Introduction to Communication as a Social Force
Public space is an important element of the society and it communicates a lot about a particular group of people. It is not only the uniting force in the social interaction of persons belonging to a particular group but also portrays the level of understanding between individuals and the social classes a particular group of people belong to. However, the changes in the society coupled with technological advancement are currently posing a great threat not only to the public space but also to the general public sphere. It is the objective of this paper to support this argument based on the readings from the works of Croteau and Hoynes, Graham and Marvin, Golding as well as Cresswell.
The current developments in the urban centers have been considered one of the greatest challenges to our social life or public space. In what Graham and Marvin (225) call ‘social landscaping of splintering urbanism’, the increasing usage of cars in our cities is greatly changing the landscape in our cities. The ever increasing building of more streets in our cities and urban centers will continue to transform the usual public meeting spaces into spaces only accessible by cars and other automobiles. This therefore would mean that most people from poor neighborhoods who are unlikely to possess a car would not be able to access such places. This makes the access of our public spaces biased towards those who are in a position to acquire cars because the world is continuously moving towards embracing automobiles as the sole means of urban transport. The emergence of automobiles as the primary means of urban transport would cause high demand for constructions of more streets within the cities and eventually more highways to link one city with another. Although, the highways tend to create a linkage between spaces, communities or people that are not fond of traveling would not find it useful. Again, constructions of highways also sever the places and spaces they pass through hence splintering of public spaces (Graham & Marvin, 235).
Again as the world continues to embrace the new age of information technology, there are groups of people who are going to be marginalized and outpaced. The IT ‘revolution’ that continues to engulf most societies especially the urban communities of the world would surely disadvantage those coming from low social and economic classes. The new ‘information society’ is going to disadvantage the society’s population living in poverty or experiencing unemployment or underemployment. This lot would be locked out of the new electronic networks. Accessing mobile phones or internet in this new era of information revolution would be a challenge to this disadvantaged group of people. Because their daily lives is characterized by struggle for survival – food and shelter becoming their number one priorities, it would be predictable that these people would remain outside the e-society or would be excluded altogether from accessing these new devices for communication (Graham & Marvin, 245). Apart from the poor and unemployed lot, those lacking skills in the new technologies would be greatly disadvantaged. The e-society has brought on new developments in the sharing and accessing of information. It is a critical period where one must be equipped with technological skills in order to access information, important resources, government services and even employment opportunity. Those lacking skills in this area would therefore be kept in the dark and blocked from the rest of the world.
Golding discusses the emergence of internet as new development in the information age with the potential of changing the world. He starts by looking at the history of the internet and the transition from the earlier communication devices like community videos, guerilla television, the cable and citizens’ band radios and what the optimists had hope internet would bring. However, he contends that the World Wide Web may not be the answer to the world as tool for communication after all. The entry of ‘big boys’ into the commercialization of the internet has not only brought about a neo-capitalism in the industry but also inequality among consumers and producers alike both nationally and internationally (Golding, 136). Commercialization of the internet and its high demand has created a room be exploited by the ‘big boys’ for commercial reasons. Internet commercialization has led to what Golding terms as artificial scarcity and introduction of barriers to the market entry for both producers and consumers (137).
The inequality is much worse in the global arena. As the developed celebrates in their new technological advancement, the rest of the world poor most of which come from the third world nations are mainly concerned with their poverty. With the west continuously embracing protectionism, giving little aid, and growing real interest rates coupled with the third worlds’ soaring debts, the development in the information and communication would further alienate the poor nations. The current communication trends would not only be used as economic advantage by the western societies but also as new political tool in the global arena (Croteau & Hoynes, 134). The global economy would still be influence and determine with those with best and the latest information technologies and networks, which happens to be the west. Africa and other third world nations would have to struggle to improve their economies first before ever thinking of catching up with the west in the information technology advancement. The economic gap between the developed and the undeveloped nations is enormous and this coupled with the gap in telecommunication, the third world especially Africa will continue to lag far much behind. This is perpetuated by the current global capital structure in routing of the telecommunication. United States and Japan are the leading partners in the international communication routes with other developed western countries following closely. Africa for example, does not feature anywhere new top fifteen among the developing countries (Golding, 138).
The increased mobility of people has seen emergence and development of new means of transport. Apart from the construction of streets and highways discussed above, there is an increasing need to build more airports to fasten human mobility from one place to another. Airports have not only fastened movement of people from destination to the other but have also acted as public squares where strangers meet and interact (Cresswell, 235). However, the new developments in airports both in structural designs and information technology threaten this public space that so far has had great positives. The information technological advancement has seen elaborate software programs being used to design the airports’ architecture and also to predict and monitor the movement of people once the airports are finished. Passengers are watch from the moment they step into the airport up to the moment they leave. As Martin Dogde and Rob Kitchin explain, “progress from buying a ticket, to moving through an airport, to travel on a plane is mediated through code/space – space produced through code” (cited in Creswell, 238). In a nutshell, nobody is at liberty within the airport and inside the plane.
Technological advancement and the general development in the society is a good thing. The main idea behind any development is to benefit the society and improve the lives of the masses. The impact such a development has on us is great and more often than not is positive. However, it is my contention that any development in the society will always come with some prices to pay. One of these is the disturbance of the stability of the public space and public spheres. These developments would either alienate people into different socio-economic classes or would severe our enjoyed freedom as is the case with developments in airports.
Cresswell, Tim. On the Move: Mobility in the Modern Western World. New York (NY):
Routledge, 2006, 219-258
Croteau, David & Hoynes, William. The Business of Media: Corporate Media and the Public
Interest, 2nd, California: Forge Press, 2006, 45-160
Golding, Peter. Worldwide Wedge: Division and Contradiction in the Global Information
Infrastructure, in Daya Kishan Thussu, ed. Electronic Empires: Global Media and Local Resistance, New York: Oxford University Press, 1998, 135-148
Graham, Stephen & Marvin, Simon. Splintering Urbanism: Networked Infrastructures,
Technological Nobilities and the Urban Condition. New York: Routledge, 2001, 225-