Public Relations: Saving the Oldest Olympic Sport

Background 

In Strategic Sport Marketing (Shilbury, Westerbeek, Quick, Funk and Karg 2014) the authors present a case study which centres on the removal of amateur wrestling as a sport from the Olympic games. In this case study the authors suggest that the eventual survival of wrestling as a sport, in whole or in part, was due to the intervention of professional wrestling company TNA wrestling. This response considers a number of factors in determining whether the campaign was a success and, further to the authors proposition, what influence TNA wrestling had in the final outcome.

Response

In order to determine the success of this campaign the first requirement is defining what is success and, from this, determining what influence the TNA wrestling campaign had on achieving this outcome. Success in this case would see wrestling returned to the Olympics – a feat which occurred on September 8th, 2013 (BBC 2013). But what influence over this did the TNA public relations campaign have? While the quote in the Case Study (Shilbury, Westerbeek, Quick, Funk & Karg 2014, p. 318) identified Kurt Angle, and his then employer TNA, it also identified the International Wrestling Federation (FILA) – the world sanctioning body under which Angle won his two gold medals – who’s members also made up the international collective Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling (CPOW) (Smith 2016). Following the announcement to remove Wrestling by the IOC the standing president of FILA was removed following a vote of no confidence and, as suggested by other members of the FILA board, part of the removal of the sport was because of his dealings with the IOC (Smith 2016). This structural change allowed the FILA board to develop new ideas and present the sport to the IOC in a new light.

Around the globe national wrestling bodies were coming together in a show of unity, putting on events like the Rumble on the Rails at New York’s Grand Central Terminal (Raskin 2013). During this campaign Kurt Angle was a vocal participant, appearing and speaking out on behalf of the sport however, besides from being introduced as “TNA wrestling’s” Kurt Angle, there was little involvement from the company themselves. As a company with a history of poor management and PR (Murray 2016) – including most recently their failed attempt to have fans name an owl (Rueter 2017) – this seems to be another case of TNA (now Global Force Wrestling) trying to cash in on someone else’s hard work (Konuwa 2017). This evidence then suggests that the TNA public relations campaign had a minimal effect on Wrestling remaining an Olympic event beyond having an employee who happened to be a part of the CPOW. As for that committee, as seen in the evidence provided, the PR campaign they ran was a much more contributing factor to the success of the sports reinstatement.

 

References

BBC 2013, Olympics 2020: Wrestling reinstated to Games, BBC.com, 8 September, viewed 11 September 2017, <http://www.bbc.com/sport/olympics/24009517&gt;

Konuwa, A 2017, ‘Matt Hardy Vs. Impact Wrestling: Who Owns The Broken Universe?’, Forbes, 13 March, viewed 11 September 2017, < https://www.forbes.com/sites/alfredkonuwa/2017/03/13/matt-hardy-vs-impact-wrestling-who-owns-the-broken-universe/#78d648073d92>

Murray, A 2016, 10 Ways TNA Totally Screwed Themselves Over,  WhatCulture.com, 20 October, viewed 11 September 2017, < http://whatculture.com/wwe/10-ways-tna-totally-screwed-themselves-over&gt;

Raskin, L 2013, Rumble on the Rails: USA, Russia, and Iran Embrace Each Other, creativetimereports.org, 20 May, viewed 11 September 2017, <http://creativetimereports.org/2013/05/20/rumble-on-the-rails-usa-russia-and-iran-olympic-wrestling/&gt;

Rueter, S 2017, Let’s help name TNA’s owl mascot, cagesideseats.com, 11 March, viewed 11 September 2017, <https://www.cagesideseats.com/tna/2017/3/11/14893964/name-tna-impact-anthem-owl-mascot>

Smith, S 2016, Grappling with the future: The story of how Olympic wrestling was saved, NBCOlympics.com, 18 August, viewed 11 September 2017, < http://www.nbcolympics.com/news/grappling-future-oral-history-how-olympic-wrestling-was-saved&gt;

Shilbury, D, Westerbeek, H, Quick, S, Funk, D & Karg, H 2014, Strategic sport marketing, 4th ednAllen & Unwin, Crows Nest.

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Neoliberalism, New Media & The Political Discourse

With the rise of convergence and social media culture the influence of mainstream media outlets in political discourse is greater than ever before. The public can now engage in live media, whilst simultaneously commentating with their peers, in a way that can influence politics like never before. With the application of theories from Harvey (2005) and Phelan (2014) this essay will explore the development of these changes since the second world war and provide insight on how they have been shaped by neoliberalism. This will be achieved by exploring three key areas. The first will explore briefly the history and use of propaganda and how it has developed since the second world war to modern times. The second will look at the rise of convergence and increased scrutiny of media influence and will briefly analyse the influence of Rupert Murdoch in the modern political landscapes. The third and final aspect of this essay will be to look specifically at the influence of neoliberalism on the media and explain its unique relationship with the public.

