Syndicate content

free expression

Information is power: Silvio Waisbord on how digital technology changes the public sphere and notions of privacy

Roxanne Bauer's picture
How do digital media affect traditional theories of the “public sphere” and power? Are we living in a modern-day panopticon?

The notion of the “public sphere” is useful worldwide to consider how citizens can and do articulate demands to the market or to states. The public sphere is generally conceived as a place (figurative or literal) in which citizens can share information, debate issues and opinions, and restrain the interests of the powerful elite. This space is critical to the formation of public will and the transmission of it to official authorities.

In contrast, the Panopticon is a design for a prison or jail which allows watchmen to observe all inmates at all times without the inmates knowing whether they are being observed or not.  The idea has been used to discuss online privacy, as individuals are often unaware of how governments and companies collect and use the information they gather about them online.  Moreover, the revelation that governments and companies work together to “spy” on citizens, as revealed by Edward Snowden revived the concern that a modern-day panopticon might be possible.   

But these concepts raise another important question: How can the public sphere, which aims to limit excess power, continue to function if the state is monitoring citizen activity?  Much of the information that is collected and tracked online is willingly shared by individuals as they search the internet, use mobile apps, and contact friends and family. This activity is vital to the future of a public sphere around the world, but it also allows governments and companies to intrude in our private lives.

Silvio Waisbord explores these two evergreen, yet very immediate concerns. He argues that while digital technologies have improved the capacities of states and companies to track human activity, digital media can also be used for democratic purposes. 
 
The modern public sphere vs. The online panopticon

Strategic communication and the global 'market for allegiances'

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Free Expression, Globalism and the New Strategic Communicatio by Monroe E. PriceAs you observe the transformations in the global communication environment what do you see? Do you see chaos confounded?  Do you hear ear-splitting cacophony and the alarums of discord? Or do you see an ordered system with definable laws of motion? Do you see both order and disorder at the same time? Well, one of the acutest minds devoted to the study of global communication has contributed an elegant, deeply observed reading of the global public sphere … such as it is… today.

He is Professor Monroe E. Price, Director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Global Communication Studies at the Annenberg School for Communication. The new book is titled: Free Expression, Globalism and the New Strategic Communication (New York, Cambridge University Press, 2015).

Price paints a picture in two parts: a striking set of practices in global communication(s) and an evolving set of institutions.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Mobile Media Toolkit
A Profound Media Shift in the Arab World

“A report from the Center for International Media Assistance analyzes the growth of digital media in the Arab region.

A new report from the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) highlights a profound media shift happening in the Arab world. Amidst continued repression and threats to free expression, both online and offline, this year saw tens of millions of individuals and news outlets using social and digital media tools to capture and share events. The full report is available here: Digital Media in the Arab World One Year After the Revolutions.”   READ MORE