Harnessing the Information Age

While issues surrounding the environment, conflict, and the economy may seem insurmountable, the information age has countered with something far greater. New forms of media present unprecedented capacity for change and the ability to spread a greater variety of messages. It is now up to us to attempt to understand and take advantage of them. I am discovering through my project, in a very small way, that technology and media have the potential to combine in a way that does no harm and provides a beneficial service to the people of the world. We now have a responsibility to understand and harness this potential in order to create positive change and desirable solutions.

Ten years ago a college student would have much difficulty contacting the people and gathering the resources and ability necessary to make a video guide on the college application process. Without media devices such as YouTube and Facebook, not to mention the Internet, the potential for free, wide-spread distribution (I’m keeping my fingers crossed) would not exist.

The new media environment’s potential for impacting world events goes much further than my project. Over the last two years, new media has had numerous forceful impacts on world events, most recently, the leak of 92,000 secret U.S. military documents by the fledgling, volunteer-driven news organization WikiLeaks. In a similar development, the footage taken from an Iranian’s cell phone of the killing of Neda Agha-Soltan during anti-government protests in June of 2009 also opened the world up to a situation that primary media outlets had been locked out of and could prove a transformative event in Iranian history.

These examples display the power of rising media devices. The Neda video could have toppled a regime and the WikiLeaks documents could imperil U.S. national security. For any destructive power certain forms of new media contain, they also contain the potential to open up solutions to the problems we face. As people – or global citizens, or whatever you want to call it – we must latch on to this potential.

A lot needs to happen before doing so. I would not say the shift to new forms of productive social media includes cable television and the rancorous 24 hours news cycle. Rather, new forms of media can move us past this calamity, allowing people to have more access to information than ever before. This is important to having a more vibrant and healthy way of life.

In whatever we strive to accomplish in the future, one of the most important things we must consider is the power of media in this age of information. This goes hand in hand with globalization. Ideas spread more quickly than ever now, and media devices, including the Internet, Facebook, and cell phones will play an increasingly large role in society and the spread of information. Indeed, with great power comes great responsibility and a part of becoming a global citizen must involve the responsible, yet productive harnessing of new media’s potential.

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