Throughout this essay certain specific terminology will be referenced frequently and, unless otherwise stated and appropriately referenced, should be considered with the following definitions in mind. As neoliberalism is a broad term, for the purpose of this essay, will be defined by Harvey (2005, p. 2) as “a theory of political economic practices that proposes mankind is best served by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills, characterized by free trade, strong private property rights and the free market, within an institutional framework created and preserved by the state”. When considering then its application with specific reference to the media the first understanding should be of Phelan (2012, p. 116) who believes that “Neoliberalism is articulated as the general name for the capitalist present… mainstream journalism is neoliberal because it is produced within a corporate media infrastructure governed by the ideology and priorities of neoliberal capitalism”. While these two definitions will form the basis of the discussion other secondary references will also be included and further clarification provided when necessary.

Over the course of history politics and the media have shared the public sphere. The emergence of the fourth estate, the term coined by Henry Fielding in the 1750’s acknowledging the existence of journalists as a collective (Bainbridge, Goc & Tynan 2011, p. 40), has given the media legitimacy within the realm of political discourse. While initially only responsible for providing press coverage and a public record the utilisation of mass media to further political agendas has been prevalent since the Napoleonic Wars (Hanley 2005), however, propaganda as it has become known today was revolutionised by the Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels during the Second World War (Diggs-Brown 2011, p. 49). From 1940 onwards the National Socialist regime were able to influence the greater German public with strategically developed film and print media. This media was engineered in such a way to create feelings of jingoism, that would aid the growth of nationalism and strengthen the hold of the regime over the nation (Kallis 2005). Though not the first, the use of mass media to distribute political messages and influence the public in Nazi Germany was the most prolific of its time, so much so that many approaches developed by Goebbels and his party are still utilised today.

Since the end of the second world war the use of propaganda has, arguably, become less sinister however it’s use has also become more prevalent. Considering the legacy of the likes of Goebbels, the term still holds many negative connotations though does still appear in political discourse. In the modern political landscape propaganda is often referred to by more subtle terms, such as spin (Bainbridge, Goc & Tynan 2011), and where Goebbels intended to stir strong feelings of empowered nationalism it is now a means of encouraging constituents to exercise their democratic rights in a way which benefits the party. A contemporary example of this in recent Australian politics was the ‘Children Overboard’ incident, where the Howard government in a push for re-election with policies of tighter border security (Head 2004), alleged that asylum seekers had threatened to throw children out of a boat to secure rescue and entry into Australia (Arlington 2004). While the Howard government were aware at the time that these claims may not have been true (McGrath 2004) they proceeded with making them public to attempt to influence voters. Ultimately, despite the claims later being found to be false (Arlington 2004) the election campaign was a success and the Howard government would go on to serve two more terms. Whether this came about as a direct result of the campaigns propaganda can only be speculated, however, given the political climate at the time it can certainly be attributed.

Considering the implications of the historical development of propaganda and the fourth estate it is easy to see how media scrutiny has developed since the early nineteen hundreds. With the rise of convergence, defined by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (2012, p.5) as, “…the merging of the previously distinct platforms by which information is communicated”, and the dawn of the social media age media scrutiny of political discourse is at an all-time high (Plaisance 2013). The ability for the common person to provide individual commentary to the masses through social media has seen the reliability and integrity of mainstream media called into question like never before; particularly around issues of global politics. This outlet essentially allows any individual to become a member of the journalists fourth estate, even calling into question the legitimacy of this title, now being proposed as the “fifth estate” (Bainbridge et. al 2011, p. 46). How different things might have been even for the Howard government if the children overboard affair had occurred in the age of social media and was subject to round the clock scrutiny from both local and international audiences. On the other side of this discussion, despite this heavy scrutiny, the ability for mass media outlets to share stories quickly over multiple platforms means that information can still be spread quickly and their agendas can be supplied to more people than ever before. As technology advances further already there has been issues raised over the ability to mine data and use geolocation to tailor distribution of political materials to influence individuals (Cadwalladr 2017). Not only is this form of convergence ethically questionable but it gives even greater powers to media owners to dictate what is consumed.

Distribution of mainstream media, despite these recent challenges, has still seen unprecedented amounts of influence in the political sphere in recent times. While part of this can be attributed to the media as a means of mass communication the role of media ownership and control cannot be understated. The most notable example of a media controller with great political influence is Australian media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. From his historical support of the Australian Liberal Party (McKnight 2013) to the election of Donald Trump (Rutenberg 2017), there are few political happenings, national or international, that do not have the interest of Murdoch. Globalisation has seen Murdoch become not only one of the richest men in the media industry, but also one of the most influential. By keeping close control over what his interests say and do, actions which were never clearer than in 2003 when he personally wrote his 175 editors and told them to support the US invasion of Iraq (Bainbridge et. al 2011, p. 42), Murdoch has been able to manipulate large parts of the global mediasphere to carry out his personal agenda. Murdoch’s ruthlessly capitalist approach to business is one of the best examples of neoliberalism in the media and cannot under any circumstances be understated.

Considering these initial points of discussion it can be determined then that neoliberalism impacts upon the media to influence the perception of national interest. When looking at Harvey’s approach (2005) the media is essentially acting as a host body to promote the neoliberal agenda of the state. Regardless of the contributor, that is to say whether coming from a Murdoch tabloid or an individuals social media account, at the core of all political debate is the wellbeing of the state. During the second world war Goebbels and the Nazi ministry for propaganda worked hard to achieve a totalitarian nationalist state where the public believed strongly in what they were told by their mass media campaigns (Diggs-Brown 2011). While objectively different in their approach to the distribution of propaganda on behalf of the state the Howard government felt that they were the party to guide Australia through hard times post September 11, 2001 and thus looked for re-election by any means necessary. Despite their substantially different political alignments and ultimate end goals both parties utilised the media channels at their disposal in an attempt to influence national interest in a way that they saw was necessary to maximise their control over the state. Whether or not these approaches were ethical raises an entirely different discussion, however, the success of both parties is undeniable when looking at their successes historically. Without influencing perceived national interest this success would not have been possible.

