Constructing truths in the public sphere

With the growth of new media forms our mediascape has gradually shifted. We are no longer forced to rely on traditional journalistic mediums to tell us what is happening in the world around us. Indeed Dan Berkowitz in his article Journalism in the Broader Cultural Mediascape notes that ‘journalism no longer dominates the mediascape as the source for helping a society learn about itself. Instead, journalism has become part of a holistic mix of media elements that intentionally or unintentionally provide people with varied glimpses of the world around them’. (Berkowitz, 2009)

What is left is the ability for citizens to construct our own truths in the public sphere. How people choose to represent society in the media sphere, one that is not regulated or mediated in the traditional sense, can challenge who we think we are a nation, and the values that we uphold. Take for example the 2013 social media uproar surrounding a video posted on the internet of Jamie Jackson, an 18 year old partygoer, as he was assaulted by a NSW police officer at the Sydney Mardi Gras. Footage of the events revealed police handcuffing Jackson, gripping his neck in a lock-hold, slamming his head against the ground and stepping on his back, sparking a flood of outrage against NSW Police.In the footage, Mr Jackson is seen crying and repeating that he “didn’t do anything wrong”. Another woman is overheard: “They just slammed his head. There’s blood all over the ground.” The video, which went global after it was uploaded, has since been viewed almost 2 million times.

Why is it that this video shocked Australians so much? Presented to us without any context, the small clip affronts us as it subverts everything we are taught to know and respect of our police force, thus challenging social norms in the public sphere.

The dangers of this kind of citizen journalism is this lack of context and gatekeepers that, albeit sometimes bias, filter illegitimate stories in our traditional media forms. In a court hearing last September police alleged Jackson kicked a female partygoer before punching and kicking several officers, a arguably vital element of this story that was unavailable to viewers of the clip in the first instance.

The rational discussion in particular public spaces described as ‘characterising the public sphere’ is now being supplemented by a range of artistic, emotive and other ways of moving these ideas around in the media and in discussions which has important consequential effects on the way we effect change in our society.

References

Berkowitz, D. 2009, “Journalism in the broader cultural mediascape”, Journalism, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 290-292.

YouTube. 2014. SYDNEY MARDI GRAS 2013 | POLICE BRUTALITY. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxtFtVfAeeE&feature=player_embedded [Accessed: 26 Mar 2014].

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