Academic journal article Global Media Journal

Creating a Presence on Social Networks Via Narbs

Academic journal article Global Media Journal

Creating a Presence on Social Networks Via Narbs

Article excerpt


The field of global communication studies has yet to come to terms with changes in the global media environment that began with the advent of the Internet and accelerated with the rise of mobile devices, social networking media, and user-generated content. These developments pose a radical challenge to the theoretical frameworks that have traditionally dominated international communication scholarship, if only because serious attempts to capture contemporary media dynamics require us to leave behind the meta-theoretical frameworks of modernization, dependency and globalization, and focus sharply on case-studies that yield insight about context-bound communication processes and their social and political implications. Indeed, we argue in this essay, whereas television was the default and often unstated fulcrum of much of global communication theory, the emergent global media environment is best understood as a transnational "hypermedia space" (see Kraidy, 2006) in which so-called "old" media like television and the newspaper join emergent media like mobile devices, social media, video on the Internet, and others to create a communication space the social and political implications of which we are only beginning to discern.

In this brief essay we purport to tease out some of the theoretical implications of the emergence of digital culture for global communication studies. To that end, we use the Middle East not as a "container" where we can capture distinct hypermedia dynamics, but rather as an optic on the changing nature of global communication in the digital age. It is our hope that the case studies we discuss hold insights applicable beyond the contemporary Middle East. Therefore it is our objective to point the discussion into a comparative direction with broad relevance to global communication studies. With that in mind, we first explicate the notion of hypermedia space, then we move forward to look at the role of hypermedia space in political upheaval in Lebanon in 2005 and Iran in 2009, and finally we conclude with a discussion of the broader implications of these two cases for global communication studies. Before we describe and analyze the case-studies, let us clarify what we mean by hypermedia space.

1. Defining Hypermedia Space

Though the term hypermedia has been in use for a long time, we credit our use of the term to the Canadian international relations theorist Ronald Deibert (1997) who argues that the term "hypermedia":

... not only captures the convergence of discrete technologies, it also suggests the massive penetration and ubiquity of electronic media characteristic of the new communications environment ... the prefix "hyper" (meaning "over" or "above") emphasizes two central characteristics of that environment: the speed by which communications currently take place, and the intertextuality or interoperatibility of once-discrete media ... linked together into a single seamless web of digital-electronic-telecommunications"(pp. 114-115).

Though Deibert formulated his ideas on hypermedia before the advent of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, it is clear that these new developments reinforce the ease and fluidity with which digitized information moves between various media. Mobile telephony, tweets, email, social networks, text messaging, digital cameras, online videos, electronic newspapers, and satellite television thus constitute a fluid communicative environment: hypermedia space.

Clearly, the new media environment described in the preceding paragraph has implications for social and political communication. The advent of hypermedia space constitutes a qualitative leap in the ways that people seek, access, produce, and react to information. Most importantly, hypermedia space broadens access to the means of communication, since it is obviously easier for average people to "produce" messages today in the era of mobile devices and blogs than it was in the days of state-owned broadcasting, telephone landlines, and the daily newspaper delivered to the door or purchased at the store. …

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