‘But what’s happening today – the mass ability to communicate with each other, without having to go through a traditional intermediary – is truly transformative.’ How is the diminution of traditional, and often hierarchical, “authoritative” intermediaries changing the role of publishing in social life?

Technology developments intended for human interaction have continued to challenge the methods for which information is distributed and aggregated. The impact has occurred on multiple levels, influencing both the public and private sphere where publishing power has been manipulated from its former authoritative media bodies and developed towards the expressions of individuals, allowing every person to have an opinion, a story or a voice. The traditional journalist no longer acts as the soul representative and the true influencer of conformity. The way publics conform to ideas; information and general perception has effectively evolved. Individuals now hold the power to undermine the power of governments; thus the traditional form of journalism has collapsed, and is in the process of redevelopment to reinforce the notion of democracy.

Authoritative journalists originally held the true power of publishing. These figures are depicted as ‘intermediaries’. The authoritative journalists focused on holding the attention of a large general audience, allowing for media bodies to hold significant power in influencing the general public. However, Rusbridger (2010) discusses a digital revolution occurring where we bypass the media hierarchy and publish things for ourselves, where audiences now sit at the top of the hierarchy. Furthermore, mass media are responsible for the circulation of particular ideas and images, these shape thoughts and actions, thus the mass media are understood to wield discursive power. Content ‘appears in different guises and operates in different forms’ (Street 2011, p.284). It is through these different operating forms that many assert, ‘knowledge is power’ (Street 2011, p. 285). Traditional intermediaries used this knowledge to convey messages and beliefs to the passive audiences of their time. In recent times, the development of social media has allowed individuals the extension to publish beyond their previous ability, allowing individuals to connect on a global scale. This has permitted the enforcement of an individual’s own sense of information and knowledge, thus updates of news are delivered instantly through blogs and twitter. An example of this news regularity is in 2008 when disaster struck China with an earthquake claiming of 68,0000 lives. Robert Scoble report the event an hour before CNN or the major press reported the event (Scoble 2008).

In the New Economy, traditional forms of media have been forced to transform into online formats at the jeopardy of becoming irrelevant. The Sydney Morning and The Daily Telegraph have adjusted to the dramatic shift, creating online platforms in the aim of attracting different publics, thus journalism has not only diversified in content but also across platforms. Mike Shatzkin (2012) states, society is currently in the period of the eBook revolution. Moreover, Shatzkin highlights the printing industry and the very concept of print is changing due to the influence of the iPad, reiterating that bookshelf space is declining, while adding ‘anything published never dies’ (Shatzkin 2012).

This has evidently shifted towards Web 2.0 and the creation of social media, whereby people communicate without going through an intermediary. Manuel Castells states ‘the most fundamental form of power lies in the ability to shape the human mind’ (Castells 2009, p.3). The dismantling of traditional media has allowed the realisation that anybody can create, access and distribute information; furthermore, the invention of the Internet has led to an active participation in the reach for knowledge, allowing one to question the reliability and validity of another archive. Thus, one can argue that new media networks are evolving to enforce a more democratic world where media is structured to be ‘dispersed and content is pluralistic… those who exercise it are deemed representative and accountable’ (Street 2011, p. 284). David Gauntlet (2010) argues Web 2.0 is a development that betters society, letting us create and distribute our very own content. Furthermore, it has rebalanced the power between authorities and people.

The diminution of traditional intermediaries has led to an increased access to knowledge. Historically, knowledge was held as an honour, which only the rich, wealthy and royal could access. ‘To abstract is to construct a lane upon which otherwise different and unrelated matters may be brought into many possible relations’ (McKenzie 2004, p. 3). Today, with the access to archives and occurrence of free flowing information developing, abstractions will continue to increase, as people are no longer bound by geographical and economical limitations and the singular and hierarchical messages of traditional media platforms. Multiple sources can now contribute to a single concept with ease of access. Venezky (1996, p. 47) emphasises the importance the printing press has over levels of literacy; furthermore clarifying that the distribution of printed text can develop the levels of literacy and contributes to the mass ability to communicate with each other. As an increase in access to archives has occurred, benefits are made to those who were once deprived of skills and knowledge that restricted connections to assemblages. Furthermore, Venezky (1996, p. 48) reinforces this statement discussing that the expansion of access to literacy has served as an empowering method towards the people.

The tools of Web 2.0 have led towards media diversity. It can be argued; publishing enforces democracy, especially for those who are engaged with social media. Libya, Egypt and Syria are all countries that have been politically and publicly affected by the use of social media.  The Arab Spring is the media term for the revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests both violent and non-violent riots, and civil wars in the Arab world that began on 18 December 2010. Disputes between the traditional customs and modern interaction with media have created social revolution and political reform. Self-publishing has allowed active participants to undermine political authorities and make known an influential issue to the rest of the world. This has been the case where citizens who have been oppressed by political regimes in Egypt and Syria have utilised social media as a means for freedom as they can utilise these new forms of publication to distribute information, informing the world of their issue. This was something the average person could not previously do.

