New media environment changing with growing dynamics

It is bringing new vulnerability to those in power thus precipitating greater accountability

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Geetanjali Minhas | February 11, 2011



“New  social media is  promoting greater accountability from those in positions of power,” said Nik Gowing, main presenter, BBC World News, at the Nasscom Leadership Forum 2011 on Thursday.

Terming the new social media as fifth estate Gowing said, “Something profound is happening in the new media environment where the dynamics are changing.”

Speaking on the nature of content produced by the devices like smart phones that people carry in their pockets particularly the power of the cameras which  he said is most obvious and also most elusive,  he  added ,“The networked individuals enabled by the internet will hold the upper estate accountable.”

Showing video clips  while illustrating examples of  various events around the world that have been  impacted and shaken through  the new media , Gowing  mentioned that extraordinary changes are happening in Egypt as seen in the last four weeks.

“Governments are issuing new commitments to reforms. High electronic activity has mobilized vast amounts of dissolutioned people  on streets and  brought down critical systems.

Gowig quoted Burma's example where last year's popular protests were galvanised by video clips. "There was no regime change but the new media exposed the truth of Myanmar under the military junta," Gowig said.

Speaking on his research on digital media that was peer-reviewed at Oxford University, Gowing said that he came to three conclusions well before what happened in Tunisia, Egypt. He listed the conlusions as:

1. This technology is creating new vulnerability, fragility and brittleness of power.

2. It is forcing new accountability to answer immediately from those who think they control power.

3. Because if this, particularly the proliferating smart phones, public makes up its mind within seconds and builds perceptions.

“It is therefore creating for those in positions of power and responsibility with corporate governance, a deficit of legitimacy, to say, do they really know what they are doing?” he added.

Referring to the biggest consumers of social media who he calls ‘motivated amateurs’, the new generation who is born digital Gowing  said ,“ overall a new  wave of capitalization and capabilities is  shifting and redefining the nature of power. The new social media, the digital bullet is creating very profound challenges to power.”

“The boom of information comes back and hits your credibility. People want clarity and flow of information however imperfect it is. An important trend which is very rapid and sharp ,a new impact of transparency is catching up specially with those in positions of power having a debilitating effect on them”  he added.

“The dilemma  produced by the new media ,the fifth estate is to be :  first in the space, fast in the space and half flown out when you entered."

Answering a question on if the new media is  promoting anarchy  the  BBC  presenter and senior journalist said I would put it this way “why are the governments or corporate not  better prepared  for essentially instrumental challenges of  tiny cameras or Smartphone’s .The governments must understand that now we are rapidly  moving towards  attitudinal and  behavioral changes and  mindsets of change  and appreciate  just how  vulnerable this can be to the chief executives or those in positions of power and responsibility for initiating behavioral change . This does not cost money but requires change of mindset.”

“This is actually shocking tentacles of accountability and need for those in public positions and responsibility to understand that they can no longer survive like this”.

Globally there are four billion mobile-phone users  and more than half of that population engages in transmitting information through social networking sites, mobile videos and images.

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