Similarly elements of the neoliberal impact on the perception of national interest can be seen in the concentration of media ownership and convergent shift towards new media. All media outlets, regardless of ownership, are built with the sole intention of working in the national interest (von Dohnanyi 2003). The problem then comes when individuals prioritise capitalist gains over the fundamental right to free press and sharing of relevant, unbiased information. As per Phelan’s (2012) definition, “mainstream journalism is neoliberal because it is produced within a corporate media infrastructure”. The very fact that the fourth estate, and media as a whole, has developed from a means by which the common person could be kept informed on notable events into a tradable commodity shows how neoliberalism has shaped the industry over the last hundred years. This transformation of the fourth estate from an open source to a tradable commodity has forever changed the media landscape and created a permanent perception of national interest which matches the media owners agenda. Without substantial changes to international systems of government, or significant deprivatization, this perception will not be able to change without the medias permission.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of neoliberalism that can be applied to the media in relation to political discourse is the tightrope that it constantly treads between relative and absolute gains. “Neoliberal institutionalism assumes states focus primarily on their own absolute gains and are indifferent to the gains of others” (Powell 1991, p. 1303). The question of ethics has been raised throughout this essay, as is often the case when discussing neoliberalism (Sugarman 2015), and for good reason when it comes to absolute gains. The ultimate end goal of the media is to succeed in promoting its message. Whether that is to show support for a cause, to discredit another or to sway the mind of the public and, as mentioned in the previous paragraphs, impact on the perception of national interest mass media will always strive for an absolute gain. As seen in the analysis of both Goebbels and Howard, while vastly different political figures, the propaganda they chose to promote yielded absolute gains for both of their parties at the time while giving no consideration to any other consequences. Both parties did what they had to do to put themselves in a winning position, regardless of who else may have lost.

This would not always have been the case however; historically, going back to the original fourth estate, the absolute gains for the media would have also seen relative gains for the public as they operated in a time of objective journalism (Fox 2013) for the benefit of the public. Since the rise of globalisation has brought about convergence, and media has become a business, the absolute gains for the industry are now solely based on capitalist profits and little, if any, concern is given to the common man. An example of this, from the earlier case study, can be seen in Murdoch’s support of the Iraq invasion (Bainbridge et. al 2011). In this example, the absolute gains heralded for the individual, and his immediate political ties showed no thought or consideration for the wider public. Further evidence of this can be seen in the conflicts existence at the time of this essay being written some fourteen years later. Were a different approach taken to the management of politically sensitive media, as opposed to the neoliberal methodology of winning at all costs for the sake of the state and capitalist profit fair and objective journalism may once again return to forefront. Considering how new media has risen to prominence in the convergent mediasphere, and brought new scrutiny to mass media, this may eventually become a reality albeit one that will remain in the hands of the media elite.

Whether by definition of Harvey or Phelan, or any one of the other sources mentioned throughout, it can be seen how neoliberalism impacts the political aspects of the mediasphere. From the development of propaganda in the early twentieth century through to modern times, and the overriding agendas of concentrated media ownership, neoliberalism and the desire to use a public commodity for capitalist gains is evident throughout history. Although the recent challenges identified and discussed suggest that mass media can overcome the rise of the new media as society progresses and technology advances it is impossible to say whether or not this trend will continue. Considering the financial involvement and long term commitment to the industry, and the adaptability shown in recent times to embrace the shift towards new media, it is fair to assume that although outlets may change the need to spread information will continue long into the future.

 

 

References

 Arlington, K 2004, ‘Children overboard the most despicable of lies: Hawke’, TheAge.com.au, 24 August, viewed 11 June 2017, <http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/08/24/1093246520431.html?from=storylhs&gt;

Australian Communications and Media Authority 2012, Broken Concepts, ACMA.gov.au, viewed 11 June 2017,<http://www.acma.gov.au/~/media/Office%20of%20the%20Chair/Information/pdf/ACMA_BrokenConcepts_Final_29Aug1%20pdf.pdf&gt;

Bainbridge, J, Goc, N & Tynan, L 2011, Media & Journalism, 2nd edn, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, Victoria.

Cadwalladr, C 2017, ‘The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked’, The Guardian, 20 May, viewed 11 June 2017, <https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy&gt;

Diggs-Brown, B 2011, Strategic Public Relations: An Audience-Focused Approach, Wadsworth Cengage Learning, Boston, MA.

Fox, C 2013, ‘Public Reason, Objectivity, and Journalism in Liberal Democratic Societies’, Res Publica, Vol. 19, No. 3, pp. 257-273.

Hanley, W 2005, The Genesis of Napoleonic Propaganda. Columbia University Press, New York, NY.

Harvey, D 2005, Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford University Press, New York, NY.

