So I’ve learned from our last lecture (and, if I’m being honest, life in general) that every time a new medium is introduced, there’s a mixture of responses. The innovative minds of our time can only think, “Look at all the great things this [insert medium here] will do for us!” and then there are the sceptics who can see only a threat. Even Socrates was concerned “the advent of writing would create forgetfulness and people would generally know nothing” (source). Of course, without teaching people to read and write, this blog wouldn’t exist, along with a lot of societal linchpins.
When asked to pick a current anxiety about the media, I was hard-pressed to settle on just one.
This mindmap scratches the surface of what I’ve started to see as a reflexive cycle between media and anxiety of choice, wherein the media enables this anxiety, someone recognises the [potential threat] and then the media reports on the threat, often exacerbating the results beyond the scope of our original predictions.
On a number of occasions, the media’s pursuit of the threat’s “story” can incite what is called a “moral panic”. We’ve seen this following the brutal death of two-year-old Jamie Bulger, when the presiding judge cited Child’s Play 3 in his closing arguments despite the horror film never being presented as evidence during the trial (source). Now, even if the investigators could prove those two boys had seen Child’s Play 3 and other violent films like it (which they hadn’t), simply having watched one or more horror film should not be cited as the sole cause behind this crime. That’s “backwards” thinking. David Gauntlett says an examination of the individual perpetrator would show a number of causative factors (source).
A present anxiety about the media is privacy. The Australian Federal Government has proposed retaining individuals’ personal data for up to two years (source). The data retention scheme presents with a number of conflicts given its international implications. Naturally, it’s well documented by the media with online news updates available as recent as 2 hours ago. “Data retention is part of an attempt to import this [analog] model to the Internet, so they have the same access and control of the online space they had of the analog telephone network,” says Bernard Keane (source). Here is a link to an online petition against the data retention scheme (ironic).
With the introduction of the Internet and technologies allowing easier, faster access and greater sharing capacity, this is a great example of an anxiety caused by media. However the problem begins with individuals’ use of the media. Internet’s implicit anonymity ensures a much more threatening individual. This effort to fight crime and terrorism might not be necessary but data retention goes a long way to regain control of the population and its interaction with the media. If the government is watching our every move on the Internet, our online behaviour can be limited by constant surveillance.