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New Media and the Importance of Changing Power Dynamics

The power of new media never ceases to amaze me. The simple yet dynamic idea of creating a video for millions to view in the span of a week, is something that changes how we live our lives, react to world crisis, view politics, and engage with anyone who is traditionally beyond our reach. I have two recent examples of how the intersection between politics, activism, and new media is shifting paradigms and positions of power.

Moveon.org two weeks ago began distributing a video titled “Revealed: The GOP Strategy.” Since its release two weeks ago, this video has received nearly one million views. It goes through what is perceived as both  the racist and “1 Percent” driven strategy of the GOP, and how it is working.

At times I wonder what would have been different throughout history if youtube and email existed over the past century. How many more people would have been held accountable and how many more voices and opinions would have been able to speak? This is the true power of new media, not necessarily that people will be heard, (because when it comes down to it the same elitist bourgeois group that was heard before in traditional forms of media, are still being heard online now), but the sole idea that individuals can speak has the potential to shift power. Never before have the disenfranchised had such a platform to speak out, and never before have those who are not rich, been able to call out people like Karl Rove and the Koch brothers.

The power of new media doesn’t stop with large organizations like moveon.org attempting to bring light and nuance to presidential races. This power shifting nature of new media goes right into the simplest levels of grassroots organizing, where young people are learning how to use new media to further their struggle for equality and equal resources.

In South Africa there is a group of high school activist learning how to produce documentary films so that they are able to document their movement. I am now leading a project that teaches these young people how to take video footage/editing and highlight the stories that often get ignored in their communities and in their struggle. These students have been given video equipment of their own so they can have the agency to chose what they think is important to highlight. They are all a part of a larger social movement in South Africa that has been campaigning for the last five years with parents, teachers, principals, and NGOs to acquire a higher level of education in their schools and communities.

Regardless if it is new media contextualizing presidential races or if it is a mechanism for teenagers to spotlight and broadcast the stories from their movement, it is no surprise that new media is starting to change the dynamics of power and information flow in our world. I think we must continue to pay attention to the implications of new media for the future and display the stories of how people around the world are gaining power and voice through videos, blogs, facebook, twitter, and other online broadcasting efforts.