Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dawn of the Information Age...

Pics: from top, the American couple, Tom Boomershine and Amelia Boomershine alongwith Father Joseph Palakeel and Frances Plude delivering the ststistics and talk on Digital culture and Modern Journalism at Niscort, the media training institute.

Hello Folks,

What's up?

This tuesday we had a day long seminar on Digital culture and Modern Journalism at our institute NISCORT. The programme saw three American nationals specialising in Christian theology who interpret the Holy Bible in digitally and associated with prestigious universities and educational centres like Berkeley University in California at the states as well as Stanford university.

Coincidentally for my followers, i will let them know that my Maternal Uncle Mr. Afzal Khan ( My Mother's Cousin) based in Washington ( He is an editor of the daily, Jens of London) was sent to the Stanford University for doing masters in journalism via a scholarship.

Also one of the contemporary bestselling authors of modern Indian English writings, Vikram Seth has acquired a journalism degree from the Stanford University.

Let me bore all of you with my understanding of the programme and its theme.

The formalities were started with Father John Edapilly's inaugural address of the programme.

As Niscort is a missionary institute it was expected that the approach would be theological. He said Faith in God and the leaders i.e., (The Prophets as well as the saints be it either in Judaism, Christianity and Islam) brought about the institution of Theocracy in the world.

Literature emerged because of man's ability and inclination to chronicle whatever came his way.

The advancement of this chronicling brought to the fore Print Media. The state before that was Aristocracy which gave way to Democracy with the progress and consolidation of electronic media.

He said that this phase can also be termed as mediacracy i.e., media controlling everything. The resultant of which was the reign of Digitocracy i.e., electronics taking over the world which in some quarters may spell total confusion and bring to the fore a question as to who will rule? who will be the ruled?

This encounters mankind with the Digital Divide. The nations worldover will again be faced with a deciding attitude and which is again a consequence.

Theologians and couple, Tom Boomershine and wife Amelia Boomershine along with Frances Plude and Jose Palakeel, former lecturer and and associate of Niscort began the session.

"Digits in the electronic form have the potential of taking over the whole process of Communication." The efforts at presnt aim at infusing modern technology into the pastoral ministry, informed Dr. francis Plude who is a research prof of communication at the Notre dame college, Clevelandand . Her other vocations included: being a TV producer as well as an on camera host. Added to these she was also a consultant to the U.S. Ministry of commerce.

While Thomas E. Boomershine is the author in the interpretation of the narratives in The Holy Bible as an oral story in antiquity and in the communication systems of the digital age.

His wife Dr. Amelia C. Boomershine is the director of Go Tel Communication and pastor in the methodist church.

Whereas, Father Jose Palakeel is the member of IMPACT the extension of which is : Initiatives for Missionary of Pastoral Animation and Communication Theology. He affirms, we are in a Visual culture where sounds and images are the real players.

There has been more changes in the last 35 years than in the 35,000 years, he informs.

There are the multiple sources of information, many voices competing for attention in this information driven age.One can tell one's own story by telling it differently

Computer, Phone and Satellite are the trinity of Technology: Multimedia has taken it further by the synthesis of Sound, Text and images.

Instant Reach, multisensorial, easy to store and retrieve are some the features of Multimedia along with the added dimension of entertainment.

Thus, these give birth to a new language, new culture and new values. We now find brief writeups, more images alongwith videos etc.

The Present age seems to paint a picture as if Information is rolling over us as an ocean likened to a tsunami.

Whereas, the real activity of this dissemination of information takes place underneath: likened to an earthquake. News is collapsing due to the advertising thrust area of the netspace. This means advertising is going online hence the closure of many U.S. dailies in its printed hard copy form.

Th question which comes to the fore at this juncture is: What does the term netgenners mean?

Frances Forde Plude says that Manuel Castells who is Spanish by birth and associated with the Berkeley University in California in his three volumes of study divides the Information Age into; 1) Network society 2) Self identity and 3) the Millennium

The recent financial crisis is also a result of the digital age.

