Wikileaks as a promising sign of the amplification of media governance (2)

Promising as it is, the catalytic process puts a heavy burden on civil society actors that have to monitor the process and ensure that it is not censored or abruptly stopped without public debate.  This is always a difficult task because of the level of mobilization and attention it entails.  The independent press has been acting within its proper functions and missions, in creating a symbiotic conflict and in fuelling the debate while representing the positions of the various claims makers. These have to mediatise the ethical dilemmas raised by specific cultural contradictions such as openness and secrecy in diplomacy in the cyberist moment. The role of civil society groups as interpretive communities of practice capable of some degree of mobilisation is to maintain the negotiation at the intersection between content- and process-competences, with a mix between global and local initiatives to promote generative solutions in the future and ensure their legitimacy and acceptance.


The role of media activists, researchers and civil society groups as interpretive communities of practice capable of some degree of mobilisation has been one of the social engineering innovations of the governance process. These interpretive communities react to some of the cultural contradictions of the Information Society by using the ICT-driven media for their own empowerment. They are actors (researchers, software developers, NGO leaders, etc.) who are close to the issue at stake, entrusted by society at large with the task of defending the common interest, as in the case of the Internet Governance Caucus in the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). They undermine the notion that no large-scale manifestation of public opinion is taking place in reaction to government secrecy or corporate gagging capability as they demonstrate the general public’s ability to delegate its attention to specific interpretive communities, who alone are able to sustain their mobilisation throughout the duration of the controversial cycle and to construct arguments that summarise the positions of their constituencies.


The limitations of such an amplification process are still real and concern mostly the users constituencies, as critical mass is essential for the creation of a credible global public opinion for effective change, as estimated by Jurgens Habermas. For the moment, the role of civil society actors has been to constitute “sphericules” rather than a whole encompassing public opinion in a global public sphere. They have shown some of the characteristics of public sphere engagement, like the capacity to contribute to contradictory debates, their trans-border connectedness, the extension of their sense-making practices online and offline, their local and global monitoring of hot issues, and their benchmarking focused on a people-centred vision of justice and rights. They have used the network effects of the media to create structured exchanges beyond the surface fragmentation of their dynamic coalitions.


They run various risks in this global and long process of amplification: capture (by governments or corporations that can manipulate them), containment (by censorship or limited entrance in governing bodies such as ICANN), embarkment (by being involved in unequal multi-stakeholder partnerships) or dissipation (by lack of funding and heavy turnover of volunteers). But they also have the plasticity to adopt various positions in relation to the other actors in the process, sometimes in adhesion, sometimes in opposition, sometimes in negotiation with them.


The future of the international public sphere will probably depend in large part from the capacity of such interpretive communities to emerge as social forces beyond the current online social networks. Such networks need to turn from simple gossip platforms into real spaces for opinion making and shaping. Twitter-like services have shown their potential for disruption while monitoring demonstrations in Tunisia or elections in Iran; so have mobile phones and alternative websites before them in the Spanish or Korean elections… Such spontaneous movements may turn into more mature militancy as socialization to the digital media grows into citizenship and ensures the stability of such associational and oppositional activities. For this socialization to happen, media education and information literacy needs to expand in its form of global amplification.


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Wikileaks as a promising sign of the amplification of media governance (2) by Divina frau-Meigs est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Paternité – Pas d’Utilisation Commerciale – Pas de Modification 2.0 France.
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