Will New Media Dissolve the Political Community?

I just read this interesting article by Henry Jenkins, the well-known media scholar.

Even though this piece dates back to three years ago, it is still very relevant to the debate on the democratic impact that new media might have on the functioning of our democracies. Jenkins responds to some authors who bemoan the fragmentation of audiences across a wide variety of sources, arguing that the marginalization of mainstream broadcasters will undermine social cohesion and democratic participation.

First, Jenkins says, new media won’t replace traditional media. The two will coexist . It is an argument that he previously developed in this editorial for the Technology Review in June 2001. Delivery technologies might converge and overtime we might access all sorts of media through the same machine, but the media themselves will survive.
Although I’m pretty convinced, one can’t ignore that traditional media (namely TV networks and newspapers) are having a lot of issues adapting to the arrival of new competitors and the subsequent diverting of ad revenues (think not only to online media but also to the arrival of new digital TV channels, free press and innovative services such as VOD).
New technologies are going to spark a huge restructuring of this once secure industry. Although these media will remain, their organization is likely to be significantly modified in this new media architecture.

Secondly, Jenkins refutes the view that new media are detrimental to social cohesion, saying that it overlooks the fact that internet communities are very different from real world ones. Whether it be politically, generationally or geographically, they are usually much more diverse. In addition, internet-based communities members engage in a myriad of online activities so that they end up circulating ideas across a very wide range of audiences. Therefore, what the net creates is not segregation but more debate.
Online social interactions bring some fresh air to democracy, propagating information that was once neglected by opinion leaders, thus “challenging the consensus” as Jenkins puts it. They empower citizens by fostering political participation and create welcome checks and balances to our political systems.This is why it is so important to close the digital gap.

Photo on Flickr by kjetil_r under Creative Commons License.

Why this blog?

I wanted to have a sort of diary where I could write down observations and reflections about the way our society is being transformed by ICT, how they bring about social change.

I used to want to work in the music industry and grew more and more fascinated by the way the internet transforms the way people access cultural goods thus challenging traditional business models. Then I realized I liked politics too much to just focus on the music sector.

From a more global point of view, however, the digital revolution is even richer. Information and communication technologies are altering the whole society, how we live and interact, and bring their own set of issues as well as fantastic opportunities.

First and foremost, ICT are having enormous political implications, and in that respect, chances are the revolution has barely begun. They’re transforming the way people access information (with the diversification of media sources), the way they can produce and broadcast content but also the way they relate to the State (with the development of i-government, e-administration and e-democracy).

Secondly, they represent an incredible potential for the economy. With a growth of 5,9% in 2006-2007, the ICT industry is the fastest growing sector in the European Union. The spread of new technologies in the rest of the economy also counted for half of all the productivity gains of the region between 2000 and 2004. Finally, the development of green IT suggests the huge contribution that new technologies could have in building a sustainable economic growth.

ICT are redefining the polis… and I’ll be able to say “I was there”.

About Me

I’m a French student currently enrolled in the Master of Public Affairs at Sciences Po, Paris. I studied there at the undergraduate level as well, and went abroad during my senior year at Middlebury College, VT, USA.

Contact me at: felix.treguer@sciences-po.org