THE ROLE OF NEW MEDIA IN NEW PARADIGMS

There is a general consensus around the globe that media are integral to our lives. Some contemporary philosophers and cultural critics, like Jean Baudrillard, have gone so far as to argue that most people’s reality is one that is mediated through media—this is particularly a compelling argument with regard to developed societies such as the US. There are numerous perspectives on the role of new media in relation to problems of social justice. In his writings and interviews, Herbert Marcuse warns us of the homogenizing and dominating power of mass media (i.e., corporate media). Back in the 1960s, he argued that at its most advanced stage, domination functions as administration, and in the overdeveloped areas of mass consumption, the administered life becomes the “good life” of the whole. This, in some ways, can be construed as “the pure form of domination.” Other thinkers such as Henry Jenkins and Clay Shirky see things differently. With a phenomenological lens they have examined new media and see possibilities of empowered community and social cooperation, which in some ways stands united (or has the potential to) in opposition to homogenizing and dominating forces of corporate media. The debate rages on, to be sure. Evgeny Morozov argues against technological romanticism and advocates a deeply skeptical approach toward new media. Noam Chomsky sees entities such as social media as perpetuating superficial treatment of complex notions, and therefore a further deepening of anti-intellectualism on a global scale. Then, media scholars such as Bob McChesney, Douglas Kellner, Toby Miller, and Henry Giroux see the picture with a pragmatic lens and advocate critical media literacy with an uncompromising radical approach.

 

To facilitate social justice we need an ethics of solidarity. On that account, Richard Rorty argues that the process of coming to see other human beings as “one of us” rather than as “them” is a matter of detailed description of what unfamiliar people are like and of redescription of what unfamiliar people are like. Who is responsible for this redescription? Rorty answered, “This is a task not for theory but for genres such as ethnography, the journalist’s report, the comic book, the docudrama [(e.g., cinema and TV)], and, especially, the novel.” As often is the case with such complex conditions, the reality of everyday life and its ethics do not fall in either one camp or the other. The either/or approach never works. Considering the above arguments, perspectives, and your knowledge of other schools of thought (see secondary writings of Kellner, Feenberg, Sandel, Tester, et al.), it is the task of the public intellectuals to offer (in second order) analysis and position of the role of new media in relation to social justice.

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