Digital Media Theory and the Role of Regulation Online

Words: 4745
Topic: Entertainment & Media


Technological developments have been seen by the global society as a solution to many of the socio-economic problems in the world. Technology is supposed to make human life enjoyable by addressing issues that limited the ability to do some specific things. The invention of digital technologies has widely been considered a breakthrough in addressing many of the problems of communication around the world. People can now access internet, the fact that has improved means of communication. The social media has not only helped people socialize beyond the rigid geographic borders, but has also helped in promotion of democracy (Klimkiewicz 2010, p. 67).

The recent revolt experienced in the Arab World was directly fuelled by the social media. Digital television industry is also revolutionizing the access of information by members of the public. However, the issue about online freedom has emerged in the recent past. People have been complaining of the infringement into their online privacy by internet experts with criminal minds.

People trusted the online technologies so much that they had been using it to store some of their highly classified information. Unfortunately, they have realized that the online technologies are longer safe as hackers get into such online stores and access the information that is considered private. Many people have complained about privacy infringement in one way or the other by ill-minded internet gurus. According to Bennett and Strange (2011, p. 164) children are no longer safe in the digital world as they can easily get access to adult contents on the internet that may pollute their minds. They are largely influenced by what they constantly see in the television channels and even the social media. There have been claims that some agencies are using the internet to monitor every activity of some people in the global society. In this study, the focus will be to analyze the online freedom in relationship to the way digital television industries attempt to regulate our experiences of the Internet

Advancements in Communication Technological

There has been a massive development in the field of communication technology over the past few decades. It is becoming a reality to have a world that is highly integrated by having advanced communication systems. Use of letters and faxes was no longer seen to be desirable in a world that needed real-time communication. The advances that were made towards the digital communication technologies were seen as the best way of managing the increasing need for improved communication systems. The society had utopian visions about what advancements in the field communication bring. According to Klimkiewicz (2010, p. 67), there was a general conviction among the proponents of technology that the world will be an ideal place for every humanity because of the free flow of information.

Everyone will be an author because it will be easy for people to share their thoughts and views with others without the restrictive rules that limit the ability of individuals to express their ideas. Similarly, everyone will be able to access any information that he or she finds desirable by a simple click of a button. Such is a desirable world that many people in the past only dreamt about. However, advancement in communication technology was promising to make this dream become a reality. It was promising to make the world an integrated global village where communication can flow freely from one part of a global society to the other. The online communication systems have enabled people to socialize without any restrictions rigidly defined by geographic borders. This is what many have considered ideal in a world that has become increasingly thirsty for information.

The question of relevance of these new approaches of communication has risen in the recent past. People have been asking whether it is the right direction that should be taken in the field of communication. It is especially so after it was realized that the online freedom that was so much admired in the new technology could have just been an illusion. When developing communication technologies, the proponents of the new communication paradigm argued that the approach will bring freedom in the access to communication. People no longer had to rely on the bureaucratic media stations that would twist information to their own interests or to the interests of the government.

With the advanced communication systems such as online news and the mass media, the society will be opened to limitless information. The freedom is what many desired. They saw the new technological advancements as an opportunity to get free access to information without any form of manipulation from the governments or other agencies that may want to hide or distort some information.

According to Amos et al. (2012, p. 78), the truth is that advancements in communication technology did offer people the freedom. The freedom to access information in various fields is now a reality. The freedom to have news reported without distortion is also a reality. However, there has been an argument that the new desirable approach of communication has taken away some form of freedom from its users. It would be interesting to understand how this has happened. The research paper analyzes the way in which our freedom has been taken away by these new media.

The Social Media

The social media is part of the digital technologies that has massively improved communication in the recent past. According to Chingamuka and Glenwright (2012, p. 34), the social media has brought a new trend in communication that goes beyond other means of communication. Facebook has over 750 million fans across the world visiting the site almost on a daily basis (Amos et al. 2012, p. 46). It has largely been viewed as a forum that brings together people from all walks of life in an interactive environment where they can share their views without any form of restriction. Using Facebook, people can freely share their ideas with other members of the society without the fear of intimidation.

