Perception Is Reality

Posts Tagged ‘democracy

The “web” was a creation that was meant to allow people to share information openly, freely and easily. Created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee for this very purpose in 1991, only now have people begun to realize this potential of the web (Economist, p31). Democratic participation of audience as creators has been the fundamental principle underlying this creation and this hidden revolution has been romanticized in many ways. What does this mean for the dominant social class and elitist groups in society? How does this affect the practices of main stream media and dealers of public opinion? This paper will attempt to discuss the idea of Web 2.0 and related technologies, their place in political struggle and their role in evolving current media practices.
Even though the fundamental goal of the web may have been to encourage democratic participation, this potential had not been realized until very recently with the emergence of blogs and podcasts, and later wikis, twitter, and similar tools and technologies. These are what we refer to as Web 2.0. With the terminology being tossed around incessantly, it is then necessary to introduce a very basic definition of Web 2.0 before one can move on to discuss its various aspects.
Bill Thompson writes that it is not entirely clear what the term means, encompassing even the most basic forms of dynamic content publishing tools. Everything from “community sites, photo-publishing services, and the wide range of visitor-editable pages [on Wikipedia]” are considered part of the Web 2.0 movement (Thompson, p10). Therefore, any online community or tools that allow for original, user-generated content constitute Web 2.0. These tools allow for the active, democratic participation of members of the online community, and enable audiences to comment on the original content, therefore producing even more of it.
Blogs are perhaps the most common publishing utility that empowers the average user to become an active participant in a new or ongoing discourse about practically anything. Common blogging tools such as Blogger and WordPress allow other users to comment and therefore generate an ad hoc discussion. Hyperlinking to blog posts carries the conversation to another group of audience members (many of which are participants as well), with varying opinions in various regions.
The Cornell University’s Integrated Web Services defines podcasts as a combination of the words, “iPod” and “broadcasting” which allows individuals to publish audio recordings on the internet for audiences to download and listen to on their iPods and portable devices. While podcasting is a different technology from blogs, the fundamentals are still the same: user-generated content.
Similarly, technologies such as Twitter allow for members of its online community to stay abreast about what other members are doing. This information may be seemingly irrelevant, from “twittering” about waking up in the morning, to attending a global conference on eradication of poverty. It is a way for people to communicate and comment on what is being communicated.
We have highlighted various technologies that form part of the institution that is Web 2.0. The recurring notion is user generated content in a public domain. The logical question that follows from the study of these technologies is this: Why is user-generated content important? It is worthwhile to examine this question as it provides insight into the development and evolution of these utilities. The Economist answers this very question: Web 2.0 “has the hallmarks of youthful rebellion against the conventional social order, and is making many traditional media companies tremble (p31).” The attention that user-generated content has been receiving is worth examining in this very respect: it challenges the cultural hegemony of the conventional institutions that create and dispense news. The creation of blogs and podcasts as well as syndicated feeds using the RSS technology have challenged the dominant meaning of the term, “journalist.” As Web 2.0 becomes more and more accessible to more and more audiences around the globe (only 11% of Asia, 4% of Africa has access to the internet) (Economist, p31), the significance of mainstream media is challenged, bringing a shift in the hegemonic order, redefining what it means to be a journalist. Chung et al highlight this shift: these technologies have empowered the audience to become information providers (p305).
The idea of citizen journalism highlights that those who are not professionals, frequently participate in issues of public interest on their web logs and podcasts. Matheson (in Thurman, p140) estimates that approximately 50% of all blogs deal with public affairs. Although this sort of journalism may cover popular contemporary events and common issues, it exists because mainstream journalism is lacking in that it only caters to the dominant bloc of society. In its very existence, citizen journalism challenges this notion. It aims to fill the gaps that mainstream media fails to account for.
The mainstream media has certain news values that are characteristic to it. For example, those events that are simple and unambiguous receive precedence over those that are complex and require more explanation (Golding and Elliot, p636). Web 2.0 technologies allow like-minded individuals to comment and create a discourse around a range of topics and issues that the mainstream media does not cover, even creating an entire discourse around why this is so.
Another aspect of the mainstream media is that it gives a higher priority to events and circumstances involving the elite members of society, including elite organizations and countries (Golding and Elliot, p638). Bloggers, podcasters, video loggers, and twitter members continuously highlight issues and events within local communities. These things may be of less interest to a national media agency, but of significant interest to the participating audience who relies more and more on these online resources to receive their news. This is reiterated in the New Statesman, “Indeed, members increasingly rely not on post and the press, but on websites, e-mail, blogs, text messages, and social networking services such as Facebook (New Statesman, p3).”
With these challenges in mind, it is no surprise that news reporting has taken this direction to broaden the meaning of journalism, and even what constitutes news. Citizen journalists, bloggers in particular, claim that “mainstream journalists are often arrogant elitists who do not want to include the public in deciding what’s important and what’s not (Chung et al, p306).” However, this has not been a one-way street. Journalists too, have highlighted their concerns dealing with news values and standards. Journalists have held strong opinions on the quality of the news value in terms of spelling, punctuation and grammar, accuracy and balance (Thurman, p144). Some journalists believe that what one must sift through content be selective as to what is published in the first place. This may tie back to the news values that cater to the dominant public sphere due to time and space constraints. Other issues such as credibility, mediocrity, and lack of professionalism have also been raised.
Nevertheless, with Web 2.0 empowering the people, and more people getting their news and information from the internet, mainstream media have come face to face with issues that are economic and political in nature. As a result, the mainstream media has had to adapt to the Web 2.0 framework to incorporate audiences in a more active way. This is reiterated by Bill Thompson, “It is hard to imagine a website that does not provide user engagement and interaction (Thompson, p10).” Today, even professional online news websites as well as online versions of traditional, mainstream media incorporate this aspect. There are two major differences, however. First, the incorporation of traditional journalistic values, and secondly, the bottom line dealing with profit.
News websites such as sift through user comments to filter out what is worth publishing based on certain criteria. This is traditional journalistic practice applied on the web. Mark highlights Peter Picton’s (the editor of reiteration of this practice, in that people prefer to “read a well-crafted news story or feature by someone who is trained and experienced in that field (Thurman, p144.)” The idea is to not only reduce recycled content, but also to keep a check on whether the contribution comes at par with news values.
Users still contribute based on their willingness to write about their experiences and point of view. Their contributions are still treated in a traditional way. However, with public involvement in news reporting, it can become a resource and cost intensive task to monitor and control the flow of information. Questions about remuneration may also come up (Thurman, p147-8).
In terms of the bottom line, even though these news agencies may utilize the Web 2.0 framework, the idea to generate a profit and to cover costs is key. User forums have yet to be commercialized in a way that is innovative and effective, and sites like the have tried various advertising and sponsorship methods to capitalize on this technology (Thurman, p148).
It is worthwhile to appreciate the path that journalism has taken. Chung et all comment on technology’s role on journalism from the invention of the Gutenberg press, to developments in photography and radio. For them, it is just another technology that will affect the meaning of journalism and how it is practiced (p306). Industry leaders and opinion dealers may seek to incorporate these technologies with their current practices to reap maximum benefit and reach the widest audience. One thing is clear however: the increasingly active, democratic participation of the audience members marks a significant, albeit steady shift from the current status quo. Smaller, local or regional blogs, podcasts, etc. cater to the local community, certain niches, and non-dominant groups. These groups collectively constitute a significant portion of the civil society. Awareness and development of the Web 2.0 framework by participants will seek to strengthen this society, bring in to light the existence of diversity and plurality, and perhaps act as effective counter public spheres.




