New media technologies have played a major role in the social, economic and political lives of many. The new media technologies are designed in such a way that they provide a way for people to connect or communicate. New media technologies are user-generated sites that provide a means to connect or communicate can either be business-related or for social and political purposes . People are able to join these sites and connect easily through online registration or through an existing offline connection. Different effects of new media technology ranges from making friends, shaping opinions, deciding on the products to purchase and services to acquire among others have come to light since the development of these new technologies. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the effects of these technologies go beyond these. This article seeks to critically analyze new media technologies with reference to Australia.
New media basically refers to the digital industry that is currently being used in different parts of the world. There have been several technological advancements across the world leading to development of the digital industry. Modern technologies such as digital TV, digital radio, digital film, mobile phones, websites, e-mails and the social media are part of the new media . The digital content can be accessed through the internet, mobile phones or dedicated gaming devices. Introduction of the internet has changed the way people communicate with one another. Although this technology has been around since 1970s, it was basically used for education, defense and government purposes. The internet entered into the public domain in the year 1992 after development of the World Wide Web. The use of internet has significantly expanded since then leading to the development of online commerce sites, brand sites, online-only retailers, guides and directories.
The recent addition to this technology has been the ‘internet native’ services such as social networking sites, webmail, search and social media sites. The internet plays several social roles including provision of information, storage of information, communication, social connectedness and research tool. The internet has several portal sites that enable users to access a wide range of content. A lot of information can be stored on the internet including video, guides, fact, narrative, documentary and gossip.
New Media in Australia
Australia is one of the countries with a very vibrant digital economy in the world. According to the 2008 statistics, Australia was estimated to be having more than 16.3 million internet users which accounts for about 79.4 percent of the total population. The figure is expected to have currently increased. This is a very credible community despite the country`s small size. Australia`s stable economy, the usage of English language and a thriving business environment makes it suitable for business . Several companies from Europe and North America have found the country to be a good investment destination, especially in the games and film industries.
Australia is also a very important market for the key internet players. Several internet services are normally tested in this country before being taken to other countries. The joint venture between MSN and PBL which formed ninemsn has been one of the most successful MSN sites across the world. Several other companies such as TiVo are also in final stages of entering the Australian market.
Although the United States dominates the global internet market, Western Europe and Asia dominate in the mobile phones industry whereby Australia and New Zealand markets are more advanced than the United States . Some of the Australian mobile companies have become major players in the world. For instance, Jumbuck is the largest provider of the chat services to mobile carriers across the world. Mig33 is also a major player in the SMS equivalent of Voice of IP (VoIP) services whereby unlimited number of SMS messages can be sent at a fixed monthly price through a data plan as opposed to paying for every SMS. BluePulse also provide an information-based and content-based community service. The games industry in Australia is also highly regarded due to the high quality of the games.
The Australian internet industry has several companies that are very active. The Internet Advertising Board (IAB) was established by ninemsn, Fairfax Digital, Yahoo!7, Google, News Interactive and Sensis. All these companies have a large number of staff members that are focused on writing for the digital content industry. Most of the companies use journalists, but others use creative writers and small games development teams.
Ninemsn is the largest internet portal in Australia. It is a joint venture between Publishing and Broadcasting Limited (PBL) Media and Microsoft which offers original online content and brand support content like TV program and magazines. Some of the tools such as Hotmail, MSN Messenger and Spaces are provided by Microsoft while PBL Media provides ACP Magazines and Channel 9.
BigPond is also one of the largest internet companies in Australia owned by Telstra. It started as the internet service provider and was later re-branded as a media company. It has remained to be the largest in Australia up to now providing video, music, news, downloadable services and entertainment. This company aims at providing convergent services via the internet as well as mobile phones.
Sensis is the internet company owned by Telstra and mainly focuses on directories and search. Some of the services ofeered by this company include Sensis (search), YellowPages, WhitePages, Wherels (local information and maps), CitySearch and Trading Post. The company also has an advertising division which provides online sales services for Telstra, BigPond and other non-Telstra clients.
Yahoo!7 is a joint venture between Channel 7 and Yahoo!. It offers similar services to ninemsn and it also includes the Pacific Publication magazines.
Fairfax Digital is another prominent internet company in Australia. It is the digital division of Fairfax Media which offers digital versions of the newspapers such as Sydney Morning Herald, Financial Review and Age. It also offers the digital guides like Domain and Drive as well as transactions such as RSVP and Stayz. The company has recently introduced demographic-focused sites like Essental Baby and Vine as well as the digital-only news sites like Perth and Brisbane.
News Ltd. provides digital versions of news mastheads such as Daily Telegraph, Brisbane Courier, Adelaide Advertiser, Herald Sun among others. It also offers news classifieds like online classifieds for real estate, cars and other properties. The company is very active within the mobile space across all its services and titles.
ABC is also one of the most famous new media company. This company offers news, TV content as well as extensive local services. It also offers additional children-focused services from outside the programs together with user-generated content services such as Rollermache. The company currently has an Internet TV player product called iView as well as their own digital channel called ABC2 which commissions new media content.