It has enabled people to share information on various issues irrespective of one’s age, social class, race, religion, or other demographical factors. It is part of the ideal world that the proponents of this form of communication had during its development process. They envisioned a world where all demographical and geographical boundaries would be broken to allow a free flow of information from various parts of the world. Facebook has helped to partly achieve the vision.

YouTube, on the other hand, has enabled people share graphical information from various parts of the world. Having over 600 million users, YouTube has also become a powerful means of communication that people uses to get the desired news. In fact, Powers and Xiao (2008, p. 64) consider YouTube as an important component of digital television industry. People can watch news from various television channels through YouTube. It also allows users to share videos and other heavy graphics. An individual can capture an event or any news that the public may be interested in and post it on the YouTube. It means that the field of reporting is no longer limited to large bureaucratic news agencies in the world. An individual can use a simple cell phone to record the event, and then post it into the social media with some little description of what took place, and the news will reach the world audience. Viewers are also given freedom to choose what they want to watch. People no longer have to follow rigid programs of VOA or any other news agency’s program.

They can watch what they want when they want it through YouTube (Bennett & Strange 2011, p. 321). It was the freedom that many people in the past desired, but were not lucky enough to achieve it. Tweeter, just like Facebook, provides a forum where people can share different views in the society. Largely seen as a more professional means of communication than Facebook, Tweeter is largely used to facilitate debates among people on various contentious topics. LinkedIn strives to bring together professionals in different fields into a world where they can share their views. Lawyers can easily form a society where they can share ideas in order to improve their profession and advance in their field. Medical practitioners, architects, engineers, marketers, surveyors, and many other professionals can easily link together through the medium.

Despite some of the positive benefits that the social media seeks to offer, there has been a re-evaluation of the level of freedom that it seeks to offer. It is common to see an individual talking over a mobile phone telling the person on the other end that he or she is in New York City while the truth is that he or she is in Washington. It is part of freedom that some people enjoyed. However, it may not exist when one uses a Smartphone to communicate through Facebook.

The location of the individual will be clearly revealed. It means that if one had the intention of tracing another person for ill motives, the best way to identify his or her location would be to engage him or her in a discussion through Facebook. Facebook has also been viewed as a means through which democracy can be achieved in various parts of the world. It helped in elimination of the dictatorial rule in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. However, there has been a concern as to when such revolutionary information flow ceases to be pro-democracy. Such forms of communication may bring anarchy in the world as it may radicalize the society (Bennett & Strange 2011, p. 72). It means that instead of achieving freedom that comes with democracy, it may lead to intolerance and criminalized activities as people seek to achieve their personal gains or other religious satisfactions as proposed by radical groups in the social media.

The content of a message in the social media has been an issue that has made people rethink the real definition of freedom. Minors have been subjected to massive pollution of the mind through the social media.

There is been no way through which the social media can confirm the age of their account members. A 12-year old girl can easily open a Facebook account. Using such accounts, she will get many friends, some of whom may be interested in causing damage in her life. In such forums, such minors get easily influenced with the contents they see others post on their walls. They get to chat with individuals who do not know them and do not care about their wellbeing. They get subjected to adult contents at very early stages in their lives, making them prone to practices that may hurt them physically or psychologically (Gillespie 2007, p. 41).

YouTube is probably the worst threat to young adolescents who are thirsty for information. At this stage in life, these youngsters are always interested in getting information about their body systems in order to get an explanation to some of the biological changes they are experiencing. Given that parents are always unwilling to discuss some of these issues with their children, the youngsters find the social media as the best alternative to address them. In social media, they get access to adult content that pollutes their mind. The problem is that they rarely realize that such contents are not only addictive, but also have massive psychological impact on their lives that can affect them in various ways. When they become addicts of such undesirable contents, they lose their freedom to access information freely on the social media.