The CUPE 3903 strike has been reminiscent of an element of our society that is highlighted by capitalism. We are never grateful, let alone satisfied with what we have. We do not take responsibility for our circumstances, blaming them on others. With CUPE3903’s demands, this became very obvious in their case. Two things I would like to highlight here:

1. Freedom of speech should not become a license (as remarked by His Highness the Prince Karim Aga Khan).
2. This is demonstrated in the current scenario we find ourselves in and highlights the onset of a failing democratic method.

I would like to share with you a few words regarding this from my memoir and would like to see if you can relate.

“Perhaps the most important thing in my life that has shifted energies from negativity to positivity has been gratitude. I have been through a phase where I have been extremely insecure, believing that I was not good enough for anyone or anything. I would externalize my problems, blaming circumstances for them. Little did I realize at that point that this discontentment came not from outside, but from within. The principal factor in my dissatisfaction with life had been my ungratefulness. It had become a rote routine to be thankful. To say it, to repeat it without meaning it. To friends, to strangers, to God. When I realized the power of gratitude, my perception of life changed. My vantage point had shifted. From externalizing my problems, to internalizing my satisfaction, I was grateful. A major transformation in literally minutes, sustained over long periods. For this reason, I call this gratitude, ‘Goditude.’ “

I cannot emphasize how detrimental the affects of this strike have been. Yet, I can proudly say that it has given me time and the opportunity to grow and develop. It has brought about significant change in my life. I think that this was a necessary event in my life. Perhaps, an intervention of sorts by God. No education could have given me the strength and understanding that I have now had it not been the strike.

