1984 and mass media

is amazing. utterly amazing.  it is moving and beautiful and multiplicitous. it make you want to live life on the edge, to embrace science and art and love and sex and sensuality and reject all the hatred and mindless conformity. it of course takes a fascist, “big brother” (aaah, where the silly show comes from) vision to the utmost extreme but its chilling sometimes how you can see our world dissolving into that. i don’t actually think it will, but it brings up many important ideas of freedom (at least in my mind). does our increasing technology make us more or less free? will privacy one day be a thing of the past because of the internet? does the internet itself make us more or less free? we are free to speak, free to browse (generally), free to become different people- but as our lives are increasingly transferred to the virtual world, are we losing the freedom of privacy? are we becoming, in a round about way, a collectist society, a communal one, where everything is shared? are we becoming more or less stratified as a society because of our technological advances (are they by nature egalitarian? it is certainly arguable they allow a greater distribution or knowledge, and allow a more diverse number of voices to be heard, yet the digital divide is undeniable: only about a 5th of the world’s population have access to the internet).

we recently had a lecture in understanding communication about the media. it was really fascinating! it was actually titled “cultural industries and media in society” and focused on the concept of mass media: its development, its nature, and its imminent destruction (perhaps). mass media is characterised by it’s one-way, top-down nature, as well as the idea that it is mediated and censored by the “gate keepers” of knowledge. the name is somewhat of a misnomer: it is only ‘mass’ in the sense that it reaches a mass audience; by the later 20th Century, 5 corporations were dominating publishing and broadcasting knowledge worldwide (Bardikian, 2004). because it is institutionalised, and because it is specifically created to appease audiences (existing within a competitive capitalist market) it often has a certain ideological or economic slant which it imposes (as there is no interactivity) on the viewer. mass media tends to reinforce dominant ideologies and discourses and rarely challenges them.

but is the age of mass media coming to an end? or more appropriately, is the name taking on a new dimension? we are living in the age of user created content; particularly via the internet. we are living in an interactie age; we are no longer a largely passive and inert audience, we are a critical and creative one. the internet allows an outlet for ‘indy’ media, alternative viewpoints; it allows me to write this spiel! mass media now is about connectivity, collectivity, collaboration, communication, community, content and conversation. before , we were forced into a mass, passive consciousness because of limited channels of information. now our sources of potential information are a lot more diverse, so we have more a fragmented audience. this is the potential of the end of mass media: or at least a demonstration that old-style mass media doesn’t have to be the norm. we can be both consumers and producers.

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and just a non-sequiter line from 1984, p. 843 (its a book of all of orwell’s novels):

“But if the object was not to stay alive but to stay human, what difference did it ultimately make? They could not alter your feelings: for that matter you could not alter them yourself, even if you wanted to. They could lay bare in the utmost detail everything you have done or said or thought; but the inner heart, whose workings were mysterious even to yourself, remained impregnable.”

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