Instead, they become prisoners of such contents. They will always be looking for opportunities to get access to such undesirable information. They know that what they watch is abhorred by the society, so they have to hide. It gives them the impression that they are committing a crime, and this explains why they hide when doing it (Barlow 1990, p. 78). They get trapped in some form of prison where they are forced to do what they consider an act that is abhorred. It clearly demonstrates how the mass and social media, largely thought to be a source of freedom from both political and social angles, can turn out to be a form of prison where one loses self-freedom. In such cases, what the conscience approves of, and what an individual does is different. It demonstrates that the freedom of the mind is lost, as one is faced with constant antagonistic reasoning.

Firms spend millions of dollars in the mass and social media in order to build their brand name and earn reputation in the market. It takes them years of hard work and excellent service delivery in order to achieve success. However, some have suffered a great deal due to what many perceive as freedom in social media. A case in point was Domino’s Pizza. On April 16, 2009, a video prank was uploaded on YouTube showing employees of Domino’s Pizza handling food in unhygienic way and serving customers such unhygienic food. The prank was so disgusting, especially when the cooks took some of the ingredients to their nose as one of them explained everything, that when it reached the media, the firm was almost brought to its knees. Customers could not believe that this is what the reputable firm had been doing to its customers.

According to the reports from the firm’s top management unit, the incident was the worst blow that the firm has ever experienced since it started its operations. When talking about freedom, it would be necessary to define its meaning in light of this incident. The society wanted freedom of expression and communication, and this is exactly what the social media offer. But to Domino’s pizza, the social media and its freedom is the worst thing that could ever have happened in the world. They used a lot of money and many years of hard work to build a strong brand. They would use a lot of money on the mass media to reach out to the customers. Then all over sudden; an amorphous form of communication that is unregulated comes up with an information that is misleading about the firm.

The information was brought in such a powerful way that the firm was almost forced out of the market. It had to spend millions of dollars to convince the world that it was a prank. However, the effort has not been able to get it back to its glorious position of a successful firm that had total trust of its customers. Some customers have confessed that they have avoided Domino’s Pizza outlet because of the memory they have of the video. The claim that social media offer freedom to the users and to the society is a big lie to Domino’s Pizza. It believes that social media is a recipe for anarchy and having been one of its worst victims, no one can tell this story better than the firm. The freedom to abuse others’ rights and freedom can never be considered as a valid form of freedom. If others are put at risk with the freedom that is offered, then the real essence of that freedom is completely lost.

The Digital Television Industry

The digital television industry has experienced a massive growth over the years. The research by Klimkiewicz (2010, p. 66) shows that the number of people who watch television in the global society has increased tremendously. In the United Sates, it is estimated that over 98% of the total population get to watch television regularly. There has been a shift from the use of analogue television to digital television as technology gets more advanced. As the number of people who watch television increases, so does the power of this medium of communication. Powers and Xiao (2008, p. 85) say that the television industry has the responsibility of protecting the constitution and interests of every member of the society.

They have a role to collect information on various issues relevant to members of the society and report it in a clear manner without any form of distortion with the aim of influencing the society to take actions against some of the undesirable act. The media is the best watchdog of the people over the government. Sometimes top government officials may engage in activities that are unethical, and that are focused on benefiting only a few members of the society. It is the responsibility of the media to dig deep into such issues and make concrete reports to the society. It not only helps in deterring such acts by government officials, but also helps in fuelling the need to investigate corrupt dealings that could have resulted in massive loss of public wealth.

People have considered television industry to be the true image of freedom in the modern society. Freedom of the members of the society has closely been tied with the freedom of the press. According to Barlow (1990, p. 57), freedom of the press has actively been supported by various non-governmental organizations across the world. They claim that press is the only impartial watchdog of government that can analyze its activities and that of other corporate bodies entrusted with specific tasks. In both developed and developing societies, people respect and trust information presented by media stations.

They believe that such pieces of information are impartial and only seek to bring truth to light. The notion has been supported by the difference with which people with authority and members of the society view the press. Government officials and other people in the position of authority are very suspicious of the press. The presence of the press to them is a sign that any slight misstep will directly be communicated to members of the society. This is very undesirable to them because it limits their ability to be creative in their actions. When such creativity fails to bring the expected result, and public money is spent beyond the expected levels, then the officials will be expected to have a proper explanation because the information will reach the public.

