After reading ‘Political Economy, Power and New Media’ by Robin Mansell, I was particularly struck by the questions posed towards the end of the paper:
- What dominant principles, values and perceptions of power are being embedded in our technologically mediated interactions? What are the alternatives?
- How is technological innovation in the new media field being structured; by whom and for whom is it being negotiated? What are the alternatives?
Only yesterday, I watched a keynote presentation from the CEO of Samsung (International CES, 2015) about the Internet of Things (IoT). Throughout the hour-long presentation, I was continually questioning how the poor, less fortunate and less educated would take advantage of what Samsung (and other niche markets) were showcasing as our seamlessly connected future. This goes directly to the questions posed by Mansell above.
The notion that “anyone” can be connected by Samsung’s open products illustrates quite well how the capitalist system has become an embedded part of our technologically mediated interactions – both now and into the future. For those who are able to purchase and access the innovations that Samsung promote, this is considered a given for the consumer. For the labouring classes discussed by Karl Marx, this is not easily accomplished.
So, I am reminded of Huxley’s Brave New World, where the main character is ostracised from society because he does not belong and cannot participate in the new world around him. Furthermore, I am reminiscent of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which proclaims that “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” By small, hardly noticeable measures, the core ideals of Animal Farm – and any human nation and society – gradually become corrupted.
One could argue that the same is true when considering how power is usurped by those who can innovate in the areas of technological media. Developers can indeed “… experience power relationships that are expressed as an elitism of the inner circle and exercised as the right to hinder a person in contributing to the common good” (Bergquist & Ljungberg, as cited in Mansell, 2004, p. 101). The alternatives to this technological progress? Online resistance, protest and opposition. However, accomplishing this successfully is difficult to imagine as, in the Western world, we are increasingly reliant on such enabling technologies.
International CES. (2015, January 5). Boo-Keun Yoon, Samsung – Keynote 2015 [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/BpTsLMjz4h8
Mansell, R. (2004). Political economy, power and the new media. New Media and Society, 6(1), 96-105. http://10.1177/1461444804039910