For Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26 year old Tunisian street vendor, the 17 December 2010 started like any other day. Bouazizi, who was unemployed like many others in the country, was selling fruits and vegetables on a cart in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid. Suddenly, the government authorities confiscated his wares and allegedly slapped him on the face.
Bouazizi later set himself alight in a suicidal act and fanned the flames of what today is called the ‘Arab Spring.’ His act sparked revolution against corrupt and authoritarian governments across the Middle East and many African nations.
The whole world witnessed the uprising online. The Internet acted as a primary catalyst for the Arab Spring to spread across the globe.
The use of communication tools, particularly the social media, was widely credited as the mobilizer of protests. Articles, videos and blogs about the revolution were spread like a wildfire across the web and made people aware of the uprising.
Demonstrations in the Arab world and many other nations, including India and the US, seem to have been ignited by ‘the power of common man’, but the influence of the Internet and other new modes of communication is undeniable.
Today, massive technological development over the past decade has created new platforms that allow dissemination of information in diverse, accessible and more effective manner. The ability of almost anybody to set up a website and start publishing or broadcasting content has brought fundamental changes in the media. Today, most technologies described as ‘new media’ are digital, often having characteristics of being easily accessible, compressible, interactive and impartial.
Presently, new media has become the world’s largest interconnected environment and the most effective tool of communication across the globe.
The melding together of different new media platforms, like mobile communication, social networking sites, electronic publishing, is effectively transforming the society to achieve not only mere development, but sustainable development. This convergence of new media has practically eliminated the barriers of time and space and has been proved fruitful in mobilizing the people towards achieving national development objectives. It is seen as a powerful tool to bring positive change and promote economic and social development around the world.
The new media includes social networks like Facebook, Google Plus, microblogging platform Twitter, business social networking site LinkedIn, content sharing service Pinterest, video sharing site YouTube. Such sites allow users to create profiles or personal homepages. The profile page created is like the users’ personalized webpage that includes information like gender, religion, interests, place of birth, hobbies, etc.
New media also includes electronic publishing in which the information is created and disseminated digitally. For example, e-books, digital magazines etc. Another important part of new media is Community Radio, a radio service that broadcast content that is popular and relevant to a local, specific audience. It provides a space for people to voice their concerns, and is an effective tool for social development.
The new buzz in the world of communication is ‘Infographics’, the graphic visual representations of information or data. Infographics present complex information in a simple, quick and clear manner. According to a study, a well made infographic is 30 times more likely to be read than a text article.
Like any other field, new media also demands three basic and important ingredients:
The knowledge that one possesses from an academic environment is the basic asset. A person must have good knowledge of the development issues he/she wants to communicate, and also excellent knowledge of the communication tool that is to be used to spread the message.
Knowledge, however, is not enough. One must have complementary skills depending on professional requirements. A person should be able to determine the correct audience for a successful communication intervention. Apart from this one needs good writing skills, a creative bend of mind, and great technical and interpersonal skills.
Always remember, the knowledge that you have and the skills you will gain will be governed by the kind of attitude you carry. The result of whatever you do will always depends on how positive your attitude is.
Above all, a person working in the field of development must be sensitized towards key development issues. One can empathize with the target audience only if he/she has deep understanding of the issues.
New Media in the development sector is an upcoming and well paying career option that aims to accelerate the process of development via technology.