|عنوان فارسی مقاله:||تاثیر رسانه ها بر تحولات اجتماعی: استنتاج هذلولی در مورد اثرات|
|عنوان انگلیسی مقاله:||Influences of media on social movements: Problematizing hyperbolic inferences about impacts|
|رشته های مرتبط:||علوم ارتباطات اجتماعی، علوم اجتماعی، روابط عمومی|
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|نشریه||الزویر – Elsevier|
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Pronouncements about the value of information and communication technology (ICT) (hereafter traditional, new, and social media) to social movements – hyperbolic in popular media references to new and social media (e.g., Facebook revolution, Twitter revolution, etc.) – invite scholarly inquiries that critically assess the implications of these assumptions for African countries. Sensing the tendency toward technological determinism, a position which Castells warns is fraught with failure to recognize complex interactions between society and technology; authors examined popular press vis-à-vis scholarly assumptions about the value of media during social movements. Questions that critically analyze the roles and power of old versus new media in social movements should be posed particularly about 21st century iterations with citizens increasingly doubling as creators and disseminators of news and information. For example: to what extent do various media comparatively facilitate or constrain activists in social movements? How have new ICTs assisted citizen activists in circumventing the power and reach of traditional media? How have the roles of traditional versus new media in social movements been framed in the popular press and academic journals? What contextual factors (e.g., communal networks; thirdparty- and foreign-interventions, digital divide, etc.) may be accountable for the take-off and successes of social movements? In a continent fraught with cultural, political, and socio-economic divisions of historic proportions, authors critically assessed cases across Africa of variegated employment of old (i.e., radio, newspaper, television) and new media platforms (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, mobile telephone text messaging) by four social movements spanning 35 years. Assessments underscore citizen empowerment and multiplier capabilities of new media but affirm the value of contextual factors that minimize hyperbolic assumptions about the contribution of new media to the formation and progression of social movements.
In recent months, vigorous discussions and debates about the employment of mobile telephones and other forms of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.) escalated and commanded the attention of pundits across sectors of society in ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ nations. Discussants are representatives of governments, non-governmental agencies, the private sector, civil society, the mass media and the academy. There have been fewer issues (e.g., the new world information and communication order debate) that have brought disparate stakeholders’ focus on one central issue – the relationships between ICTs and society. Some of those conversations have coalesced into groups examining the notion called ‘information communication technology for development (ICT4D)’ or have become central components of international agendas, namely within the ‘millennium development goals (MDGs)’. In the academy and particularly in the fields related to communications, several interest groups, conferences, special issues of journals and book volumes have focused on one goal – how to make sense of the growing advancement of new ICTs into multifarious dimensions of society. Recent developments such as the 2009 Iranian ‘Green Movement’ and in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region and especially the 2011 Egyptian social movement, which involved employment of new ICTs introduced media coinages such as ‘Twitter Revolution’ and ‘Facebook Revolution’ into popular discourse. Some academicians who have studied and chronicled these events in scholarly journals have been confounded by such exaggerated ‘utopian fantasy’ (see e.g., Aouragh and Alexander, 2011, p. 1345). A raging debate is a good way to describe the attempt to make academic sense of the exponential and multi-directional growth, reach, and accessibility of new ICTs as well as the extent of their impacts, especially in such political and social movements coined the ‘Arab spring’. Academic explorations have especially been compounded by varied theoretical and methodological approaches and by the diverse scope of user engagements examined. This latter complexity has created a bifurcation of researchers into camps similar to those formed around the argument about media effects in the 20th century (see Klapper, 1960). Current division amongst academics has led some (see e.g., Dahlberg, 2007; Yzer and Southwell, 2008; Carty, 2010) to propose re-examination and possible redefinitions of such concepts as ‘new media’; ‘participation’; ‘public sphere’; ‘social movement’; ‘social networks’ and so on. Given that the 20th century debates – notwithstanding ferment of the field – were never quite resolved, we doubt that the ongoing version will be either. Nonetheless, one of our goals in this paper was to join preliminary academic conversations motivated by recent social movements across the African continent. In particular, media-coined phrases such as ‘Twitter revolution’ and ‘Facebook revolution’ which have made it into social and academic discourse motivated us to critically assess the implications of these assumptions in which we sensed the tendency toward technological determinism – a position which Castells (1996) warned is fraught with failure to recognize complex interactions between society and technology. In addition, we suspected that foregoing exaggerations were inconsistent with metrics, including statistical evidence about Internet subscriptions and demographic distribution, of usage in referent countries. As a consequence, we sought to examine popular press’ assumptions vis-à-vis scholarly research evaluations of the roles of ICTs in recent social movements. Our sense of history also led us to further contextually ground the issue by critically examining the roles and power of old media versus ICTs in the initiation, mobilization, and achievement (or otherwise) of historic and recent social movements’ goals. We drew from inferences put forth by segments of the popular press and the scholarly community in our attempt to appraise current understanding of how the role of media in social movements changed with the introduction of interactive ICTs. Furthermore, we attempted to contextualize these assumptions by providing case study accounts of the use of old and new media in four social movements spanning 35 years across Africa. In a continent fraught with cultural, political, and social divisions of historic proportions, we critically assessed the variegated employment of old (i.e., radio, newspaper, television) and new media platforms (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, mobile telephone text messaging) by multiple social movements. Another goal of our paper was to identify consistencies and inconsistencies that may exist between popular media representation, academic understanding, and case study summaries of the employment of media (old and new) in social movements located in Africa. In particular and following Castells (1996), we sought to problematize grandiose assumptions of technological determinism in the modest attempt to contribute to a better understanding of an ever-evolving dynamic between social movements and old and new media that they employ. By so doing we hoped to highlight the complex interactions between society and media and, in the process, identify multiple vectors of importance in the take-off, successes, and failures of social movements. Driving forces behind our approach were multiple. One is the time-tested inequity in the progression and penetration of new media between the global North and the South. A second is the opportunity, also provided by recent events in North Africa, to bring the African dimension to the raging academic debate; not so as to further muddle the pot but as a way of seeking clarity on contentious assumptions about the role of ICTs. It is also not trite to note that recent escalation in the desire by academicians to appraise the role of ICTs in social and political movements were atypically motivated by events located in Africa.