Head, M 2004, ‘Australia: Howard’s 2001 election lies return to haunt him’, wsws.org, 25 August, viewed 11 June 2017, <https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2004/08/howa-a25.html&gt;

Kallis, A 2005, Nazi Propaganda and the Second World War, Palgrave Macmillan UK, Basingstoke.

McGrath, C 2004, ‘Mike Scrafton speaks live about children overboard affair’, The World Today, 16 August, viewed 11 June 2017, <http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2004/s1177463.htm&gt; 

McKnight, D 2013, ‘Murdoch and his influence on Australian political life’, The Conversation, 7 August, viewed 11 June 2017, < http://theconversation.com/murdoch-and-his-influence-on-australian-political-life-16752&gt; 

Phelan, S 2014, Neoliberalism, Media and the Political, Palgrave Macmillan UK, Basingstoke.

Plaisance, P 2013, Media Ethics: Key Principles for Responsible Practice, 2nd edn, SAGE Publications, USA

Powell, R 1991, ‘Absolute and Relative Gains in International Relations Theory’, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 85, No. 4, pp. 1303-1320.

Rutenberg, J 2017, ‘When a Pillar of the Fourth Estate Rests on a Trump-Murdoch Axis’, New York Times, 12 February, viewed 11 June 2017, <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/12/business/media/rupert-murdoch-donald-trump-news-corporation.html?_r=0&gt;

Sugarman, J 2015, ‘Neoliberalism and Psychological Ethics’, Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, Vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 103-116.

von Dohnanyi, J 2003, ‘The Impact of Media Concentration on Professional Journalism’, OSCE.org, viewed 11 June 2017, <http://www.osce.org/fom/13870?download=true&gt;

From the Archive: Professional Wrestling for Amateurs – What, Culture?

Another week of preparing for the end of term has left me short on time – luckily there is still more to go back to from this original series on the misunderstood art of professional wrestling.  Previously we sat down with an actual, real life, wrestling machine – O’Shay Edwards – for a look at the life of a wrestler as well as touching on the physical and mental commitments and sacrifices that are made by performers. If you haven’t had a chance to read those earlier parts I would strongly recommend them as they are each a literary delight before tackling part 5 of this gripping tale of intrigue and romance.

So far the majority of this series has been looking at things from a wrestlers perspective and trying to break it down for better insight. What has been overlooked, and what will be touched on now, is the way in which the wrestling industry has influenced a sort of sub-culture in the modern world. A place where, thanks to social media, wrestling fans and pundits alike come to pay tribute to the sport they love in many different ways.

As the popularity of wrestling grew through the late 90’s it reached cult status, establishing the careers of many modern day film actors, most notable the likes of The Rock and John Cena. But it wasn’t always wrestlers becoming actors. In fact in 2000 Actor David Arquette became the WCW World Champion in what can only be described as a piece of sheer booking genius from then head booker Vince Russo – the man famous for making everything infinitely better by putting it on a pole.

It was around this time that wrestling and music also began to go hand in hand. Yes, I know Cyndi Lauper was at the first Wrestlemania, but this is more than that – and no I’m not talking about the Macho Man’s foray into rap either (which is pure brilliance if you haven’t already heard it). The surge in popularity of hard rock/post-grunge/nu-metal music saw bands that would not normally get the time of day thrust into the spotlight and if you were to quiz most modern day wrestling fans on the likes of Cold, Drowning Pool and Limp Bizkit they would be able to tell you that in 2002 they were all close personal friends of Tazz.

Moving away from the main stream influence in modern pop-culture professional wrestling has also created a brilliant and beautiful virtual world – sometimes even more misunderstood than wrestling itself. “eFedding”, another term for online roleplaying games based around the sport of professional wrestling, has grown massively as a hobby over the last 20 years from chains of emails, to MSN message boards and into the present day with social media (there are entire rosters worth of characters constantly tearing into one another on Twitter). The attention to detail shown by some roleplayers, or “fedders”, is immense and there are often people outside of the hobbies inner sanctum who mistake them for real people. A more in depth analysis of this subculture can be found here in the essay An Exploration of Social Gaming.

All of these things, be it films, music or games, bring millions of people together every day and unite them with one common trait; a love of wrestling. Whether it is loved or hated the wrestling industry as a whole is a global phenomenon – second only to sports like football (soccer for you Americans) and boxing for global popularity and viewership – and deserves to be treated with the same respect.


This piece was originally published on May 31st 2016 at http://botchworldorder.wordpress.com

The Internet – An ideal public sphere?

The aim of this post is to explore and discuss the concept of the Internet as an ideal public sphere – defined by Holub (1991, p.3) as, “…a realm in which individuals gather to participate in open discussions. Potentially, everyone has access to it. No one enters in discourse… with an advantage over another”. Over the years the interpretation has changed and, when considering the internet in the current converging media landscape,  a more appropriate, modern definition can be taken from Gimmler (2001, p. 22), “…(the public sphere is) an arena of political and social relations, a field where individual and collective identities both are expressed and become integrated”. To effectively discuss and critically analyse both sides of this argument this post will; discuss the Internet as a public sphere and how individuals have the ability to fairly and equally contribute, analyse globalisation and the impact of convergence on the individuals experience within this public sphere and explore the nature of individuals behaviour when participating in the public sphere. This analysis will be supported by various readings, most notably Australia’s Foray into Internet Censorship (Bambauer 2009), Media and Globalisation: Why the State Matters (Morris 2001) as well as the previously cited definitions from Holub and Gimmler and will seek to provide an informative and balanced response to the concept of the Internet as an ideal public sphere and to further expand on the ideas presented.