The story may be summarised as the decline of Patriarchialism. Mrs. Plude at this point took up the reference of a woman in Africa who arranges for financial loans through her cellphone. Environmentalists, Social Activists, Feminists are empowered courtesy the digital age. 

The synthesis of Oral, print and digital technologies is helping the language to change. Mr. Tom Boomershine at this juncture pointed the case study of a popular TV news magazine show titled 60 Minutes and is the world's no.2 rated programme with 60 years of success behind it.

When someone asked the reason for the show's golden run, pat came the reply that " We tell a story, be it Guantanamo Bay, a basketball star etc. everything is packaged as a story." This was the claim of the producer.

Mrs Plude states: there is that famous opening line of Charles Dickens' Classic " A tale of two cities." It runs as: " It was the best of times and it was the worst of times. "

This if taken in the contemporary age will go on to mean that it is hard to make one's  voice heard, to use the technologies available well. This from the human resource part of any nation would mean that as professionals one should find jobs, redesign the very model of journalism.

She gives the instance of the firebrand journalists who had redefined the foray of investigative journalism by their efforts at a very young age the involvement of Washington Post's Bernstein and Woodward in the unearthing of the Watergate scandal in U.S.

At the same time one needs what the Japanese say: " lots of luck."

The present era she explains demands what is called: " Instant News."

This means the ability to take decisions in a snap.

Communication expert, Giddens says:" Each day we reflect on things taking place. We are at the same time judged by other people's reactions and hence are in a way engaged in a way throughout our lives in a self-identity project. Example: The National identity is integral to india's existence as a nation.

She went on to say that humans are the only animals which uses symbols. " We are the only beings who convert whatever we see into phantasma  i.e.,  mental images."

This is done either through speaking, making gestures, via a picture as well as thoughts transferred through a sensible image and so on.

She then goes on to explain the origin of the concept of alphabet: ALPHA which means Cow and BET which means shed. This goes on to further affirm the root of this traces to the primitive pastoral people.

Whereas, Multimedia employs more senses. Besides the  senses of sight, hearing etc one of them is touch to some extent.

Whenever one sees the World Trade Centre as well as the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, a sense of colour and grandness comes to that mind. Thus these acts as symbols.

Another recent example of a picture of a symbol registering itself in the mind is the front page picture of the passenger aircraft landing at the Hudson river after colliding with some birds midair, this plane landing on the river was captured by some gentleman in his cellphone's camera

Then we also have to consider the potential of using broadband, it results in 100 and billions of dollars in new Economic development, high paying jobs, inland security, better healthcare, enhanced educational facilities.

The organisation ASPEN at Colorado plans high level conferences. In This quarter India can benefit with E-learning schemes, i.e., Wireless Digital empowerment.

Example in this regard would be Bank ATM's, E-Learing schools, reduced energy consumption.

For instance in the run up to the U.S. Presidential elections, many netgenners and pooled into Barack Obama's candidature as the power holder in the White House, providing the much needed energy. This also sprang up with Obama's use of the Blackberry.

A time may come that moneyed interests and central religious institutions will be under siege.

The Recent Iranian elections are a vivid instance of implementing technology with the public twittering on the streets.

The recession in the U.S. was solely due to greed. The abstract concept of Greed was transferred digitally with other factors also contributing for instance many home mortgages were sold to home owners and after a period of 12 months the payment of these mortgages were increased. The bottomline being estates and properties collected into a digitised pot which was sold and resold digitally.

U.S. was literally sending the mortgages abroad but didn't care much about the consequences.

Mrs. Plude states that even the Indian equivalent to the Wall street the Bombay Stock Exchange ( BSE)  is computerised and digitised.

An interesting input came forward when she informed that grandchildren are the reasons for the popular use of Twitter among older, retired and senior people to connect via the social networking site.

The truth is that big corporations go all over the world, study the different nations' economy and plan to implement their communication and networking schemes accordingly. The multi tasking capacity of the net generation is due to the multi player tendency of the WWW as often found in online and  video games.

