sexta-feira, 20 de novembro de 2009

The Internet and Cultural Feedom

Allen Ginsberg (American Poet, 1926-97) said: “Whoever controls the media, the images, controls the culture.”

The word Media can be described as “the main means of mass communication (esp. television, radio, newspapers, and the Internet)”.

Here lies the problem: Fewer organizations control the media than ever before. There are essentially 5 big media organization. To see what they own, go to the following website: Who controls the media at (note: this relates to American media).

After research you will quickly realize that there are only a few large organizations controlling media output. The top 5 media organizations are: General Electric, Time Warner, Disney, Viacom and News Corporation. Perhaps it’s natural that some media companies would dominate over others, after all, we live in a free market where the strongest will grow and absorb competition. However, this may be to our own detriment. The current arrangement, where only a few global corporations dominate media output, could have negative consequence for cultural development. In his book, Free Culture, author Lawrence Lessig says: “Never in our history have fewer had a legal right to control more of the development of our culture than now”. In other words, the mass media is produced by only a few incredibly influential and powerful organizations. The problem with only having a few very powerful media organizations is that all media is filtered and controlled by the few. If we as a society actively elected these organizations to filter and control the media available to us, like democratically elected media channels, we could be said to be in control of media output. The problem lies in the fact that we do not elect these media organizations, yet whenever we read a newspaper, or watch TV, it is almost certain we are absorbing the media of the top 5 media organizations.

This is why the Internet is a breakthrough in cultural freedom. For the first time, people have mass access to the voices of millions of people sharing information. For example, we are no longer required to read published newspapers for second hand accounts of the latest war horrors, we are able to read about them first hand from the people who are actually involved, in the form of text, images or video. Text, images and video presented by magazines, newspapers and television channels were once the most reliable sources of media available, now these mediums hold less importance than ever, because access to websites like Flickr and blogging tools like Wordpress allow real people to tell their stories first hand, without the restrictions of company ideology.

For these reasons we should strive to prevent freedom being taken away from the Internet in any shape or form. Organizations under threat from new technology (think: record labels and p2p music file sharing), should adapt and work with these new systems, not stifle and restrict them with potentially damaging laws. Groups such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) bullying tactics should no longer be tolerated. Why? because it leads to the restriction of freedom of information.


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