The readings this week bring home the cliché expression that “information is power”. In his article entitled, “Communication, Power and Counter-Power in the Network Society”, Manuel Castells discusses how through the use of ICTs, a new form of communication is emerging that he terms the ‘mass-self communication’. He articulates that there is power in this form of communication because it gives rise to the convergence of mass media and communication through the use of social media sites, for instance.
Embedded within the power of communication, Castells also highlights the importance of personality politics and political advertising. Written sometime in 2007, before the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, I am not sure the extent to which Castells was exposed to the marketing of the campaign. However, as I was reading this section, I could not escape the fact the Obama campaign hit a cord with the youth of America by advertising itself and what Obama stands for through the use of email, Facebook, Twitter, and not to mention its own interactive website. He was able to mobilize his supporters and brand his campaign as one representing change. Similarly, candidates are running for the office of the Virginia state Governor. Driving past the signs, on my way to and from school, I noticed immediately that democratic candidate Creigh Deeds is using similar colors and logos within his campaign to appeal to those who voted for change within the Presidential election in 2008. Similarly, I have received emails from the campaign iterating President Obama’s endorsement of Deeds for Governor. Through a similar campaign look, Deeds is attempting to generate “symbolic values and trustworthiness” as Castells mentions in his article. The election has not occurred yet but it will certainly be fascinating to see if Deeds’ efforts will result in a win.
While Facebook, Twitter, and blogs have left their imprint on communications as we know them in the past, it still does not solve the problem that not all voices have the agency to be included in this new form of communication. Castells seemingly falls to address the extent to which a large number of people do not have access to new communication technologies. The fact is that the poorest of the poor in all corners of the world do not have access to ICTs to participate in the ‘electronic autism’ of mass-self communication, nor do they have the literacy to use employ this form of communication even if they did have access. This is not to say that I do not value Castell’s contribution, I just wanted to highlight this weakness.
In conclusion, Castells, Benkler and Ronfeldt and Arquilla all discuss, in some fashion, the importance and power of information in networks and it transformative effects being played out in the world. While the Castells reading particularly struck me this week, I found the other two readings to be similarly thought provoking.