The innovations of Internet and mobile phones set the stage for extraordinary capabilities of mediating information. “Network society” (Castells 2005) becomes essential mechanism for information distribution, and interactions between individuals regardless of geographic location (Liener et al n.d.). Similarly, mobility through mobile phone helps people to connect with family, friends, and access to information instantly (Kensington, 2004). This chapter argues that networking has revolutionised the traditional media’s model. The transformation process from a broadcast model to network model allows everything to be published and shared on Internet forums. This raises concern about media’s power. Producers’ control over media is gradually converted into consumers’ hand. The chapter also argues that ‘mobility’ through mobile phones’ applications blurs out the boundaries between private and public spaces because it enhances opportunities to create social space at private place and vice versa.
II. Method and Conceptual Framework
The central data of this qualitative research is a set of 7-day dairies and interviews collected from my older cousin – Tim Tran. Dairy-recording method was selected due to its advantages explained by Louise Corti (1993, p. 1). Initially, records of all the media used were conducted from 29th March to 4th April. He was required to note the time of the usage, context of use (i.e. what shows are watched or sites visited), mean of communication, and reasons to choose a type of media. The diaries were used to discover the central patterns in media use of the object. In the second phase, depth and narrative interviews with semi-structure style were conducted. Face-to-face depth-interview looked for the object’s opinion on current topic (Weerakkody 2009, p.178). The objective was to investigate how the object values the importance of networking and mobile phones and his awareness of currently issues such as privacy, the shift in media’s power and the blurred boundaries between private and public. Narrative interviews were used to collect personal stories about the changes in media’s life cycle. Interviews with semi-structure style offer a flexible interview’s process. According to Weerakkody (2009, p.167), depending on the responder’s situation, structures and orders of open-ended questions which are prepared by the researcher can be varied. New questions can also be added. This style carries perspectives of interviewer and interviewee, so thus is preferred.
II.2. Network and Media
In this globalisation’s century, ‘networking’ has gained importance in people’s daily routines. Fritjof Capra (2002, p.9) stated that networks represent the basic pattern of life. Users become dependent on networks and spend hours connecting to others via networking tools. According to Castells (2005, p.3), people are connected together without the central body or hierarchy in “network society”. Everyone has equal access to the network, and communications occur on direct bases. Examples of Facebook and Twitter incorporate the above ideas that there is no centre as they exist virtually, with millions of interconnecting nodes of users. The concept of ‘network’ has expanded from their original function of connecting people to controlling members’ mass media engagement. Online news and TV programs are widely available on the associated network to be downloaded and watched at any time. Teraso Rizzo (2007) argues that the personal digital recorders such as Foxtel IQ and Tivo control the flow of broadcasting sequence. Users now hold the ability to create their own sequence of flows through networks and playlists.
The concept of controlling out networks leads to a shift from broadcasting model to network model. Axel Bruns (2008, p.3) concluded that this is because broadcast networks is separated from the Internet networks, and do not provide network neutrality. Evidently, nature of broadcast model that is influenced by corporate and institutions has moved to more user-personalised networks that can be shared mostly for free by unlimited amount of individuals regardless of time and location. In the age of content disintermediation, the monopolistic power that certain TV broadcasters and newspapers previously enjoyed has passed (Dumenco 2010). They now need to reorganize some of their businesses online and place emphasis on other online aspects of their information services (Nightengale & Virgina 2007, p.149). This is evident by the expansion of TV channels’ and newspapers’ online networks such as Yahoo!7, Nine MSN, SMH on Twitter etc. Nevertheless, this transformation network model should not be perceived as a threat to traditional model (Even and Wurster 2000, p. 39 – 44). Lester and Huchins (2009, p. 580) analyse the use of internet by environment reporters, and confirm that “environmental groups are using the internet to reaffirms the historical and cultural dominance of print and electronic news media, as opposed to forging new models of media power embedded within the specific networking capacity of the internet and web”. This transformation is rather an ‘enhancement’ process of traditional media in responding to the challenge of internalisation (Nightingale and Dwyer, 2006).
II.3. Mobility and The boundary of public & private
In a globalising world, mediating activities can be carried everywhere through mobile devices (McIlvenny et al. 2008, p. 1879). People have the ability to connect and coordinate activities at a distance in new ways. Mobility has changed many social interactions. Mobile phones permit public conversations to be taken at private places and private conversations to be discussed publicly. Consequently, the territories between public and private are blurred out. Ito’s research (2005, p. 137) on mobile phone use by Japanese’s teen girls claims that the phone helps to overcome the boundary of the home. Kirsten Drotner (2005, p.55) agrees that the phone is an instrument of social coordination and interaction beyond the boundaries of the home since it is embedded individual ownership and priority of use. Alternatively, the story told by Scheloff (2002, p. 285 – 5) about the woman’s mobile phone conversation on the train illustrates how public places are interfered by private lives. The story highlights that a woman is in the ‘public’ setting of the ‘train carriage’, and having a ‘private’ talk (Moores 2004, p.30). She is extending her private space into the shared space. The private conversations concerned the public places and public performances (e.g. sms to vote for a candidate of Australian Idol) conducted in the privacy of the home are examples of how mediating activities through mobile phones should serve to question the notions of what is considered as public and private space (Drotner 2005, p.55). People unconsciously violate their boundaries through mobile phone conversations that can be exchanged anywhere.
