Monday, April 8, 2013

A wrong Communication Theory of Power

In Toward a Communication Theory of Power the author makes a wrong assumption about network-making power, the capacity to setup and program a mass comm network. The author treats content creators, News Corp and Bloomberg, the same as information disseminators, Google and Yahoo!. I think there is something fundamentally different about them.
And it’s not just me, differences are outlined by the author but they never make a distinction between the two sets of internet corporations.  The author’s critique is that these companies are, transforming humans into audience, and “designing the content of our culture according to their corporate strategies.”  In some ways this is applicable to both but there is a key reason why it’s doesn’t describe the core intention of the new internet media companies when they make the point that, “There is consumer choice, but within a range of predefined products, and presupposing consumption rather than co-production. This is why the rise of mass self communication ... may change power relationships in the communication sphere.”  This is the function of the new media internet companies, Google, Twitter and to lesser extents Facebook, Yahoo! etc - their goal is to allow self communication.

The difference can be seen in the corporation’s mission statements:
News Corp. - the creation and distribution of top-quality news, sports and entertainment around the world
Google’s - to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Not to say that the new media disseminators are completely benevolent but they don’t fall into the same category of active perception manipulators like New Corp. The example of the differences between the two is the clash over SOPA and PIPA.  The two sides held opposing stances.  In this instance the new internet companies were acting somewhat like Robin Hood.  It’s the Ruperts of the world that think they can control the masses thoughts through a unified media voice and the Google, Twitters and Facebooks of the world that are allowing duplicity of opinion.  The difference really is that New Corp sells their opinions and Google sells your opinions back to you.

I don’t know why this distinction isn’t made. The text is written in 2009 at the earliest, late enough to see this split. The theory seems like an oversimplification that attributes all developments to media oligarchs.

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