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Digital Communication Systems and Its Impact on Democracy

Nowadays acceleration of the technological progress, resulting in the impetuous dissemination of innovations in the world introduces cardinal changes to the social aspects life, among which media takes not the last place.

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The aim of this essay is to analyze the role a digital communication systems play in the provision of the better access to information and the development of democracy as a whole.

Digital Information Peculiarities

In order to give a lucid explanation of the digital information it is necessary to compare it to the opposite kind of it, which is the analogue information.

Generally speaking, the analogue information is based on the getting signals from the surrounding world. For instance, we are obtaining the analogue information, while listening to the speakers in a meeting or while listening to the radio, which is, undoubtedly, one of the best examples of the analogue information transfer instrument. In contrast, digital information is based on the computer transfer of data.

Feldman T. (1997) lists the following features of the digital information: “digital information is manipulable, networkable, dense, compressible, and impartial”.

Certainly, these features make a contribution to the development of the free information space and better access to information. Making the information accessible to everyone is the task of the government. Mossberger K. L., Tolbert C. J., & Stansbury M. (2003) describes current government policy in this sphere, stating

Existing policy supports public access in schools, libraries, and community centers, but proposals to partially subsidize the purchase of computers or Internet services for low-income families have also circulated in Washington in the past. To date, however, home access has been supported primarily through small nonprofit programs that offer loans and used computers to low-income families.

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Digital Media Space Issues

Digital communication systems are aimed at fast and free dissemination of information but the process of their own implementation in the whole media space of the country requires efforts, time, and money.

The controversy around the digital communication systems shows that their dissemination should be done in a manner, which will not prevent the variability of the sources of information, their trustworthiness, and verifiability, because ultimately people want to know actual data. Keeping people informed is still should be based on the principle of giving them a true picture of the surrounding reality, the principle on which the media should be based upon regardless the communication system it uses.

Veltman K. H. (2006) gives a statistics showing that “fewer than 6% of Internet users reside in developing countries, which account for 84% of the world’s total population”. While by the end of 2008, 58.1 per cent of households in Europe had Internet access, only 16.8 per cent of the household in Asia and Pacific countries were connected to the Internet (Shah, 2013, n.pag.)

The digital economy is important to most Australians with almost three-quarters of the adult population believing the internet has improved their day-to-day lives (Communications report 2012).

“Use of the internet via mobile phone handsets continues to increase across the general population, with 32 per cent of the population aged 14 years and over going online via a mobile phone handset during June 2012 compared to 21 per cent during June 2011 and 13 per cent during June 2010” (Communications report 2012).

The digital era can be characterized as a time in which individuals and organizations are driven by a need to know, connect, create and share, which is enhanced by the digital capabilities of media in the 21st century (Lawson-Borders, 2011, n. pag.). The Australian magazine cites the words of Jodie Sangster, the new chief executive of the Australian Direct Marketing Association, who states that “digital communications and social networking have become core parts of the direct marketing business” (Digital communications core 2011)

According to the report “Digitally Inclined” cited in the academics article, “more than 76 percent of K-12 educators say they use digital media, up significantly from 69 percent in 2008.” (Educators Embrace Digital Media, 2010, n. pag.) Digital technologies can create and carry all sorts of cultural information: text, images, sound, touch, and more (Mondloch, 2004, n. pag.).

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Van Dusen G. C. (2000) claims that “properly designed, new and emerging technologies will open access to populations that have enjoyed only peripheral participation in higher edu-cation”. Marshall S., Taylor W., & Yu X. (2003) mention that “despite the huge potential of Internet technologies to assist communities to increase their overall well being through community development approaches, there are relatively few examples of sustained community networks built around Internet technologies when compared to commercial applications”.

Impact of the Digital World on Democracy

The Aspen Institute has joined forces with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to form the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy to explore the impact of digital technology on the role that information can play in distributing advantages within a democracy… Guided in part by a recognition that “people with digital tools and skills have distinct political, social and economic advantage over those without them,” the commission underscored the importance of reducing disparities within and between communities by increasing the “capacity of individuals to engage with information,” as well as the public life of their communities (Gandy O. H, 2010, n. pag.).

New media technology can ultimately influence journalism by facilitating the emergence of “contextualized journalism,” a form of reportage that relies less on objectivity, sees journalists as interpreters of events, empowers the audience, and reconnects communities (Fernback, Y., 2002, n. pag.).

The Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICTs) are transforming the political news cycle, forcing political parties to alter their approach to making, following and responding to political news (Longford, G., & Patten, S., 2007, n. pag.).

“The second element needs to be a public education campaign about the value of free expression, and particularly a free media, in a properly functioning democratic society. We can call this a new ‘media freedom literacy’, and again the media organisations, their representative groups, and journalism educators can play a role here” (Pearson, M., 2007)

“If the dominant moments of modern society are democratic and civil, and if culture and education are made to trump other private goods, the new technologies are likely to improve democracy; enhance civic discourse, and aid the spread of culture. If those moments are primarily commercial, private, material, and consumerist, however, then the technologies will also become commercial, private, material, and consumerist” (Barber, B.R., 2001, n. pag.).

In order to summarize all above mentioned, it should be said that the digital communication systems make a significant impact on the way a media works today. The creation of the free information space will, undoubtedly, stimulate the awareness of people in the political, social, and economic life. Under the modern conditions of rapid technological innovations, the sustainability of democracy can be only achieved by the broad dissemination of digital technologies with the purpose of the equal information access provision to all social layers. The contribution, which new media can make in the development of democracy, depends on the efforts of government and media groups to the large extent.

References

Barber, B.R. (2001). The uncertainty of digital politics. Harvard International Review, 23(1), n.pag.

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Communications report 2011-12 series. Report 2 – Australia’s progress in the digital economy. Participation, trust and confidence. (2012). Web.

Digital communications core in direct marketing: ADMA chief. (2011). Web.

Educators Embrace Digital Media: A new study reveals that teachers’ tech savvy is on the rise. (2010). T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), 2, 37.

Feldman, T. (1997). An introduction to digital media. London, the United Kingdom: Routledge.

Fernback, Y. (2002). Journalism and new media / reshaping communications: technology, information and social change. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 57(2), n.pag.

Gandy, O. H. (2010). Informing communities: sustaining democracy in the digital age. the report of the knight commission on the information needs of communities in a democracy. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 87(2), n.pag.

Lawson-Borders, G. (2011). Making the connection: digital media and intelligent networking. Global Media Journal, 11(19), n.pag.

Longford, G., & Patten, S. (2007). Democracy in the age of the internet. University of New Brunswick Law Journal, 56, n.pag.

Marshall, S., Taylor, W., & Yu, X. (2003). Closing the digital divide: transforming regional economies and communities with information technology. Westport, CT, USA: Praeger.

Mondloch, K. (2004). An invitation to think again: digital media revisited. Art Journal, 63(2), n.pag.

Mossberger, K. L., Tolbert, C. J., & Stansbury, M. (2003). Virtual inequality: beyond the digital divide. Washington, DC, USA: Georgetown University Press.

Pearson, M. (2007). Media freedom in Australia: rhetoric versus reality. Web.

Shah, A. (2013). Towards digital communication and transaction: an inquiry into the individuals’ internet acceptance and usage behavior in bangladesh. Journal of International Technology and Information Management, 22(1), n.pag.

Van Dusen, G. C. (2000). Digital dilemma: issues of access, cost, and quality in media-enhanced and distance education. San Francisco, USA: Jossey-Bass.

Veltman, K. H. (2006). Understanding new media: augmented knowledge and culture. Calgary, Alta, Canada: University of Calgary Press.

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