When considering the Internet as a public sphere on Holub’s (1991, p.3) terms it is, in theory, an ideal public sphere where individuals gather for open discussion. Each participant has the chance to engage actively, fairly and equally. In a nutshell this is what the Internet is all about and, at least on face value, it can be accepted as such. However when the surface is scratched it quickly becomes apparent that there is more complexity to the debate and that, like in most public spheres, the influence of power and politics rules over the power of the people. Like any place of social interaction there is a hierarchy that must be observed when utilising the Internet for communication. Moderators, be they state appointed government officials tasked with reviewing data usage for criminal activities (Bambauer 2009) or an overseer on a forum appointed by a developer, are constantly reviewing and remedying any manner of changes made to the internet. While an offensive post on a forum may not carry the same weight of penalty as an international terrorist plot the notion that one member of a society has the authority to dictate to another, with no real qualifications other than a state appointed title, shows already a level of inequality moving into the public sphere. When analysing the public sphere in this way then it almost becomes directly comparable to communism – whereby on paper everyone is equal and treated the same – until it comes into practice. To borrow a quote from Orwell (1945), “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others,” a fitting description of both the public sphere in general as well as the vast expanses of the Internet.

Perhaps a more appropriate example of participation without being able to participate within the mediasphere would be the rise of qualified radio broadcasters post World War One (Sterling 2012, p. 224). Despite having all the knowledge and skills required to operate a radio from their military training without the appropriate equipment to transmit they were incapable of participating in the broadcast culture of the time. As mentioned in previous articles this broadcast culture was a precursor to the participatory culture of modern times and the ability to create content and share it with others via radio is directly comparable to  bloggers and designers creating online content now. Based on this it can be assumed that, had everyone then had access to the radio waves in the same way the developed world has access to the Internet, participation rates would have been higher. Instead, much like the modern day broadcasters of the Internet, there was impediments and prejudices in between content creators and the public sphere. This shows that throughout history, even when there have been individuals more than capable of participating fairly and equally in the public sphere, the ingrained culture and self imposed hierarchy of our class society influences how they can and gives advantages to those who may not necessarily be deserving of them.

Further to the ability to participate equally and without prejudice on an individual level the convergent media landscape has further impacted upon the way the Internet can be viewed as an ideal public sphere. In the converging media landscape that is the Internet (Australian Communications and Media Authority 2012) the lasting effects of corporate globalisation can be seen everywhere. Paid advertising and product placement is rife throughout the World Wide Web and there are few websites that can be visited without a suggestion or a pop up trying to sell something. (Williams et. al. 2011). To say that the Internet has been affected by globalisation is only a half-truth – the Internet has done more than its fair share to help with Globalisation since the dawn of the new millennium (Morris 2001) – but regardless of this the corporate influence over the online world cannot be understated. Considering this it then becomes apparent that not all individuals coming together in the public sphere are doing so for open discussion with some preferring to exploit the ability to monetise the system and use it to generate profit. As soon as money enters the discussion the equality of individuals is compromised – separating them instead by class and their ability to pay – as opposed to giving them an open forum with equal voice.

As the Internet has slowly become saturated with offshoots of traditional mainstream broadcast and print media the online sector has shifted from an open world forum for information sharing (Jenkins 2006) to a viable marketplace where profits can not only be made but added to the already established stream of content coming from the media industry. This not only means more content for independent collaborators to compete with but also content tailored specifically for the interests and needs of the individual browser. GPS and other location services use individuals search histories and recorded interests to supply things like recommended search results, tailored advertising and product placement (Tentacle Inbound 2016). This not only furthers the advantage of those who are financially invested but also removes the possibility of an individual having an authentic browsing experience – complete without any prejudices – which should be the intention in an ideal public sphere.

The environment and the surroundings of individuals when using the Internet can only be accountable for so much. The behaviour of the individuals online, much like the behaviour of the individual in any public sphere, impacts not only their own experience but also the experiences of those around them. This can then have an adverse effect on how the Internet is viewed as an ideal public sphere. Unlike an ideal public sphere not everyone who accesses the Internet does so with the intention of participating in open discussion (Buckels, Trapnell & Paulhus 2014). By gathering together in groups and sharing a common cause for causing mischief and social unrest the individuals who partake in the public sphere in this manner go against the nature of allowing everyone to a fair and balanced discussion.

This is not to say that everyone who enters the public spheres discourse does so with the explicit intention of causing trouble, nor do they do it with sinister motivations, however it is a harsh reality that not everyone can co-exist harmoniously when interacting in a social environment (Buckels, Trapnell & Paulhus 2014). With the help of the Internet the sinister intentions of individuals can be projected further and with more impact than ever before. State controlled security and data retention may not be popular among the moral majority (Dempster 2015), not to mention the feelings held by some individuals towards the moderators of this, but the effectiveness of using this information to protect the greater society outweighs – in the majority of cases – the illusion of freedom of speech in which Internet users like to revel. It becomes a case then of what is better for the greater good and, given Gimmler’s (2001) opinion on political influence over the public sphere, it once again becomes a point of using the sphere to the advantage of the elite.

