Means Watching More—and Loving It,” New York Times, August 27, 1977, using the most popular movie of the day to represent the appeals of home video.

Michael Z. Newman, Video Revolutions: On the History of a Medium
Newsweek‘s cover on August 6, 1984, announced The Video Revolution, picturing a VCR as a movie theater.


Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Live Video, Then and Now — Michael Z. Newman

Video Revolutions: On the History of a Medium, by Michael Z. Newman

The following post is by Michael Z. Newman, author of Video Revolutions: On the History of a Medium:

“The non-linearity of videotape, digital recording, and services like Netflix and its rivals also speak to a long-standing fantasy, of media that satisfy personal desires for unconstrained agency.”—Michael Newman

Today there are two contrary trends in media temporality, which are also two competing visions for the future of entertainment. On one hand is the persistence of broadcast television, the most popular and profitable electronic media format ever. Many people and corporations would love for this kind of TV to go on unchanged forever. On the other hand is what Netflix calls non-linear TV, which follows no schedule. Think thirteen House of Cards episodes dropping all at once. The techies who speak in phrases like “disruptive innovation” are betting their venture capital that non-linear is going to be a live TV killer.

Since I have no time machine, I shouldn’t say which future is around the corner. But having looked at the history leading up to this moment in Video Revolutions, I do have some thoughts on how the past might help us to make sense of the present, and to recognize that the temporalities of both options have historically been invested with cultural value. Since ideas about technology tend to be much slower to change than technologies themselves, it seems like a good bet that the value of mediated liveness will endure.

When television was new, it was often distinguished by its capability for live broadcasting gathering audiences together, despite their physical separation, in communal experiences of performances and events of historical import. TV was to transport you from your comfortable chair at home to the stage or the ballpark, from your town to midtown Manhattan. This capability for immediacy and simultaneity made TV into the object of fantasies of improved communication. It also distinguished television from the most dominant mass medium of the first half of the twentieth century: the movies.

Liveness was an advantage broadcasting boasted over filmed news and entertainment, an advantage the commercial American networks used in setting the terms of their control of the airwaves under the sanction of the state. This might seem hard to believe today, but in the 1940s and 50s, movies were often held to be contemptible mass media trash, while the new medium of television promised to rise above them by offering a distinguished alternative.

This idealization of television and its close identification with liveness changed as TV’s cultural status declined and cinema’s improved. In part this was a function of TV’s adoption of recorded rather than live formats, though live production has never gone away. It was also a function of many other developments, including television’s quiz show scandals and more generally its reputation for fraudulence, and its close association with feminized and lower class audiences. When television’s reputation was that of a “vast wasteland,” sometimes the liveness of its early years, now considered a “Golden Age,” offered a contrast to the more culturally degraded kinds of programming that dominated in the 1960s and after.

In the early days of TV, video was a synonym for television, but the introduction of videotape in the 1950s began to change that. When video became a name for new forms and technologies, including video art and videocassettes for consumers, it was typically understood as a way of improving on television and ameliorating the problems associated with it, such as negative social effects and wasted cultural opportunity. This was often presented to the public as a solution to the problem of television’s control by the commercial networks who program a broadcast schedule of shows appealing most broadly, to satisfy sponsors and avoid trouble with them or the federal regulator. Video recording for the home, for instance, was presented as the liberation of ordinary viewers from the hegemony of the network programmer. Advertisements encouraged TV viewers: “make your own schedule” and “watch whatever whenever.” These were slogans for Sony’s Betamax in the mid-1970s. This notorious commercial for TiVo, which CBS refused to air a generation later (in 2000), makes the exact same appeal. You throw the network programmer out of the window and take his place as the one in control of your own viewing.


Monday, April 21st, 2014

Book Giveaway! “Video Revoluations: On the History of a Medium” by Michael Z. Newman

Video Revolutions: On the History of a Medium, Michael Z. Newman

This week our featured book is Video Revolutions: On the History of a Medium, by Michael Z. Newman. In addition to features on our blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Video Revolutions to a lucky winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, April 25 at 3:00 pm.

In Video Revolutions, Michael Z. Newman casts video as a medium of shifting value and legitimacy in relation to other media and technologies, particularly film and television. Video has been imagined as more or less authentic or artistic than movies or television, as more or less democratic and participatory, as more or less capable of capturing the real. Techno-utopian rhetoric has repeatedly represented video as a revolutionary medium, promising to solve the problems of the past and the present—often the very problems associated with television and the society shaped by it—and to deliver a better future.

For more on the book, read the book’s preface.

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

With the iPhone 5, Has Apple Lost Its Edge?

Pelle Snickars, Moving Data

“With the release of the iPhone 5, the promise back in 2007 of the iPhone becoming an ever expanding mobile media machine might have come to a halt. At least temporarily.”—Pelle Snickars

The following post is by Pelle Snickars, co-editor of Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media.