Potential platforms for engagement
New media services such as the internet have created a good platform for engagement which has given young and marginalized people a voice . People can easily share information from different parts without necessarily having to travel. The social media has gained popularity in Australia and other parts of the world making it easier for people to interact. Information and news is disseminated through the internet which is more popular among young people. The internet is a public space which enables the users to also become authors, not just passive consumers. This new development has broken the barriers to participation that was present in the traditional media institutions. The marginalized groups which include young people can now raise their voices due to availability of online communities.
There are various ways through which new media technologies engage the users by allowing them to generate their own contents as they desire. The content or message to be communicated is generated by the user such as creation of blogs and micro-blogs. The sites provide the users with a lot of freedom in how they engage with the sites and also in the way they communicate with each other. The information shared in new media technologies tends to be what the user wants because of the freedom to generate content. The information tends to be highly targeted. The impact of the information shared on the sites is great on the people having access to it . This provides a better chance of expressing personal opinions and views without fear of being identified. The anonymity provided by new media technologies has also made it an effective tool in creation of resistance and empowerment of marginalized communities.
It is noted that because of the capability to generate content, users can use any language they believe would be more effective in communicating their message and expressing their views. For instance, events have happened where the protestors incited other people to join in their cause by making use of languages that can only be understood by the target groups.
The new media technologies have been used both as tools and platforms for creation of resistance in the modern societies. This change can result from real or imagined pressures for instance the presence of others, the social expectations and the norms. In the era of new media technologies, it remains as one of the factors which have caused and fuelled resistance in the society.
This is because of the recent events where the social media has played a major role in helping the demonstrations to kick off in authoritarian societies by making it more impossible to censor the public, making it easier for protectors to air and share their views and opinions, and enabling them to coordinate demonstrations and pass along information . The development of these technologies has enabled information to reach the marginalized communities thus allowing them to participate in the politics of their countries.
The new media is not just used as a platform for dissemination of information and a forum for
connecting with people but it also creates a link for geographically distant people. This creates a platform for dissemination of previously unheard ideas, views and experiences. This facilitates collaboration and enables people transform ideas that are expressed online into a research project, organized protest or awareness campaign . The internet provides a democratic space whereby everybody can freely participate and raise his or her concerns. There are so many online groups that have been organized to create awareness. Several political uprisings particularly in the Arab world have been facilitated by the new media. The situation is similar in Australia whereby youths and other marginalized groups are able to raise their concerns through the internet.
People, with the use of the Internet are able to create the discussion or informational sites and publish them on the World Wide Web. These sites have been the work of an individual or groups of individuals wishing to connect with others who share their points of view; or rather they are themed on common subject and people connecting around are those sharing the ideology of the common theme. The development of Twitter as well as other “microblogging” systems has helped in integrating blogs into societal newstreams. The development of blogs and micro-blogs in the late 90s came together with the development of web publishing tools which made easier the posting of content by low- skilled users. In the past, there was need for knowledge in such applications as FTP and HTML to be able to publish blogs and micro-bogs. This has changed, making it possible for more people to air their views as well as use them as a source of important information such as on political issues.
Majority of the blogs and micro-blogs are usually interactive, making it possible for those visiting the site to allowing visitors to comment as well as be able to send messages to each other through GUI widgets . This capability for interactivity is what has allowed blogs and micro-blogs to be tools for civic education as well as the creation of resistance communities. Most of the blogs and micro-blogs offer commentary on a specific subject. The capability of visitors to leave a comment in an interactive form is a significant contribution to the attractiveness of blogs and micro-blogs.
Managing media relations in New Media
Several measures have been put in place by different governments to regulate media relations in new media. The Australian ruling Labor government has put in place several regulations to govern the ownership and operation of new media in the country. The media reforms package includes a public interest test and a tough system of self regulation for the online and print media . There are also new rules on the local content. According to the communications minister, these changes are meant to ensure that the Australian public enjoys a media sector that is diverse, fair and able to handle future changes. This new rules have sparked protest from some of the media companies such as News Corp who believe that the public interest test is not necessary.
Ethics, privacy and social governance
The use of new media, particularly the social media has raised several ethical concerns especially with regards to privacy. Personal information provided on the social sites is available to the public and has continued to cause privacy problems to the users. Social media deal with vast personal information. Some of the social networking sites lack adequate privacy policies to protect the information of the users . It is possible and has occurred that malicious individuals have access to such information and use it to harm the owners of this information. The possible ability for stalking is one of the problems related to information obtained from the social sites. A survey carried out on Facebook profiles from students at Carnegie Mellon University established that approximately 800 profiles have information on present resident, and classes being studied. This information basically makes it possible for viewers of the profile to locate individuals at particular times.
Additionally, personal information provided on the sites it is possible to gather a lot about the user. Users are having sensitive personal information on the sites such as name, address, date of birth, and social security number among others. Users are displaying information on the social sites that can be easily utilized in harming them. There have been cases of photos being stolen from the social networking sites that are used in aiding identity theft.
There is also little evidence revealing that majority of the users of the social networking sites are taking complete measures to protect them information and themselves from cases of identity theft. Sharing personal thoughts through status updates as is possible with users of sites such as Tweeter and Facebook is also making the users vulnerable to harm by malicious individuals. There is another downside on utilizing the social sites of having one’s account hacked. Various cases, especially involving celebrities have happened with hackers manipulating personal information.