On the other hand, the public has come to consider media as the only means of getting true information on the manner in which their government is spending their money. They believe that media offers them an opportunity to hold government accountable in every activity it conducts on behalf of the people (Gillespie 2007, p. 36). To many, this is the truest form of freedom that people can achieve. The ability to hold government accountable for any of its actions takes power from government officials and hands it over to the people. This is one of the best ways of achieving freedom. However, Klimkiewicz (2010, p. 55) says that many people have failed to look at the issue from a holistic angle. People have not been able to investigate what the television industry takes from them in terms of freedom. They are so much preoccupied with the benefit they get that they are yet to know what they lose. The loss may be negligible in the face of many people because there is yet to be a comprehensive report on it. It is important to understand ways in which digital television industries attempt to regulate our behaviour.

Way in Which Digital Television Industry Attempt to Regulate Our Behaviour

In the recent past, some people started claiming that there is no sovereignty where people gather. The claim holds that the freedom of people has been taken away from them by media stations that are ready to report on any issue that may be of interest to other members of the society or government. It brings the question of how free people are in the face of the mass media. According to Chingamuka and Glenwright (2012, p. 83), one thing that many people have ignored for a very long time is the effect of digital television industries on people. These scholars say that many people in the society consider television industry as a source of information, education, and entertainment. These are benefits that the society gets from this industry. However, it is important to understand what has to be paid in return.

The amount of money spent in buying television sets, and the cost of power consumed by the television may not be the only cost that we have to pay in order to enjoy the benefits that have been mentioned. We could be paying more without our realization. The cost could not be in monetary or any other material form, but still a heavy price anyway. Some people have argued that we have to give up our freedom in order to enjoy the benefits brought by television industry. It is necessary to analyze ways through which digital television industry attempts to regulate our behaviour.

According to Klimkiewicz (2010, p. 43), digital television industry is one of the leading factors that influence our behavioural patterns. The world is changing rapidly and with it comes numerous changes in our social life. These social changes are only brought to our attention through the television channels. As changes take place in various spheres of life, there has been an effort by members of the society to learn to adapt to these changes (Lessig 2004, p. 41). For instance, the field of fashion is entirely shaped by the media. The fashion shows organized by television channels are very popular amongst various people in the society. In developed countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, and France, people are very sensitive about fashion. They take time to monitor the changing trends in the field in order to ensure that they remain trendy in their dressing. This is majorly supported by the television channels. It means that people will heavily be influenced by media about what they wear.

According to the research by Amos et al. (2012, p. 69), sometimes we are so much influenced with the media that we fail to give our own beliefs a chance to define our actions. The trend is very common among the youths. They rely on the media to define what they wear. They refer to this trend as the western culture because it is believed to have come from the West. This culture is passed to other societies around the world through the television industry. Sometimes it is worrying what some members of the society have to wear in the name of keeping it trendy. The culture of women wearing trousers started in the West, and many traditionalists abhorred the habit, considering women were wearing trousers’ sluts.

However, the consistency with which the habit was practiced in the society, and the coverage it received from the television channels made it be an acceptable trend in the society. The culture was endorsed by celebrities across the world. Currently, a new habit is cropping in where ladies wear revealing dresses because it is what the media, especially television channels, presents to them as trendy dress code. The problem is that sometimes people are forced to go against their own will to wear such revealing dresses. Powers and Xiao (2008, p. 28) note that, some people are always forced to dress funnily because of peer pressure. The need to be accepted by peers and the constant messages in the television channels makes them believe that this is what the society considers normal. The negative dressing code is always clothed in a misleading claim of rights and freedom of women.

It is a woman’s right to wear any form of dress as long as it is decent enough not to cause any psychological torture to men when they interact with them in social forums. However, the freedom or right ceases to exist when a woman is forced to wear clothes that make her conscious guilty when she walks along the streets. The freedom changes into a prison where people are forced to act against their wish.