III. Findings and discussions
III.1. Network and its debates
With rapid expansions of online forum networks and fast internet connections, television programs can be easily downloaded than ever before. TV shows in different countries are uploaded and shared on the network almost instantly after they finish. Network models eliminate the time lags between two episodes to be shown. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Tim.
Why did you decide to watch downloaded TV series instead of watching them from TV?
“Normally Australian TV series are one week behind the US, so downloading allows me to watch my favourite series as soon as they come out. I can also forward and reverse during watching.”
The idea of timeless time in network model is illustrated. With the ability watch TV prior than the scheduled time, the flow of time is violated (Rizzo 2007, p.125). There is no longer a sequence of time. Viewers do not need to be on time to watch TV shows, and can reverse or forward any part of the program. They enjoy this benefit of the network model. Thus to satisfy this demand, normal broadcasting model has gradually shifted to network model. My interview with Tim proves for this idea.
What changes have you noticed in your ‘TV watching’ experience since you started downloading them?
“I start to be impatient with advertising when watching normal TV. Now, I only watch news on TV, and download other programs from social forums.”
The producers must bear the costs associated with downloading TV programs. Privacy issues have called many attentions recently. The content problem reflects the difference in funding models between the Internet and traditional media. Revenue of broadcast is from the sale of audiences to advertisers. Internet forum’s revenue depends on their ability to attract visitors. Because internet users are generally not willing pay for something they can access for free, file-sharing sites might not concern about privacy as much as increasing the number of visits. ‘Downloaders’ may unconsciously breach copyright, censorship law or other content regulation (Nightengale & Dowyer 2007, p.27). This issue is realised in an interview.
Are you downloading them from the TV channel official website or other social forums? Why?
“I use social forums to download TV series because it is free. Also contents that provided by official websites are embedded with advertising for downloading them.”
Do you concern about privacy issues when downloading from social forums?
“Copyright should be the responsibility of the forum’s administrator to decide whether or not to disclose the materials publicly. If materials are freely downloadable, there should be no concern about copyright. Else, they would have charged some costs for it.”
If you are charged for downloading, will you be happy to pay?
“Not for things can be watched freely on TV next week.”
Since networking also bears number of unresolved issues, the network model is still perceived as a supplement for traditional model at current time. In the future, the transformation from traditional broadcasting model to network model would be implemented with tighter copyright regulations to avoid such disputes.
III.2. Mobility and new social practices
Mobile phones’ conversations have blurred out the territory between private and public. The notion of public place is challenged. It is no longer a place where people come and share voices together. It becomes a ‘transitional’ space where people use to carry on their private lives. Public places are ‘polluted’ with conversations between one person and an electronic device. Overhearing is no longer intentional, but rather unavoidable and sometimes annoying the listener when one’s privacy is voluntarily brought in a shared place. When was asked, Tim seemingly agreed with this problem.
Do you feel annoyed when people talking on the phone in public places?
“Yes, especially after a long-working day and someone behind or next to you keep mumbling a foreign language.”
Do you overhear phone conversations?
“It’s unavoidable if someone talks so loud in public places. I sometimes really didn’t want to, but was forced to do so.”
To solve these problems, Ito (2005, p.142) gives one example of the Japanese Youth texting to ask permissions before giving a call. In addition, covering mouth, rejecting coming calls or shortening conversations are other examples. Abstract below is how Tim mobile phones use’s practices in public places.
Do you feel comfortable when talking with your partner in public places?
“Not as much as if I am at home. I especially don’t talk about sensitive matters while I am at crowding places. The conversations are usually short and focusing on necessary matters.”
Do you worry that someone else will be overhearing your conversations?
“Yes. Although I sometimes speak in my language, I usually cover my mouth or talk softly to reduce my volume. I do not only concern that people will overhear me but also to less interfere other people.”
Finally, the use of mobile phones has naturally implied a set of behaviours that are expected to follow in public places. More rules would be implemented in the future to reduce the ‘pollutions’ of private conversations in public places
This chapter has studied the impact of social networking on media industry. There is likely to be a transformation from broadcast model to network model in mediating information. However, privacy issues should be given great considerations to protect both media producers and consumers. Secondly, the chapter also researches of how mobile phones influence the boundaries between private and public. It is concluded that while these boundaries are blurred out, new social practices will be implied to ensure that there will be no conflicts in the merger between public and private places.
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