There are three major points that have become apparent from my research into the current ongoing situation in Syria. These are that the public sphere is changing to loosen the grip of the traditional media over public discussion, that the rise of citizen journalism has lead to the circumvention of traditional journalistic methods, and that the effect of ideology can have a fairly severe impact on how somebody ‘decodes’ a given message. Through the research of the situation throughout this semester, these points have become evident.
Discussions within the public sphere are decreasingly reliant on traditional media outlets to guide them. In the past, individuals were entirely reliant on sources such as television, radio, and newspapers, to gain their knowledge of the news and current events that were occurring, in particular for those events that were occurring internationally. Editors and owners of said outlets would control what news and current events these traditional news outlets would highlight. The means of having your message received by a wide audience was limited to a relative few because of the costs. Due to these prohibitive costs, these news outlets could control the content of what was being discussed in the public sphere. Today, these prohibitive costs of broadcasting a message to a wide audience no longer exist, due to the rise of the internet. A much wider array of messages are broadcast to users, and, as such, give them greater choice in what discussions take part in the public sphere. This access to information that was previously unavailable leads to greater awareness of issues that traditional news outlets might ignore, therefore creating a situation where the grip of the traditional news outlets on what makes up the content of discussion within the public sphere is loosened to allow for individuals who have discovered alternative narratives on the internet to discuss issues important to them. This is reflected in the Syrian situation through the fact that traditional news outlets have all but ignored the situation, while the online community has gone ahead and made discussions about it a part of the public sphere anyway (see ‘Online Support for Syria’ and ‘Point to Syria on the TV’ blog posts).
On a similar note, the control of journalists who work for these news outlets as the only authors of the narrative that the public views has been diminished by the rise of citizen journalism. Audiences were once forced to rely on the narrative presented to them by journalists of traditional outlets, who acted as a third party through which all news had to go through. Obviously, this created potential for the news to only be presented in a skewed fashion, a problem since this may have been the only, or one of very few, sources of information available. With the rise of citizen journalism, individuals are able to provide their own take on situations, and provide viewpoints different to those provided by traditional outlets. The use of citizen journalism to circumvent the narrative presented by other sources has been crucial in the Syrian situation. By uploading videos of the events taking place on the ground within the country, a viewpoint and exposure of events that doesn’t correlate with the narrative presented by the Syrian government has been revealed. However, it should be noted that these videos can also present their own skewed view, as those uploading may also have their own agenda to pursue (see ‘YouTube giving Syrian rebels a voice’ blog post).
Finally, the effect of differences in ideology upon how somebody decodes something has also become apparent. This is best exemplified by the two YouTube vloggers I highlighted in ‘Online Support for Syria’. Phillip DeFranco’s political ideology could best be described generally as centre-left. Based on the media coverage he has received, which present the narrative of Syrian people being oppressed by Assad and his regime, he decodes the message in a manner that leads him to support the rebels in a fight for freedom, the only question being of how. This contrasts starkly with the other vlogger I highlighted, who goes by the alias of ‘Syrian Girl’. Across her videos and social media channels, she takes this same media coverage, and rejects it, claiming it misrepresents the situation, and that her support remains with Assad. To decode it in this way implies an ideology at odds with DeFranco’s. These opposed views reflect the effect of differing ideologies.
The reduction of traditional news outlets’ effect on the public sphere, the rise of citizen journalism, and the effect of ideology on decoding are all reflected and exemplified in the situation in Syria.