Digital television industry closely regulates our activities in the online media. The online media always acts as backup information to what we get in the mass media. We always go to the media in order to confirm some of the information we gather from the mass media. It means that the mass media will closely define what we look for in the online media. It limits our capacity to have independent thoughts, and look for information regarding the thoughts in the online media. In the view of many scholars such as Chingamuka and Glenwright (2012, p. 62), this is another form of prison that this freedom presents to the society. It is the paradox that the freedom in the media presents to people. It takes away the ability to have independent thoughts and define reasoning from a rigid front, based on what is presented in the television channels.

The Digital Media Theory

Scholars have tried to explain the role of digital media and how it defines the culture of people around the world using contemporary digital media theories. The New Media Theory has widely been used by various scholars to help explain how the digital media affects cultural practices. It seeks to investigate the contemporary media as a complex rhetorical and ecological context (Chingamuka & Glenwright 2012, p. 51). Klimkiewicz (2010, p. 42) says, “The merger of media and new media creates a global social sphere that is changing the ways we work, play, write, teach, think, and connect.” The scholar says that media dictates our life from a very early age.

The way a child plays at that young age and with all the innocence in life is closely defined by the media. They try to act as some of their heroes in television shows. As they grow and start learning, they write and think based on what they see on the media. When we become adults and become teachers, we teach, connect, and think in line with what the media exposes to us. What we may consider our own independent thoughts are always largely defined by media.

As Powers and Xiao (2008, p. 77) put it, the capacity to have independent thoughts has been taken away from us, and in its place, we are left to think based on what the media presents. This unfortunate scenario is made worse by the fact that the same media has convinced us beyond any reasonable doubt that we are more independent in our thoughts and from the political sphere than ever before. It takes away our freedom to think and makes us believe that it is the best way of achieving freedom in the society. In the past, people would be enslaved by their masters who defined what they did and how they approached every activity, but they had the liberty to think independently. Now in the modern society, media has taken the freedom to think and gone ahead to define what we do and how we relate (Lessig 2004, p. 17).

This is the worst form of prison that can ever exist in the world. All the freedom and rights are taken away by the media that now dictates what we have to do, and what makes it worse is that everyone is convinced that this is the best form of freedom. It becomes almost impossible to convince them otherwise, unless this is done through the same media.

Role of Online Regulation and Potential Freedoms This Regulation Might Curtail

Some members of the society have realized the dangers forced by the modern-day enslavement, and have tried to come up with online regulation policies to help control what people can access from the media (Bennett & Strange 2011, p. 314). It is common to see such regulations on television shows where some programs can only be aired at night. Others are rated R or X in order to limit their accessibility to minors. This is done in an attempt to protect young minds from getting affected by the adult contents. Sometimes the government may come up with regulations that prohibit accessing or distributing some specific information.

The regulation is expected to curtail the revolutionary minds that may radicalize the society. A case in point was when the Chinese government prohibited some online contents from being accessed by its citizens. However, the regulations have played a limited role in controlling accessibility of these classified materials to the minors or revolutionary information to adults. The minors can still access even worse contents from the internet where their ages cannot be detected, and revolutionary materials can still flow through various online media.

List of References

Amos, M, Harrison, J, Woods, L & Clemens, N 2012, Freedom of expression and the media, Nijhoff Publishers, Leiden. Web.

Barlow, J 1990, Crime & puzzlement, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Cambridge. Web.

Bennett, J & Strange, N 2011, Television as digital media, Duke University Press, Durham. Web.

Chingamuka, S, & Glenwright, D 2012, Gender, popular culture and media freedom, Gender Links, Johannesburg. Web.

Gillespie, T 2007, Wired Shut: Copyright and the Shape of Digital Culture, MIT Press, New York. Web.

Klimkiewicz, B 2010, Media freedom and pluralism: Media policy challenges in the enlarged Europe, Central European University Press, Budapest. Web.

Lessig, L 2004, Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity, Penguin Press, New York. Web.

Powers, J & Xiao, X 2008, The social construction of SARS: Studies of a health communication crisis, John Benjamins Publishers, Amsterdam. Web.