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British Politics and the Media – The Advantages of New Media

Here we examine the advantages of new media but also the political impact it has had. So, where are the advantages of new media?

  • Communication and information takes place over large geographical distances at no extra cost
  • A large volume of information can be sent
  • All this is sent at great speed, practically instantaneously
  • It can be interactive so that there can be dialogue between senders and receivers
  • It can be diversified to match the requirements of individuals
  • Different types of communication can be connected together
  • It is difficult to control

These characteristics led writers to talk about a new democratic public sphere which would lead to greater global understanding, empower those with limited resources and lead to the decline of the large commercial communication corporations.

People would have access to more knowledge and be able to organise to campaign on issues and change society.

The early enthusiasm of some writers for the political change that the internet might bring has led to criticisms of technological determinism or a revival of medium theory. Martin Lister and others examine this in Chapter 5 of their book New Media: A Critical Introduction, 2003.

The Political Impact

Undoubtedly the new media have had political impacts:

  • Five days of protests coordinated by text messages helped to force the resignation of the President in the Philippines in 2001
  • Social networking sites allowed activists during the Arab Spring to share accurate and uncensored information;
  • The Obama campaigns used the social media not so much to contact voters but to mobilise funds from small donors and recruit volunteers
  • When the Conservative newspapers tried to attack Nick Clegg after his success in the 2010 leaders’ debate, supporters used an ironical hashtag #nickcleggsfault at every opportunity to satirise the papers’ stories.
  • Candidates from all political parties have been embarrassed by mis-spelt tweets or forced to step-down over inappropriate content. In 2014, Emily Thornberry MP, Shadow Attorney General left the Shadow Cabinet after seemingly looking down on a voter in Rochester who’s house had two English flags flying and a white van in the driveway.
  • Donald Trump used Twitter throughout his campaign to speak directly to people and by-pass the media who he thought was biased against him

Despite these high profile impacts, most internet activity is concentrated with the top 7% of sites producing 80% of internet activity and most usage is still nationally or locally orientated.

Resource

James Curran’s article; Why has the Internet Changed so Little, on the Open Democracy website , 4 March 2012, gives a good detailed argument as to why the internet is having more limited effects.