What I found very interesting in our readings and class discussions, tracing the development of communication methods and art forms through the years, is how the different shifts always moved towards making knowledge accessible to the masses and not just the elites.
The printing press made it so not all reading materials were controlled by the church, and thus enabled a shift from relying on the church’s interpretation of life to the masses developing their own understanding of it. It made critical thinking, and the asking of questions, more accessible to the wider public.
Photography provided depictions of real life, and thus enabled a shift from artists producing realistic work out of necessity to artists painting their interpretations of what they saw. Painting became a tool of artistic, emotional, and political expression. Individual creators were able to bring themselves into their pieces, instead of having to remain neutral.
Cinema made it so content can reach widespread and illiterate audiences, and could be used as a tool for education (or propaganda…). It was a new form of engaging with reality and enabled more people to learn about experiences and systems outside their own immediate environment.
A change in modes of communication impacts the behavior of consumers. The shifts mentioned above demonstrate how new paths of communication can make knowledge more wide spread and accessible, and show individuals that they have agency in creating something that involves their own understanding of the world.
These shifts made me reflect on the importance of the internet in our lives. We no longer live in an age where “mainstream media” is the only media that we can consume. Yes, the mainstream is still heavily influential, but we also have access to anything we wish to learn about. We have access to language and theory to give meaning to experiences, and we have resources to learn about the ways in which systems of oppression operate. Further, not only is knowledge becoming a public resource, but WE are also seen as equal contributors to this body of knowledge. Blogs, Vlogs, and social media give us a stage to create content, to criticize, to interpret, and subvert the mainstream culture. It becomes easier to educate and get educated.
This is a pretty basic realization, I must admit. But I do believe, as simple as it is, that the internet is one of our biggest tools when it comes to organizing, to educating, to making knowledge accessible, and to empowering individuals through asserting that their voice and experiences matter as part of this larger social fabric.
Everyday Feminism, which uses the internet as a resource to make a lot of intersectional feminist theory more accessible, published this article about online activism. Beyond talking about the advantages of online activism, it address (towards the end) some of the ways it can also be exclusionary.