Monday, May 12, 2008

The Interactive Rams Say Goodbye

I am writing this blog entry as my Interactive Rams are taking their final exam. My best wishes to you all, and my gratitude for a semester to remember! And how, here's the video we recorded on our last day of class:

Friday, May 2, 2008

Andrew Rasiej, George Washington, and the Impact of Media on Modern Politics

I think we can all agree that Andrew Rasiej's presentation this past Tuesday in class was an incredibly appropriate end to our Interactive Media experience with Lance Strate. The presentation helped us draw referential conclusions in between our own interactive research, and proposed how we can constructively participate in the dawn of the up and coming, 'Information Age'. In an attempt to conglomerate my own personal opinion towards the internet and its future implications on society, I decided to take an evaluation of the mainstream media in American culture. The internet is a new medium of media that can reach further, faster, longer, and more specifically than ever before, and it will inevitably affect the news broadcast industry. I'm even going to cite the Farewell Address thoughts of the great, late President George Washington in my sit down and interact with me for a bit.

I don't find politics as important as our modern society makes it out to be. I think it is more important to formulate your own opinion on factual issues, rather than comparing where these ideas stand in relevance to some other group or party's school of thought. From a young age I think we are all under some sort of pressure, as we grow and mature, to pay attention to what is currently happening in society around us. This is a good thing. You cannot actively participate (and feel a part of) a group or society that you don't receive a constant flow of information from. I also think that the idea of current information, and current political opinion are often confused by the general public because of how they're portrayed by the mainstream media. The way that MSNBC feels about the Republican Party's point of view on a particular subject is not technically news because nothing is happening. This is more like promotional propaganda. Now take this one step further and consider the fact that most modern news stations are politically affiliated with a specific party. I think that the diminishing ability for the public to distinguish between current information and current political opinion is alarming.

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.
-George Washington, 1796 Farewell Address to Congress

President George Washington, in the final words of his political career, warned the American government against party politics. He acknowledges the need to express the difference of opinion in a democratic society, but states, " those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged." I think that the difference in opinion between the Democratic and Republic party has helped to maintain our country to some sort of balance between the minds of many (although this is not relatively true for recent times). This is not George's and my problem with party politics. The problem arises when the ideas and goals of a political party turn focus toward issues that do not enhance free thought and democratic opinion. When a political party has a meeting to discuss how they will raise money to fund an election or a promotional event, it is no longer is politics for the good of the country...It is politics for the good of the party. To spend money, time and effort on the promotion, rather than the progression, of current ideas indicates an atrophy of free thought and egalitarian ideals. Now suppose that the media, which in the age of simultaneous information flow is becoming a cash cow industry, finds mutual benefit in sponsoring a particular political party. For example, say FOX NEWS provides coverage of The State of the Union that primarily outlines Republican issues, or say CNN is administered by a group of people who would feel safer if there was a Democratic majority in government office. Suddenly George's ideas don't seem so 16th Century.

We sit on the dawn of an 'Information Age' age, where the constant, simultaneous flow of information provided by the internet will allow us to investigate ideas and events from more, and different sources than ever before (through both promotional websites and interactive social networks). If the internet was made available to every single person in the country via WiFi and public access ports, then everyone would have the opportunity to formulate their own detailed opinion on issues that they were willing to research. BUT If we have a source of mainstream media that gives us the facts AND nudges us in a direction with which to comprehend these facts, then we do not feel the need to formulate our own opinions from scratch. Yet the freedom of thought and difference in opinion is the cornerstone of democracy. If you are inclined to be an intuitive person, then when you hear a fact your mind will ask you, "What is the reason for that?" or, "I wonder why that happened?" If the constant drone of the 24 hour news ticker already gives us a simple answer to these basic mind-wandering questions, then we wont feel the need to formulate our own opinions on these issues.

So basically, after all of this, I'm not saying much. I'm providing you with a political argument that doesn't even support politics. I will say though, that if you claim to watch the news (via tv, internet, mobile, or whatever new medium is created in the next decade), and assume that you represent an accountable reference on a current issue, make sure you have researched whatever it is your talking about. Better yet, if you are distributing news to the public, claiming to know what you're talking about regarding a controversial political issue, make sure you've researched whatever it is your talking about. The internet has provided us with the ability to globalize information retrieval, making it available to anyone who can get online. We need to take advantage of this resource, so that we can help enhance the cultural awareness of everyone in the world, for all classes and societies. We must also use the new ways in which technology has enabled us to obtain information to formulate our own opinions about current events. If you decide to watch what MSNBC has to say about the depreciation of the American dollar, then make sure to also read an article about it, and then find out what your social network feels about it in a community blog, and really consider your personal thoughts on the issue...all before you formulate your own opinion, and decide to offer that opinion to someone else.

Thanks for a good semester guys, see you in cyberspace.