Debra Tammen, another communication expert speculating on Communication styles had stated:

" When Males and females communicate, females or women communicate about relationship while men about contest and simultaneously rushes on to add objectively most men and women not true to every single man and woman."

The digital age calls for Bloggers entering inevitably into cocoons i.e. networking and sharing of information between bloggers who think alike. This also means going online for tracking whatever is of interest to them.

In the passing of information for further use and research, there are no deadlines as such instead there are constant deadlines.

The process of retrenchment meant the firing of employees in the developed nations due to the recession. Figures show people lost 60,000 jobs  last year while an additional 10,000 in the half of 2009 especially in newspaper organisations.

This can be summed as: " the hold of corporate media was hit at the stomach."

Rupert Murdoch lost 136 million in first half of the year 2009.

Wall Street Journal has gone online, New York Times is also thinking on the same lines.

This means that they are planning to make people online subscribers by making them pay for reading them online.

There is also a growing challenge to disseminate news in the Twitter technology for instance in its 134 numerics.

A question arises : Is this technological advancement making mankind impatient as a race?

The question if traced finds its roots in the Catharsis concept of ancient Greek theatre which had elements of violence in them. Original Shakespearean plays too had it. Mankind does have a darker side to it.

The technology of the digital age has changed concepts as available in Publishing for instance, copyright as being copyleft.

The digital Age has conceptualised E-governance, which means how to govern Whitehouse at the states electronically. Further still, which has resulted in the building up of Government websites and also recession recovery related websites for bailout of the economy.

Amelia Boomershine, a blogger informed Andrew Sullivan, an avid blogger of the states and associated with the journal, the Atlantic as well as David Brooks a columnist in New York Times are revolutionisting journalistic reporting.

She said that these two are constantly concentrating on bringing out the peace efforts as opposed to the thrust given in covering War efforts.

Conflict has a media dimension to it. It is generally seen that journalism has contributed to war. For instance, The months leading upto the Iraq invasion by the United states. This happened because whatever was being fed by the Bush government to the media aggravated the war and led to its continuation.

Thomas Boomershine cited the Vietnam war as a case study on these lines which took place in his childhood.

This war was a highly polarising conflict with people opposed to it. The section of public in the states opposing it were marginalised and even jailed. Ironically, the war came to an end with reporting done by media itself.

The trust of war journalism as practiced all these years calls for certain features, which are viz:

1) It is a zero-sum game i.e., Win / Lose game. No possibility of a win- win situation 

2) the majors in sensationalism: by Pictures and the character of the story- immediacy, no broader perspective, state propaganda and misinformation.

War journalism in contrast with peace journalism entails the following, viz: 

1) It illuminates structural and cultural violence to provide what is called sometimes: the background, example related stories of civilians and bystanders etc.

2) It tries to frame conflict as between "us and them" i.e., simplified into two parties.

Peace journalism on the other hand, shows the angles of all the parties involved. It tries to find out potential solution to conflicts.

The potential resolution is not reported which discredits the initiatives of peace.

Such a thrust in the covering of events enables the public to discriminate between religious parties, government policies etc.

Also modern journalism trends show networks of public and broadcast media covering journalistic conflict. It is also seen that organistaions are tilted towards certain advocacy groups: to be tilted towards them.

Objective Journalism stands for investigating the story and the position of the story and find out who are the enemies. There should be shift from the stereotypes:" We are the good guys and they are the bad guys."

The writeup or the reporting  should always be oriented towards telling the truth, exposing the deception on all sides. It should be more people oriented ( hence the presence of human interest angles in journalism.) i.e., sufferings, stories of the alleged enemy, identifying solutions, being creative by concentrating on peace, conditioning, resolution and strengthening responsibility media i.e., citizens participation and making it interactive, which can also be done by welcoming public media.

The bottomline: Technology should not overwhelm us, instead it should open new horizons for mankind. 

Be positive, creative and innovative

So long folks,

Keep blogging





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