Many have argued that the iPhone 5 launch was the most important product announcement for Apple since the first iPhone arrived back in 2007. Previous new models and versions have, in effect, been minor upgrades, so it was finally time for Apple to face the increased competition and secure its cutting edge smart phone profile. It’s now been five years since Apple entered the smart phone market—and literally altered and redesigned it. The iPhone rapidly became the prototype of the constantly connected gadget, blending media consumption, mobility, and social media. No other mobile phone—before or after—has even come close to the iPhone’s sociocultural impact, or demonstrated the extent to which mobile technology shapes new media culture. The very term mobile media in fact means something completely different after the iPhone. However, with the release of the iPhone 5, the promise back in 2007 of the iPhone becoming an ever expanding mobile media machine might have come to a halt. At least temporarily.

The question still remains regarding what kind of technology a smart phone actually is—and has become. Is it primarily a piece of shiny hardware, a mobile platform for innovative code distribution, or a gadget targeting new forms of media consumption? What about the blurred boundaries between smart phones and tablets; are they different gadgets or essentially the same devices (only with screens in various formats)? Being mobile and connected as well as handling various forms of media—be they music, films, books or web based content—are important features that nearly all these new devices share.

If the laptop or stationary computer once was our default machine, this is not the case any more. Today, mobile devices are our primary communication tools for voice, text, image, video, sound and gaming. The iPhone didn’t start this development—but it increased the speed of technological change dramatically.


Monday, September 17th, 2012

Double Book Giveaway! The Art of Making Magazines and Moving Data

“Bold, brash, and on target . . . This is a book not to be missed by working editors and journalists, print newbies and magazine junkies.” — Publishers Weekly

The Art of Making Magazines

This week we are featuring The Art of Making of Magazines: On Being an Editor and Other Views from the Industry, edited by Victor Navasky and Evan Cornog.

However, in honor of the imminent release of the iPhone 5, this week we are also giving away a copy of Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media, edited by Pelle Snickars and Patrick Vonderau

Together book books explore where media has been and where it is going.

To enter our book giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and address. We will randomly select one winner on Friday at 1:00 pm. Good luck and spread the word!

The contributors to The Art of Making Magazines include: John Gregory Dunne, Ruth Reichl, Roberta Myers, Michael Kelly, Peter Canby, Barbara Walraff, Chris Dixon, Tina Brown, Peter W. Kaplan, John R. MacArthur, Robert Gottlieb, and Felix Dennis

Friday, July 13th, 2012

What Steve Jobs Did Not Know About Apps

Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media

“Apple’s iPhone and App Store has, thus, proven that walled gardens are not necessarily a bad thing, at least not for a successful digital marketplace to emerge.”—Pelle Snickars

The following post is by Pelle Snickars, co-editor of Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media. For more on the book, you can read the introduction or Patrick Vonderau’s post on What Can Be Learned from an iPhone Bill .

In January this year as Apple’s iPhone celebrated its five year birthday, its App Store surpassed half a million available apps with some 25 billion pieces of code downloaded (according to Mobile Statistics). Arguably, the iPhone iOS is—by just about any measure—the most innovative in the history of computing. It’s the combination of innumerable software apps and high performing slick machines that have made Apple into the world’s most valuable company. And since an iPhone5 is rumored to be on its way, the story will continue.

Too much has already been said and written about the visionary talent of the late Steve Jobs. Still, it is worth mentioning that even he was occasionally wrong. Apple has often been described as a “closed” company striving for total control. But it remains a true irony that externally produced apps, which helped to define the revolutionary iPhone, were not on Apple’s radar in 2007. Initially, the iPhone had nothing to do with apps at all.


Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Patrick Vonderau on What Can Be Learned from an iPhone Bill

Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media

The following post is by Patrick Vonderau, co-editor of Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media. For more on the book, you can read the introduction.

In 2007, blogger Justine Ezarik uploaded a video on YouTube, titled 300-page iPhone bill. (see video at the end of this post)

Following the first month of service after the iPhone’s introduction in 2007, Justine shocked viewers with the story of her “first AT&T” bill, which was indeed 300 pages and delivered in a box. The video shows nothing but Justine leafing through all those pages, accompanied by relaxation music. “Use e-billing. Save a forest” her video encourages at the end. It shortly went viral and has so far been viewed by 3,236,083 people around the globe, gaining “iJustine” international attention and what appears to be quite a lucrative career in online media.

iJustine’s YouTube video is not only the first instance of someone making a lasting career out of an over-sized telephone bill,it also tellingly connects two corporations who often are seen as fierce competitors: Apple and Google (which had acquired YouTube in 2006). The competition between these two companies over the smartphone market and beyond might very well determine what future media entertainment will look like. Even more to the point, iJustine’s video has put a spotlight on an object no serious media scholar so far would have shown any interest in. What, if anything, could be learned by looking at a smartphone bill?


Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Capitalism and the History of the iPhone — An Excerpt from Moving Data

Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media, Pelle Snickars and Patrick Vonderau

We continue our week-long focus on Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media with an excerpt from the book’s introduction by Pelle Snickars and Patrick Vonderau.

In this section, Snickars and Vonderau explore what makes the iPhone distinct as both a device and an object of study. Likewise they also consider how the device grew out of other technologies and its historical precedents.

A History of Possibilities

In order to come to terms with Apple’s iPhone, it is important to consider the dynamic intersection among these marketing, technological, and cultural forces. Despite the iPhone’s economic success, elegance, and “revolutionary” newness, the question still remains how and why to engage in studying the iPhone as a media object in the first place. In their seminal book, Digital Play: The Interaction of Technology, Culture, and Marketing, Stephen Kline, Nick Dyer-Whiteford, and Greig de Peuter suggest investigating this interdependent dynamic of technology, culture, and marketing efforts as propelling the “circuit of capital” and growth in information capitalism. The political economy of media provides a critical but fairly general perspective on the iPhone as an “ideal-type commodity form,” one that reflects the social organization of capitalism at its present moment. Recent ventures into the field of media-industry analysis have testified to the productivity of this critical tradition. Focusing solely on the iPhone “moment” in the media history of consumer capitalism, however, also introduces a number of fallacies that obscure—rather than clarify—what seems to be at stake. To favor the emergent and the immediate at the expense of the old and the contingent, or of failures and devaluation, often leads to a skewed picture of innovation processes and of media history generally, and potentially even to a fetishization of branded consumer products, which the iPhone epitomizes.


Monday, July 9th, 2012

Book Giveaway! Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media

With the recent five-year anniversary of the i-Phone’s debut, our featured book this week is Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media, edited by Pelle Snickars and Patrick Vonderau.

Throughout the week we will highlight aspects of the book and we are also offering a FREE copy of Moving Data to one winner.

To enter our book giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and address (U.S. and Canadian mailing addresses only, unfortunately). We will randomly select one winner on Friday at 1:00 pm. Good luck and spread the word!


Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Ross Melnick — How Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel Changed Movies

Samuel We continue our week-long focus on American Showman: Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel and the Birth of the Entertainment Industry, with an excerpt from the book’s opening pages:

Film historiography has often focused on production, stardom, and/or the intricate operations of the studio system—much of it to the exclusion of motion picture distribution and exhibition. American Showman analyzes the career of a single film exhibitor and radio broadcaster, Samuel Lionel “Roxy” Rothafel (1882–1936), between the years 1908 and 1935, in order to illuminate the work of a silent era “showman,” the complex operations of an urban movie palace, and the multiple and interrelated venues created for film, music, and live performance on stage, on screen, and over the air. Whereas the film industry could debate which star or mogul held more sway during this period, for a quarter of a century no motion picture exhibitor had more industrial and cultural power or influence than Roxy. On radio, Roxy was also amongst the medium’s most popular and innovative voices in the 1920s and 1930s, helping to determine early radio genres, formats, and broadcasting styles. His career not only illuminates the multifarious tasks of an urban movie palace exhibitor but Roxy’s additional roles as a broadcaster, filmmaker, music director, stage producer, propagandist, newspaper columnist, and author demonstrate that exhibitors like Roxy were not bureaucratic functionaries but influential figures that can and should be analyzed for their own thematic and stylistic predilections and industrial, social, and cultural influence. This analysis also demonstrates the motion picture exhibitor’s influence on spectatorship (both in film and live performances), narrative, and previously unexplored issues of authorship. Silent era exhibitors, in small and large venues, had tremendous agency over the texts they presented. In some cases, their preceding, intervening, and concluding music and live performances, and their editing of films, dramatically altered the narratives of the motion pictures they exhibited.


Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Five Years of YouTube

The YouTube ReaderLast week of course was the fifth anniversary of YouTube leading to inevitable commentaries both celebrating its democratic possibilities and bemoaning it as a massive waste of time. For those looking for more innovative and thoughtful views of the phenomenon, The YouTube Reader, edited by Pelle Snickars and Patrick Vonderau, includes reflections by leading media and film scholars on the site and its immense impact.

The YouTube Reader is the first full-length book to explore YouTube as an industry, archive, and cultural form. The contributors debate the problems and potential of “broadcasting yourself.” The YouTube Reader takes on claims of newness, immediacy, and popularity with systematic and theoretically informed arguments, offering a closer look at the available texts on YouTube and the policies and norms that govern their access and use.

