Media and Communications*

Nick Couldry, Clemencia Rodriguez, Göran Bolin, Julie Cohen, Gerard Goggin, Marwan Kraidy, Koichi Iwabuchi, Kwang Suk Lee, Jack Qiu, Ingrid Volkmer, Herman Wasserman, Yuezhi Zhao, Olessia Koltsova, Inaya Rakhmani, Omar Rincón, Claudia Magallanes-Blanco, Pradip Thomas

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Developments in digital technologies over the last 30 years have expanded massively human beings’ capacity to communicate across time and space (Section 13.1). Media infrastructures have simultaneously acquired huge complexity. By “media” we mean technologies for the production, dissemination, and reception of communication, but also the contents distributed through those technologies and the institutions associated with their production, dissemination, and reception. The relations between media, communications, and social progress are complex. More people can now make meaning and be connected through media, providing an important resource for new movements for justice and social progress. Meanwhile the uneven distribution of opportunities to access and use media is itself a dimension of social justice. Media infrastructures, and media access, have spread unevenly (Section 13.2), and media’s consequences for social progress cannot be determined at a general level. Traditional and digital media have developed according to distinctive histories across the world (Section 13.2.1), with varying marketization and state control (case studies on China, Russia, Sweden, South Africa, Indonesia, and Mexico: Section 13.2.2). Inequalities of access to media infrastructures (Section 13.2.3) are stark, between and within regions and inside countries, with implications for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Cultural flows through media vary greatly within and between regions (Section 13.2.4). Meanwhile (Section 13.2.5) people’s increasing dependence on an online infrastructure that mediates daily life increases the importance of the corporations, which provide that infrastructure. This has transformed the governance of media infrastructures (Section 13.3), with a shift from formal to informal governance and the growing importance of transnational governance institutions and practices, whereby corporations, not states, exercise predominant influence (Section 13.3.2), including through the operations of algorithms, with ambiguous implications for corporate power and individual rights, for the public sphere and for social progress (Section 13.3.3). Journalism has for centuries been a key institutional form for disseminating public knowledge, and so contributing to social progress (Section 13.4). While digital technologies have expanded who can do journalism (see Section 13.4.5 on citizens’ media), other aspects of digitization have undermined the economics of public journalism (Section 13.4.3), with new threats to journalists from growing political instability (Section 13.4.4). Even so, there are new voices within global journalism (see Section 13.4.6 on TeleSUR and Al- Jazeera). The increasing networking of communications changes citizenship too, as citizens find information, develop imaginative loyalties and make practical connections beyond national borders, not only within the Global North (Section 13.5) and with particular implications for global youth (Section 13.5.2). A more “connected” life is, however, not simply “better” (see Section 13.5.3‘s case study of life in a Chinese heritage village and Section 13.5.4 on the media- based oppression and resistance of precarious workers in East Asia). Struggles for social justice through the democratization of media (Section 13.6) have acquired new prominence, echoing previous struggles (Section 13.6.1) and foregrounding the transparency and accountability of media infrastructures, and data flows in particular, (Section 13.6.2), with implications for the SDGs and Social Progress Index (SPI). Concerns include net neutrality, internet freedom, algorithms’ discriminatory operations, and the automated surveillance on which most online businesses now rely. There are implications for state and corporate power (Section 13.6.5), which civil society has challenged (Section 13.6.4 on India and Facebook’s Free Basics). A bold new model of internet governance has emerged in Brazil (Section 13.6.6 on Marco Civil). Yet media remain the channel through which many struggles for social progress are pursued (Section 13.7). An important example of innovative media use for social progress was the Zapatistas in Mexico (Section 13.7.1), but social movements’ uses of media technologies have taken many forms across the world, exposing important constraints (Section 13.7.2). Since old media generally do not disappear but are linked up in new ways through digital media, it is overall ecologies of media resource on which movements that struggle for social progress have drawn (Section 13.7.3), with struggles against the injustices faced by disabled people being an example of the creative use of media resources (Section 13.7.4). Effective access to media is a necessary component of social justice (Section 13.8). But media’s consequences for social progress are complicated by uneven media access, the plurality of spaces where people connect through media, and the multiple uses of communication resources (hate speech is enabled by the Internet too). The SPI should measure the distribution of opportunities for effective media access and use, and address communication rights. Media infrastructures are a common good whose governance should be open to democratic participation. Concerns about automated surveillance and the environmental costs of digital waste must also be addressed. Our action plan and toolkit list various measures to these ends.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRethinking Society for the 21st Century
Subtitle of host publicationReport of the International Panel on Social Progress: Volume 2: Political Regulation, Governance, and Societal Transformations
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages40
ISBN (Electronic)9781108399647
ISBN (Print)9781108423137
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


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