I believe it is time to take a hard look at the situation, as students, as the contract faculty, and as the administration at York University. This time, however, let us look at ourselves. As members of an institution, of a democratic union. As individual members of society. Let us take a look at history to see how we have failed the democratic process. Let us be thankful for what we have, and shift our energies to the positive aspects of our life.

Enter Cliche: Obama talks about hope and change. Lets talk about hope and change. Within ourselves, for ourselves. Let us trust ourselves, perhaps. As theRock Obama said,

know your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy



Let us build a capable, competent society, a strong democracy, uniting bridges.


I do not know how many of the people in North America (and the wider world for that matter) are aware of the fact that Pakistan had banned YouTube from being accessed in the country. Other than reasons that have been mentioned on various online news syndicates, there remains speculation as to what happened.

Some claim the ban was initiated due to very offensive motion images against Islam. Pakistan, being an Islamic state, may have proceeded to enforce the ban to protect the image of Islam. On the other side of the coin, the ban may have been enforced to protect the Pakistani Muslims from being angered by the video clip and therefore rioting. Maybe this was done to protect the Dutch from causing another worldwide scene of hate and anger.

Some say the government banned YouTube because it had videos which were against the government, making parodies of many. There is a particular video of Musharraf and Bhutto which shows them in bad light. It is morally incorrect according to myself and many like-minded individuals to show a deceased person in bad light. But here’s the video:

What I want to focus on, however, is the former reason and incorporate the notion of democracy. Pakistan is an independant, democratic nation and as such, free speech is encouraged so long as it does not cause harm or terrorism and hatred. The video, along with the blasphemous cartoons of the Holy Prophet did stir worldwide controversy in which the muslim nation went through a considerable amount of suffering. Many as well as this blog here claim that this was just freedom of speech. We need to understand that our understanding of freedom may differ from people in the east, in the middle east, and even down south. How can we then discount this notion of range of meanings in a world which is increasingly becoming more globalized? Have we all forgotten tolerance? And when was Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism or Bhuddism shown in bad light? Christians may be called sinners as they knowingly sent the Prophet Jesus Christ to the cross. Yet not all of us would think this way. Even the Papal institution runs a city completely under its eccentric law. Do we then call this Christianization? Like Islamization? What do these words even mean?

Please do not get me wrong. This is not a controversy I am trying to stir up, I would merely like people to understand the duality of meanings of words and notions.

What do we do now?


I noticed something very interesting recently. I went to the Geo website and it had a link to the Jang website which was covering the Geo TV shutdown and what the international media was saying. It also had a bulletin about Geo Super. I do have to agree that shutting down the Geo TV entertainment channels such as Geo Super is not really fair. I also noticed that Geo had cross linked to The Jang and its various other services (Jang Multimedia, Jang Searchable, Jang Blog) and The News.

I am happy to see this solidarity between all the media giants in Pakistan and how they are all together. Not something we see often. Just an observation. Also, for the cricket scores, Dawn’s website has them live as far as I can tell at the bottom of the navigation bar. Interesting.

 Stay strong, Pakistan, we’re only reaching the eye of the storm.


From WeCite:

Gulf News has reported that Pakistan’s Geo TV has said it has been given the go-ahead to recommence hourly news bulletins on its entertainment channel in the Middle East, the UK and the US, but not in Pakistan. It is unclear if the permission for the broadcasts has come from the Pakistani government…”

Update 2

From ArabianBusiness

“Al Rustamani said both GEO and ARY were respected business partners in Dubai. “Our relationship with them has been strong and friendly. We are in discussion with them in regard to the telecast of their news components and we are confident we will resolve this matter in the best way possible to protect their interests and those of the UAE” she told Wam.”

About the Author…

Born in Karachi, Pakistan in an Adventist hospital, I grew up in a city where on one side I experienced poverty and oppression, while on the other I had the good fortune of Tabish Bhimani being a member of an upper middle-class business family...more...

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