Through critical analysis and discussion of the concept of the Internet as an ideal public sphere it can be seen that there are strong points both for and against. Utilising the definitions of the scholars Holub and Gimmler it can be ascertained that on the surface, as stated by Holub, that the Internet satisfies the criteria presented as an ideal public sphere. Upon further analysis it becomes apparent then that, as raised by Gimmler, there are deeper motivations – be they personal or political – when exploring the public sphere and, approaching the discussion from this position, there are areas where the Internets discourse can be less than ideal. The key point of contention then becomes the application of not only these definitions, but the application of the term ‘ideal’ and the position taken by those who will take this discussion further into the future.

References

Australian Communications and Media Authority 2012, ‘Broken Concepts’, ACMA.gov.au, <http://www.acma.gov.au/~/media/Office%20of%20the%20Chair/Information/pdf/ACMA_BrokenConcepts_Final_29Aug1%20pdf.pdf&gt;

Bambauer, D 2009, ‘Filtering in Oz: Australia’s Foray into Internet Censorship’, Journal of International Law, vol. 31, no. 2.

British Broadcasting Corporation 2015, ‘Internet used by 3.2 billion people in 2015’, May 26, <http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-32884867>

Buckels, E, Trapnell, P and Paulhus, D 2014, ‘Trolls just want to have fun’. Personality and individual Differences, 67, pp.97-102.

Dempster , Q 2015, ‘Data retention and the end of Australians’ digital privacy’, August 29, <http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/data-retention-and-the-end-of-australians-digital-privacy-20150827-gj96kq.html>

Gimmler, A 2001, Deliberative democracy, the public sphere and the internet, Philosophy & Social Criticism, Vol. 27, Issue 4, p. 21-39.

Holub, R 1991, Jurgen Habermas: Critic in the Public Sphere, Routledge, New York, NY

Jenkins, H 2006, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, NYU Press, New York, NY

Morris, N 2001, Media and Globalization: Why the State Matters, Rowman & Littlefield, Maryland

Orwell, G 1945, Animal Farm, Harcourt, Brace and World, New York

Sterling, C 2012, ‘Radio Broadcasting’ in Simonson, Peck, Craig & Jackson (eds), The Handbook of Communication History, Taylor & Francis, New York: NY.

Tentacle Inbound 2016, ‘The Complex Web of Personalised Search’, <http://tentacleinbound.com/articles/personalized-search>

Williams, K, Petrosky, A, Hernandez, E & Page Jr, R 2011, ‘Product placement effectiveness: revisited and renewed’, Journal of Management and Marketing research, 7, p.1, < http://www.aabri.com/manuscripts/10712.pdf&gt;

 

Exploring the Participatory Culture

Media and its consumption has evolved down the years from a traditional broadcast culture to what has been dubbed in modern times as a participatory culture. Unlike the traditional broadcast culture of old – government or commercial organisation approved and/or distributed sources of media transmission, such as network radio and television shows – a participatory culture is. “…a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices.” (Jenkins 2006, p. 5) This piece will look to explore participatory culture with respect to the progression of key media and communication technologies and by; identifying factors that gave rise to the introduction and diffusion of these innovations, as well as the impact that these technologies have had on society, and how this has influenced the cultural progression.

The explosion of media production and distribution in the 20th century catapulted society into the future in a way that could not have been predicted at the time (Randle 2001). With the invention and mainstream distribution of radio, the television and the mobile phone these three inventions, while all different in their nature, were able to create three very similar cultures by which they would come to be identified. The first major milestone in modern media came with the radio, a transmitting device which not only changed the way people were able to consume media, but also how they could communicate – particularly those in the armed forces (Sterling 2012). Military use would come to be seen as a recurring theme in the development of media technologies, at least in their infancy, as it was war again – this time the Cold War – that would spur the popularity and mainstream exposure of the television (The Paley Center for Media 2016).

Although chronologically both the Internet and computers were being developed around the same time as the television for the purpose of this essay they will be referred to as the last instalment in the trifecta of communication technologies that shaped the culture of media as they did not become part of the mainstream media culture until the internet was publicised in 1991 (Wright 2014). Another child born of the military the Internet, in its infancy at least, was used as a means of cross-country and international communications before it become the public domain world wide web of today (Leiner et al. 2016) All three of these technological creations were initially brought about and popularised amidst the fear and propaganda of war. While it may not have been the intention at the time to advance technology in the way that it would eventually the effectiveness of these inventions cannot be disputed as they have all stood the test of time.

The introduction and diffusions of these inventions, while impressive, can only tell part of the story. The inventions themselves would not have been half as successful as they were if they could not have drawn in the public, kept them captivated and constantly looking for new and exciting ways to use their devices for creative expression. This was the beginning of the era of broadcast culture. The societal impact of the radio was unparalleled by anything else of its time (Gugliotta 2007). News and current affairs, stories and radio plays and later music were all given a new medium of transmission and, thanks to the large number of radio trained military personnel who were out of work at the end of the war ham radio operators were able to give new life to the medium and utilise their skills (Sterling 2012, p. 224). Ironically, their independent broadcasts would be some of the earliest examples of participatory culture in the modern technological age.