Traditionally journalist have been the soul representatives of the Fourth Estate, continually holding the responsibility of holding governments, courts and religious institutions accountable for their actions. Today authoritative media is heavily controlled, where key media figures such as Rupert Murdoch stand in a hierarchical position within the media organisation. ‘An investigative journalist’s profession is to discover the truth and identify lapses from it in whatever media may be available.’ (De Burgh 2008, p. 10). However, the hierarchical structure of media companies place a strong limitation on the role of journalists and their responsibility as the Fourth Estate. In the 21st century the cyborg journalist and individuals alike can arguably be known as the Fifth Estate. WikiLeaks, utilises a drop box system whereby whistleblowing is used to reveal the truth. It can be argued WikiLeaks is the future of investigative journalism and holds the values of the Fifth Estate closely. Furthermore, WikiLeaks has been noted as the Fifth Estate, within the upcoming movie the ‘Fifth Estate’ to be release October 11, 2013.

The arrival of the Fifth Estate will lead to many questions regarding its survival within society. There is evidently a need for journalism within society, regardless of the form; it continues to connect individuals through instituting knowledge. However, will there be a vast difference between the reports of independent individuals and professional journalists? For many individuals in society the value of journalism is decreasing, many continue to believe that journalists are unreliable. One can argue that this is the doing of media owners and their singular and hierarchical organisational structure, continuing to persuade audiences to a singular message. Furthermore, ownership has traditionally governed journalism, however with the Internet as a virtual representation of the public sphere and journalism subsequently evolving the importance to inform has never been more important, as newer organisations begin to rise and govern the Internet.

Traditional intermediaries are realising the role of the individual and how their connection to technology allows them an extended ability to publish. Recently, the altering of traditional media platforms has allowed readers to engage by submitting, sharing or commenting on stories. The North Shore Times is thus an example where the reader has the ability to share stories through Facebook, comment, like and submit their own photos or ideas for stories. This approach has been followed my numerous media outlets including The Sydney Morning Herald, Channel Ten, and Ninemsn. Programs like the Voice, Q & A and X Factor, connect the opinions of their audiences regarding the content of the show by allowing them to publish directly on Twitter, where comments appear live while the program carries on. Particularly, with ABC’s Q & A, incorporating the Fifth Estate through platforms of Twitter and Skype an individual can ask political figures questions they desire an answer before the intermediaries utilise power.

Furthermore, journalism has effectively evolved as Web 2.0 has turned a traditionally passive audience into an active audience. Dobelli (2012) states traditional journalism has led to the passivity of traditional audiences. However, today journalists must compete with the likes of Web 2.0 and engage with audiences that are continually active.

Due to the submission of stories by members of society, news stories are continually being introduced because of the ability of an individual to capture an experience or event and then publish it. Planking first developed from the likes of social media, where people photographed themselves lying down in rather weird locations. Although media bodies published in relation to planking, news of this was first published on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. After the craze went viral, and attracted the attention of participants and viewers, media outlets soon followed. On 15 May 2011, Acton Beale, a 20-year-old male, plunged to his death after reportedly ‘planking’ on a seventh-floor balcony in Brisbane. He later won a Darwin Award. Acts like this generated not only great attention from social media but also media bodies alike where articles resembling the dangers of planking were published.

With individuals now carry technologies that capture stories, the concept of news values are under threat due to the changes of publishing. (Brown 2000)The gratification model states that information, and education and escapism drive viewership and readership of the media. In society the individual reacts towards the intended message’ (Ward 1995, pp. 25-35). Evidently news has begun to develop from the simplest images and videos, resembling the personal lives of the general public. With the ability for individuals to contribute to news, democracy has been distributed over the publishing world. Traditionally, journalists published their work under a particular newspaper, however today the majority of audiences no longer seek the traditional form of journalistic structure, thus journalists are now publishing across different platforms as a way of keeping intact with different audiences.

Although there are many benefits of increased accessibility to the information of archives and the ability for individuals to use different forms of media as a way of making things known, there are many negative impacts of the changing role of publishing. The changing media landscape has transformed how content was hierarchical in its establishment, where content was traditionally censored, while delivering key messages or implications to the masses. These media bodies would target the key components of newsworthiness and offer what is engaging to the audience. In this process journalists and media bodies would filter any illegitimate information from being conveyed to the audience. It can be argued that journalism is no longer a profession; people can publish their written work on different platforms without restrictions. Thus the question can be asked, is their validity and reliability in the information we actively access online? Bloggers, photographers, opinion writers, and authors alike publish on the Internet on independent websites, it is difficult the measure whether the information is trustworthy and reliable.

Human’s personal interests are a strong characteristic towards the identity of oneself.  Although information is increasing in its availability, humans are contaminated in their search for information. Often people will seek guidance that reinstates their own belief structures. As information is continually contributed to archives, people will seek to reinforce their own opinions and beliefs. Most Popular Websites 2013 demonstrates most individuals access websites of social media primarily, while websites including MSN are listed much lower. Thus most people are accessing a network in which they a concurrently linked too. Furthermore, it is argued by Derrida (1997) that authorial groups, which selectively distributed and contain information, form archives. The world today has formed around this ideology, and through social media platforms and the ability to access the Internet, create their own social assemblage, and an archive in the process where information is selectively created and distributed.

Today, authoritative bodies fight amongst themselves for attention and the flow of power with the goal of influencing individuals within society. However, people are not only allowed to create and distribute information freely for themselves, but are encouraged to do so through Web 2.0, in turn the individual has gained greater power. This occurrence has forced authoritative intermediaries to function in a more democratic manner. Authoritative media bodies have had to alter themselves to keep up with the changing media landscape of today’s society. Furthermore, publishing has changed, maturing with the development of social life in the modern era, and with society continually evolving, publishing will continue to grow and change in different ways.

Reference List

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