Monday, July 18, 2011

Proletarianization, News of the World - political economy

Proletarianization insists on analysis of the formation of new social relations due to digital communications. As an unregulated space, the internet is the game changer as News International is discovering.

The UK House of Commons hearings of Rupert and James Murdoch and Rebecca Brooks will come and go - watch for the appeals to Enlightenment values. West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller is quoted (July 13, 2011) as saying that News Corp's "reported hacking" is "a serious breach of journalistic ethics."  The Foreign Corporate Practices Act has been invoked by New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, because a US based company, such as News Corporation cannot bribe foreign officials.

Are these analog values? We see pre-internet and post- internet values such as dignity, "the right thing," collective interests, compassion, civility clash with prurience, privacy, individualism, narcissism, aggression. All of these values already exist, but in the internet context they have newly independent power to circulate without regulation.  The clash is more intense. Who or what mediates the values in circulation on the internet?  (What happens to "journalistic ethics" as a category? In fact, isn't it better to reveal wrong doing -however that is now defined - using digital means?)

Answers to these questions have answers in political economy, defined here as the relationship between social, economic and public policy.

Internet values reflect a massive shift. They unravel the past, making more transparent the present, freed from legal and regulatory structures. The political economy of this change is profound, as proletarianization suggests. The emancipation that the media offers in its association with social and economic opportunity also creates the conditions for the rise of values that are not at once intellectually, socially or historically associated with progressive ideas. Emancipation is a complex thing.

For example, News International's use of digital phone hacking in the unregulated internet space, can be seen as the manifestation of its claim to emancipation from old regulations. This is the political economy of the digital and why it is attractive to business.

Take another example, the cable television industry. This generally unregulated  (not public) space is not constrained by established free to air television regulations. It's a great business because it offers emancipation from the public space of broadcast television and its regulations.

In ever increasing increments - how much a consumer is prepared to pay for cable and any digitally defined content - it is possible to imagine ever increasing levels of emancipation. You pay and in return you get more profanity, more nudity, more violence, more connectivity... Can this be considered a development in emancipation? This is the trajectory of emancipation and it is where proletarianization operates in the digital era. Forget the old analogue values.

News Corporation executives believed they were free of the old analog rules. They believed, apparently mistakenly, that it was permissible to hack into private phone calls and personal records because it was the internet. The unregulated space. Oops! Did the Enlightenment and its values come back to bite them?

For another take on the culture of News Corporation here is a You Tube link sent by Hans Sagan

Uprising: The Internet's Unintended Consequences