This laid the foundations for the television to, much like its wireless predecessor, revolutionise media consumption and capture the imaginations of people the world over (Bignell 2012). The lasting effect that television would have on households can be summarised perfectly by a quote from Television journalist Andrew Anthony in his review of Joe Moran’s Armchair Nation (Moran 2013). “Moran quotes a dumbfounded Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc) from Friends on learning that a new acquaintance doesn’t have a TV set: “But what does your furniture point at?” (Anthony 2013). Such was the profound influence of the television entire household areas were redesigned to make it the focus – an alteration the likes of which had likely not been seen since the introduction of a designated sleeping quarters. The next step in the natural progression of technological evolution then was the personal computer and with it the modern day smart devices, which have allowed a greater, constant connection to the virtual world around us.

Where as radio and television brought people together in physical groups, albeit as individuals experiencing the same thing together (Anthony 2013), the computer allowed groups of people to experience things simultaneously without having to leave their house – often from different states, territories and even countries. With this new level of connection and ability for social interaction came the rise of user created content and with it the notion of a participatory culture (Johnston 2016). Though the user generated content created online is no different to the independent content created by radio operators of the 1930’s the notion that it is easier to interact with and participate with makes it different from the traditional broadcast culture. The two cultures themselves have many similarities; most notably encouraging inclusion and participation amongst their subjects.

The main point of contention then becomes the ease at which modern media can be distributed online – to the point where anyone with an Internet connection now can become a content broadcaster without any real experience or training (Gates 1996). The logical reasoning behind this interpretation is that through the birth and evolution of convergence (Australian Communications and Media Authority 2012, p.5) where elements of traditional broadcast culture have been combined with new media the simplest way to categorise it within the mediasphere is by labelling it differently. Where participation then becomes the pinnacle of the mediums public interface it is only fitting that the new culture then be christened participatory.

Through critical analysis of the evolution of media consumption and broadcast culture it can be seen how society has moved from a traditional broadcast culture to the modern participatory culture. Irrespective of definitions the analysis discussion shows that while there are differences when looking at the influence of specific technological advancements there are also very strong similarities between the broadcast and participatory cultures. Both cultures encourage inclusion and, where possible, participation. The key point of difference is the ease at which media consumers can become media producers in the modern culture thanks largely in part to the ease at which media manufacturing technology can be accessed. This begs the question, had radio and television technology been more readily accessible in the 1950’s would the era of the participatory culture have begun sooner?

 

References

 Anthony, A 2013, ‘A history of television, the technology that seduced the world – and me’, 8 September, viewed 11 September 2016, <https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2013/sep/07/history-television-seduced-the-world&gt;.

Australian Communications and Media Authority 2012, ‘Broken Concepts’, viewed 11 September 2016, <http://www.acma.gov.au/~/media/Office%20of%20the%20Chair/Information/pdf/ACMA_BrokenConcepts_Final_29Aug1%20pdf.pdf&gt;

 Bignell, J 2012, An Introduction to Television Studies, Routledge, New York: NY.

 Gates, B 1996, ‘Content is King’, viewed 11 September 2016, <http://www.craigbailey.net/content-is-king-by-bill-gates/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CraigBaileysThoughts+%28Craig+Bailey%27s+thoughts%29&gt;

Gugliotta, G 2007, ‘How Radio Changed Everything’, May 31, viewed 11 September 2016, <http://discovermagazine.com/2007/jun/tireless-wireless&gt;

Jenkins, H 2006, ‘Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century’, viewed 11 September 2016, <https://www.macfound.org/media/article_pdfs/JENKINS_WHITE_PAPER.PDF&gt;

Johnston, L 2016, ‘Social News = Journalism Evolution?’, Digital Journalism, 20 April, Vol. 4, Issue 7, p. 899-909, viewed 11 September 2016, <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21670811.2016.1168709&gt;

Leiner, BM, Cerf, VG, Clark, DD, Kahn, RE, Kleinrock, L, Lynch, DC, Postel, J, Roberts LG & Wolff, S 2016, ‘Brief History of the Internet’, viewed 11 September 2016, <http://www.internetsociety.org/sites/default/files/Brief_History_of_the_Internet.pdf&gt;

Moran, J 2013, Armchair Nation, Profile Books, London United Kingdom.

The Paley Center for Media 2016, ‘Red Scare: The Cold War & Television’, viewed 11 September 2016, <https://www.paleycenter.org/education-class-red-scare-cold-war-television/&gt;

Randle, Q 2001, ‘A Historical Overview of the Effects of New Mass Media Introductions on Magazine Publishing During the 20th Century’, First Monday, 3 September, Vol. 6, Issue 9, viewed 11 September 2016, <http://firstmonday.org/article/view/885/794&gt;

Sterling, C 2012, ‘Radio Broadcasting’ in Simonson, Peck, Craig & Jackson (eds), The Handbook of Communication History, Taylor & Francis, New York: NY.

Wright, A 2014, Cataloging the World Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age, Oxford University Press, Oxford

Global Social Media: Case Study – China

Over the past few weeks I have started looking at social media and social interactions in a different light and already have found myself being more critical of its uses, Because of this, in theory, I will perhaps look at changing the way I approach the use of social media going forward.