The book’s accompanying site, now includes an online exhibition YouTube as a Mirror Maze created by Giovanni Fossati. Here is a description of the piece:

YouTube reflects you and you reflect (on) YouTube. On the other side of the mirror, YouTubers are watching. Reflections are endless and endlessly reflected into one another, like in a mirror maze.

Finding the way out is as difficult as not clicking the mouse for the next clip, the next mirror.

The exhibit reformulates famous and not-so famous YouTube clips, exploring the ways people have used YouTube to document their opinions (“Leave Brittany Alone!”), reflect on the banal, and build on and comment on other videos. The online exhibit also looks at how certain videos have spread globally and the innovative ways the medium has been used.

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

The Late Age of Print Open Source Audio Project

The Late Age of PrintTed Striphas, author of The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control, has launched an inventive and exciting new project in connection with his book.

He is putting together a crowd-sourced production of a text-to-speech audiobook version of The Late Age of Print. Striphas has opened a wiki for the project, through which interested volunteers can help him clean up the text for audio conversion. Instructions and details are available here.

Here is Striphas on the project:

Listening to Chris Anderson’s Free: The Future of a Radical Price on a long car trip got me thinking: why not make an audiobook out of The Late Age of Print? And why not, like Anderson, give the digital recording away for free? The thought had barely crossed my mind when reality started to sink in. “You’re no Chris Anderson,” I told myself. “You don’t have the time or the resources to make an audiobook out of Late Age. Just forget about it….”

And so I got down to work. I extracted all of the text from the free, Creative Commons-licensed PDF of Late Age and proceeded to text-to-speech-ify it a chapter at a time. I played back my first recording — the Introduction — but it was disaster! The raw text had all sorts of remnants from the original book layout. They seriously messed up the recording, and so I knew they needed to go. I began combing through the text, only to discover that the cleanup would take me, working alone, many more hours than I could spare, especially with a newborn baby in my life. Frustrated, I nearly abandoned the project for a second time.

Then it dawned on me: if I’m planning on giving away the audiobook for free, then why not get people who might be interested in hearing Late Age in on it, too? Thus was born this, The Late Age of Print open source audiobook project. The plan is for all of us to collectively create a Creative Commons-licensed text-to-speech version of the book, which will be available for free online.

There’s a good deal of work for us to do, but don’t be daunted! If you choose to donate a large chunk of your time to help out the cause, then that’s just super. But don’t forget that projects like this one also succeed when a large number of people invest tiny amounts of their time as well. Your five or ten minutes of editing, combined with the work of scores of other collaborators, will yield a top-notch product in the end.

I doubt that I have a large enough network of my own to pull off this project, so if your blog, Tweet, contribute to listservs, or otherwise maintain a presence online, please, please, please spread the word about it.

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Guobin Yang on Online Activism in China and Iran

The Power of the Internet in ChinaIn a recent article on Yale Global Online, Guobin Yang, author of the recently published The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online, examines the similarities and differences among Internet activists in Iran and China.

While Iranian protesters have been able to get around censorship via social media such as Twitter and Facebook, the Chinese government has been quite vigilant in censoring the Internet. Recently the government announced a new policy requiring computers to pre-install a software called “Green Dam-Youth Escort.” While the policy was put in place to protect Chinese children from online pornography, others were concerned about the government’s hidden intentions.

This comes at a time when there are an increasing number of activist-bloggers in China. Below is an excerpt from Yang’s post. For more on the book you can also view an excerpt from the book (kindly posted on Yale Global Online), listen to a talk or watch a video of Yang discussing online activism in China.

“Increasingly, in China at least, online oppositional power depends on a new type of activist-bloggers. They write about a broad range of public issues, usually expressing dissent. Whenever major events or crises occur, readers can invariably turn to these bloggers for critical commentaries. Fully aware of the expectations of their audience, these activist-bloggers rarely fail to publish their critical responses. Indeed, the culture of the blogosphere is such that bloggers are compelled to produce for their audience to keep their names in the limelight. In the Green Dam case, it is these activist-bloggers (whom I will not name here) that quickly became the leading critical voices in Chinese cyberspace. Online activism hardly happens out of the blue, but has found a social basis in these activist-bloggers and their followers.

Further, online activism has sustained its power because it has become a vital link with the mass media. Tweets of protests in Iran would not have become so widely known and influential if they had not been picked up by the most powerful global cable networks. Similarly, online protests about the “Green Dam” software in China were encouraged when even some official media stories questioned the policy. This is by no means to underestimate the power of the Internet. One might just as well argue that mass media would not have been as powerful without citizens’ constant news feeds from their tweets and blogs. The truth is that web power has become part and parcel of mainstream media power. Media scholars sometimes talk about the growing convergence between “old” and “new” media. Converging or not, the spectrum of media channels has vital connections, and the power of old or new media is enhanced by establishing such linkages.