The movements that began with the demonstrations of the 15th of May 2011 in Spain, known under the name of Spanish Revolution, represent a sociological phenomenon worthy of study. The dissemination of information is a necessity for any movement, and this is especially true for the “indignados” of the 15M, that make use primarily of the social networks to express their proclamations. In this post, I’m going to talk about the way in which the movement of the 15M disseminates information, and to what extent we can consiederar as relevant such information.How to diffuse the political ideologies in our modern societies? How do you get politicians to gain the confidence of the electors? In a previous post, I already mentioned the work of Communication and Power, in which the sociologist Manuel Castells tries to answer these questions. For the purpose of this post, it is worth recalling the key ideas of Castells.
In the Information Society, networks are a structural factor fundamental. With the term “networks” refers to the existence of a series of nodes connected between them. These nodes may be individuals, but not necessarily: there may also be groups of individuals (organizations or institutions, and even countries). The nodes are connected to each other on the basis of a shared interest. But for this connection to take place, before to create the network. And this role of creating the network is performed, according to Castells, the so-called programmers. The programmers, as the nodes may be individuals, but not necessarily (since, as in the case of the nodes, they can be groups of individuals).
The function of the schedulers is to assign a comentido to the network, a purpose is determined, in function of which the nodes are added to the network, by connecting between them. But networks can also connect with other networks, to share some of their nodes: these nodes are referred to by Castells connectors. These nodes are shared between networks are based on the existence of common interests: we recall that the nodes are people / groups united for the attainment of some interests / goals.
According to Castells, modern politics has the base of its activity in the programming and connection of networks: thanks to the programming, the networks set some priorities in their activity, while thanks to the connection, different networks can join these networks of political content to achieve common objectives.
But, what type of networks are connected? And how do you get a network with a programming policy, its objectives? To answer the second question before moving on to the first.
Communication is a ubiquitous phenomenon in our societies. And the study of Castells tells us that it is precisely through the control of the communication and the political networks can develop their objectives. But we’re not talking about a persuasive communication, where the intentions of the developers of the network are clear and transparent to the public, but of a communication based on the manipulation. Specifically, the basis of the manipulation is the process of framing (framing), which results in the predisposition of the public to believe in certain arguments by appealing to their emotions more basic (such as anger or hope). Hence, communication is Power, understanding “power” as the ability to impose our will over the will of others.
Bearing in mind how to get the political networks to deploy its purpose, it is simpler to identify the networks that are connected with these: big telecommunications corporationsthat provide the infrastructure necessary to spread the mensahjes, and large business corporations, which provide the financial means for the financing of the activity of the networks. Of course, both the telecommunications corporations as the business they have something to gain when you make the connection: privileges political, treatment, direct economic benefits,…
I mentioned before that communication is ubiquitous in the modern world. And this is why we speak of “global mind” is no exaggeration: the concept of the global mind refers to the ability of individuals of different cultures, regions, areas,…, thanks to the influx of the communication and the task of programmers / connectors, they may share certain visions representations on what that is the world. These shared representations are the product of a self-serving manipulation of information, is a series threat to the freedom of action and to the self interests of the individuals.
What can do the social groups to minimize the power networks officers can exert over the citizens?: create new networks, and to use communication to spread their messages and thus, according to the expression of Castells, reprogram the power networks. In this sense, the “spanish revolution” represents a perfect example of a social movement contrary to the official policy that has used the creation of networks, and communication, to spread their message among the citizenry.
In this way, we can say that the spanish revolution has represented the expression of an attempt to modify the representations of the global mind, investing the message of the official social media, through the dissemination of information that is intended to not be subjected to the manipulation of the telecommunications corporations.
But, to what extent we can say that the supporters of the movement really offer reliable information, not biased? This debate involves a disputed fund which is more general. The traditional media have always presented as an endorsement of your work informative the filters to that, we say, undergo the information before you disseminate it among the citizens. And these filters, we often say, are not present in communication spaces such as the blogosphere, where each user can give his opinion regardless of the stringency of this. So, to what extent should we trust the other as a source of information?
The discipline in charge of studying the conditions under which social interactions allow us to acquire knowledge is called epistemology social. And one of its most prominent members is the philosopher Alvin I. Goldman, who is precisely in a work addressed the question about the reliability of the blogosphere as a source of information.
According to Goldman, it is not possible to associate in a straightforward manner to a system, institution or mechanism with a propensity unequivocal to generate a certain level of knowledge. And is that the level of knowledge that is able to generate such a system, institution,… will largely depend on the inputs that are provided. As inputs, Goldman understood as patterns of mental states of users. And according to Goldman, one of these inputs typical is the motivation of the users.
Goldman provides us with an example applied to the blogosphere: the information policy. Political polarization makes the supporters of the different parties want to discredit the opposition party. This, in turn, can make different citizens feel particularly motivated to gather evidence about the facts, giving them to know in the blogosphere: the spread of these evidences, it can contribute to increase the level of knowledge of the audience. As it reminds us of Goldman, despite its alleged filters, in the traditional media, we don’t need to find those motivations: the media are businesses, with a marked economic interest, and related (as shows the analysis of Castells) in networks of power, with objectives very marked (one might object to this idea, the existence of “investigative journalism”: let us remember, however, that such journalism tends to be an ideal means to discredit political opponents, rather than a means to provide knowledge).
The relationship of the considerations of Goldman with the spanish revolution is clear: the motivation of the citizenry to reprogram the networks of power can act as a factor that increases the reliability of the information that individuals disseminated through the Internet.
Clear that there is nothing to guarantee in an absolute way that this information is reliable. It is for this reason that we can not give up the critical thinking and careful evaluation of our sources of information
I leave you with some questions: what do you think about the opinions of Goldman on the blogosphere?; are you aware of the effect that your motivations have on you at the time of the dissemination of information?