This image is good for two reasons; one because I just said “in theory” and two because the subject explored this week is China – namely how the Chinese communist party controls censorship in the social media age. As far as the ideologies go I’m with Homer on this one. If executed correctly communism could be the best thing that ever happened to the world. The problem is the natural human instincts of greed and power – but these are topics of discussion for another day.

With regards to internet censorship, specifically social media, the Chinese government – much like some of their counterparts in the middle east and South America – have used their iron rule to not only censor popular western destinations like Facebook but they have avoided revolt and dissent amongst their people by appeasing them with virtually identically functioning homegrown products to fill the void. Giving the people what they want, keeping them happy, and keeping them thoroughly pinned down inside the four walls of the glorious regime. Amazingly there are roughly half a billion people using Chinese social media at any given time – that’s 1/15th of the worlds population (approximately).

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China isn’t the only nation that censors what it’s people can see, ironically just about every ‘free’ western country has measures in place to chop and change what we see daily – the difference being that they don’t restrict things entirely. Strategic advertising and product placement is just as much apart of internet censorship in Australia as the blockage of Twitter is in China. Chinese people may not have ‘Google’ as we know it but they can probably make a search without their information being sold on to third parties to allow for geotagged results using their location to try and cater to them. From the outside we talk about this censorship and interference it would be interesting to see if the Chinese onine experience is more authentic than our own given that the content they have available to them has not been tainted.

Ultimately, as with most pseudo-politcal debates, the topic of censorship is always going to be subjective. What one person feels is an invasion of privacy another may see as a necessity to ensure intellectual and civil freedoms are upheld. Regardless of who is right or wrong the most important thing to remember is that someone, somewhere is watching you. To whoever that may be in this instance leave me a comment, yeah?

 

Social Gaming – Interacting in the online world

Social gaming is one of my favourite past times, particularly in recent times in the Online world of Grand Theft Auto. Together with two of my good pals I am the president of the Hells Harambe’s Motorcycle Club. We grow pot, we cut coke and we manufacture meth in a large scale operation which takes the tender loving care of all three of us (and sometimes some ring ins).

Running a shady criminal empire probably wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun as it sounds without having a couple of mates on the other end of a headset to share a laugh and some strategic murdering with. Waddell & Peng (2014) explored this subject in their research paper Does it matter with whom you slay? The effects of competition, cooperation and relationship type among video game players and found that “cooperative game play was found to predict increased cooperative behaviours and trust in their partner” Personally I am inclined to agree with them on this as I have complete trust in my second, both in virtual reality and in real life where we are good friends, however I don’t know that this extends to makeshift alliances. Often if we allow an outsider into our clubs inner sanctum it will only be for a short while – and afterwards they will be “let go” as they are nothing more than fodder and would only be called upon if need be. After all, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? (And then shoot the cow in the head).

But social gaming to me means so much more than online shooters or fantasy roleplaying. Roleplaying, in the traditional sense of words on paper, has been a part of my life for the best part of the last 10 years in one form or another and I have loved it since I first encountered it. It is somewhat disheartening then as a long time “competitive writer” as some may call it to see that our art is not even thought of in the new media society where social gaming seems to have replaced old fashioned communities with fast, money grabbing apps on social platforms like candy crush. The subject of the evolution of traditional roleplaying was explored in this previously published case study.

Visual Communities and Social Imaging

As a society we seem to be desperate to find motivation and/or inspiration wherever we turn. What was once the noble art of photography has become something of a hobby for anyone with an iPhone and there are more photos of peoples pub meals online now than there are pubs in the world (probably). When I first started reading up on the subject the first thing that instantly came to mind was an image I had seen on Facebook many times (but for the life of me cannot find now!)

Promoting individualism and the idea that we are all special it is  simple stock photo of a single white flower amongst a sea of red poppies with a caption to the effect of “why fit in when you were born to stand out”. Sure, some may find this inspirational or motivating – however – it loses its sheen somewhat when you see it on loop, as it is, copy and pasted hundreds of times only with different names and profile images next to it.

Yes, photography is a different beast today than it was when you would round up the family in their Sunday bests and meet with a photographer or an afternoon of snaps – nowadays if you see something, you have your phone out and it is captured and online before you could even spell photographer. This was made no more clearer to me than when I reached that magical age where, well I’ll let the Skyhooks explain:

Weddings used to be all about the fanfare and the pomp and ceremony with photographers and videographers running around making memories that would last forever – which has now become a thing of the past, seemingly with apps like WedPics which allow guests to log in to the wedding album and take as many photos as they like, which can then be accessed in high definition clarity and remembered for years to come. The cost of this is considerably cheaper as well compared to the traditional photographer – not saying that their time and effort is not worth the money – but to put it in perspective my wife and I will have been married 2 years in June and we still haven’t been able to afford to pay off the last part of our album!

Fortunately it’s not all doom and gloom on the selfie front thanks to one of my favourite photosharing apps – Snapchat. Unlike the rest the images don’t last for very long and you can make some hilarious changes with filters and the ability to draw on pictures. Snapchat is one of the best additions to social media in recent times, in my humble opinion, because it lets you connect with people without being constantly in contact with them – and whatever you show them disappears after a while so there’s no monthly cleanse of your downloads to remove 2GB of images and stupid videos of cats (thanks to all my WhatsApp group chat pals for that). The only downside to Snapchat is, well, ghosts…

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