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Social Organisation & Micropolitics

How effective are collaborative movements, social organisation and micropolitical processes in this environment? Can they realistically succeed?

As Susan Cain (2012) argues, “most humans have two contradictory impulses: we love and need one another, yet we crave privacy and autonomy”. This paradox resonates with a contemporary society continuously experiencing a new-media revolution. On one hand, the sharing of information, and open-interactivity are championed as ways to move forward. Yet, on the other hand,  protection of privacy, and independence through media use are still essential. So what does this mean for collaborative movements in media and society?

Collaboration vs Independence – Is one better than the other? Can they co-exist?

As Cain (2012) explores in her New York Times article ‘The Rise of The New Groupthink’, team work, brainstorming, think tanks, group meetings – these are the key fundamentals needed in play towards success in organisations and places of education on a global scale. “Most of us now work in teams, in offices without walls, for managers who prize people skills above all” Cain (2012) explains, and seating arrangements, activities, and assessment guidelines  in schools and universities require collaborative work and discussion.

However, “research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption…introverts are comfortable working alone…solitude is a catalyst to innovation” (Cain, 2012). As Romantic William Wordsworth wrote of Sir Isaac Newton, “the statue stood of Newton…a mind for ever voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone” (Wordsworth 1850, lines 59-63, The Prelude, Book III) Yet, as 17th century English poet John Donne famously wrote, “no man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;” (Donne  1624, Meditation XVII)

Wordsworth makes the point that Newton’s solitude is what allowed him to be great, to succeed, to discover gravity.What we have here is a conflict between collaboration and independence. Must we focus entirely on collaborative efforts because, from a technological determinist view, it is what the affordances of new-media technology want us to do? Or, from a cultural imperialistic stance, because it is what society has deemed essential through use of new-media? What does this mean for the individual achiever?

Collaboration or Independence? Which is more effective?
(Images by Andy Rementer. Copyright 2012 The New York Times Company)

Perhaps, collaboration and independence co-exist effectively.

Collaboration and Autonomy In Journalistic Practice

Journalists strive to be autonomous while working within the confines of their organisational and editorial goals. Not only are they individual actualisers of the media’s ‘Fourth Estate’ role, but they must function as the ‘Fourth Estate’ as part of and in the context of an editorial team. Furthermore, they must function in accordance with organisational hierarchy.

Interestingly, journalists are now encouraged to be Multiplatform Journalists, who are able to photograph, film, interview, write for print, online or broadcast, create online and broadcast content, and establish a strong and diverse presence in society.What this shows is that despite the premise that new-media encourages collaboration, the individual is required to know how to complete tasks that would usually be undertaken by a team of journalists and editorial staff.  On the other hand, multiplatform capabilities allow for more dynamic projects to come to fruition within and through news organisations, such as open journalism and dynamic coverage of events.

One emerging Journalism collaborative movement is “#media2012”, in which a “people-powered” newswire is aiming to cover the Olympic games and brings stories to fruition that may not always make the headlines. One of the organisation heads Prof. Andy Miah, who worked as a citizen journalist at the Sydney 2000 games, was interviewed for Journalism.co.uk, He said:

“This is the kind of language we use – less editors, more curators. There’s no doubt this will be the first Twitter Olympics for a Summer Games, but our hashtag #media2012 aims to filter content for people to watch, so they can get a community-led, focused insight into the games”  – Professor Andy Miah (McAthy, 2012)

By nature, the project aims to not only organise collaboration between independent and citizen journalists, invites collaboration between the social organisation AND mainstream media organisations.

“”It’s important to stress that I believe citizen journalism is not wholly oppositional to professional journalism. Many professional journalists will come to London for the games without any accreditation and we want to help them find stories and learn from them.”  – Professor Andy Miah (McAthy, 2012)

The practice of journalism is moving towards more collaborative, “open” practices, such as #Media2012, and The Guardian’s open-journalism initiative, which has been addressed in previous posts, and it is clear that both collaboration and individual autonomy are adapting and modifying as the journalism and media industry continues to change.

Micropolitics

Global collaborative projects are heavily encouraged in a contemporary society that has embraced new-media technologies and social networking practices. Yet, while collaborative efforts are encouraging, can they work effectively? Can they survive in a modern mediascape?

One collaborative movement that can rapid attention as the Kony 2012 campaign. While  Kony 2012  was successful in creating awareness in of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, the worldwide ‘Cover The Night’ initiative on April 20 failed to meet the Invisible Children organisation’s expectations due to several important factors:

  • a lack of control of media and press reporting
  • a lack of network maintanence, and
  • primarily, the rise of an organisational and campaign ‘face’.

We can draw slight comparisons with Wikileaks to identify how “non-leaderless” organisations are challenged by both media interpretation and social interpretation. Although each respective collaborative project are extremely different in terms of media use, control, platforms, and purpose, both projects have been impacted negatively as the result of having a clear “face” or “leader” – Jason Russell and Julian Assange. Negative reporting on Assange reflects negatively on Wikileaks. Similarly, negative reporting on Russell damaged the ‘Cover The Night Campaign’ on April 20. Furthermore, the instantaneous nature of the internet along with lack of media penetration by Invisible children meant that the movement dramatically lost momentum.

On the other hand, leaderless movements such as the Coatlition of The Willing climate change project may have a chance of surviving:

The Coalition of The Willing’s envisioned network consists of the following:

  • Green knowledge trust – green wikipedia – online repository of practical knowledge – low carbon societies – information central
  • Open innovation centre – organisations post problems and ask for solutions – anyone can answer.
  • Catalyst system – social networking site – designed to put you in touch with real-world projects on different scales – link up with people & not-for-profit organisations.

While the goals seem clear, the challenges it faces is to maintain this network and continuously build on it’s “swarm politics” basis by carefully controlling it’s spread through multimedia, harnessing technology, and by drawing away from a clear leader.

References

Cain, S. 2012, ‘The Rise of the New Groupthink’, The New York Times, January 13, <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/opinion/sunday/the-rise-of-the-new-groupthink.html>

Knife Party and Rayner, T. & Robson, S. 2010,  Coalition of the Willing <http://coalitionofthewilling.org.uk/>

Manning, E, 2009, ‘From Biopolitics to the Biogram, or How Leni Riefenstahl Moves through Fascism’ in Relationscapes, pp. 137-139

Rushkoff, D. 2011, ‘The Evolution Will Be Socialized’, Shareable: Science and Tech <http://www.shareable.net/blog/the-evolution-will-be-socialized>

Terranova,T. 2004,  ‘From Organisms to Multitudes’ In Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age London: Pluto: 101-106

McAthy, R. 2012, ‘#media2012: How a ‘people-powered’ newswire is finding Olympic stories beyond the headlines’, Journalism.co.uk, last accessed 28 April 2012, <http://www.journalism.co.uk/news-features/media2012-olympics-citizen-journalism-newswire/s5/a548988/>

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in Week 9 Tutorial 8

 

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