From social to socialist media

The title is a chapter in a new book by Juha Suoranta & Tere Vadén. Here is an introdcution of the book from the blog of the book, where you can also download the full book:

WIKIWORLD – Political Economy and the Promise of Participatory Media

In the digital world of learning there is a progressive transformation from the institutionalized and individualized forms of learning to open learning and collaboration. The book provides a critical view on the use of new technologies and learning practices in furthering socially just futures, while at the same time paying critical attention to the constants, or “unmoved movers” of the information society development; the West and Capitalism. The essential issue in the Wikiworld is one of freedom – levels and kinds of freedom. Our message is clear: we write for the radical openness of education for all.

Now for about two days I have been reading, browsing and making searches to the book. The book offers a valuable historical and political framework to approach and think about the future of learning, education and media. The book has two faces. It is philosophical, humanistic and educational scholarly work but also an advocacy. This is the books strength but also its weakness.

I especially like the scholarly parts. They are enlightening many great ideas from earlier works to the discussion about media and education in the digital era. I do not have anything against advocacy, either, but I do not agree with everything the authors have to say. A real problem of advocacy can be, that in the eyes of many people the actual argument will loose its credibility. I also think that this is not only a rhetorical thing as the argument “we should make the world more faire place” (not a quotation from the book) is easy to do without getting pompous.

For instance, the discussion about “socialist media” is for me a bit confusing part. I can’t help to think – and I am afraid this is the way how most people will interpret it – that in practice it would mean that “media services” would primary be provided by some state monopoly. I don’t think that the problems related to this are solved, even if the “socialist media” is just a platform for people to do media. I understand the idea of considering free media more an infrastructure than for-profit business, but I also see that sometimes independent organizations are much more efficient to build and provide infrastructure than any governments. In a global scale a good example is to compare what the Wikimedia community – with the non-governmental, non-profit organization (Wikimedia Foundation) supporting the community – is able to do when compared to, let say international governmental organizations with the same vision. One of the Wikimedia’s good practices is to work hard to avoid overhead and focus on the actual task. For some reason this is very difficult for many governmental organizations. I don’t know why, but it seems to be the case especially in large governmental organizations.

I believe much more on a model where people simply take an ownership to provide services to meet their and their peers’ needs. This results as cooperatives and small businesses, which may then even become big businesses. I guess in Finnish one could say that I am “osuuskauppaväkeä”. 🙂 Monopolies are bad, whatever by corporations or states. Ok – enough – now this all starts to be more politics than what is the idea of this blog.

Another issue, which I found a bit disturbing in the book, is the simplified presentation of the world as divided to “South” and “North”. It is not that simple. Actually this is a myth which anybody may observer not to be true everywhere in the world (in South and North). This is the case especially in place with high density of population, like in large cities. The “South” and “North” is present everywhere, though more visible in some places than others.

For instance back in Finland, from foreign visitors I often hear the questions how come there are so many homeless people in the neighborhood I live in the center of Helsinki. Their image of the (socialist) Finland (scandinavia, nordic countries) has often been very different. My simple answer to the question is that we have failed, and unfortunately do not even try very hard anymore. The issue is simply not very high in the political agenda. On the other-hand I think my neighborhood is a great place to raise your children – exactly because of the homeless people. The facts of the world are visible. Also my daughter still wants to be a medical doctor even if visiting the local health care center can sometime be a smelly and a bit unpleasant experience. I hope that she will not fail to repeat the myths the Swedish medical students believed to be true. If you want to know more about this, please check the great talk by Hans Rosling: Debunking third-world myths with the best stats you’ve ever seen.

Finally, I hope – actually I am not afraid at all that this would not be the case – that all the wiki editors and users, for whom the book is dedicated, will keep things simple and focus on to do what they want to do:

Write the world largest and best encyclopedia in all the languages of the world (Wikipedia), create the world best dictionary in all the languages of the world (Wikitionary), provide alternative news service (Wikinews), free study and text books (Wikibooks), free media flies (Wikimedia Commons), directory of the world species (Wikispecies) and alterative opportunities for people to study (Wikiversity) and so on ,and so on (all the Wikia and other wiki sites in the world). These all are just right steps to the more fair world: “Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.”

Is this then “socialist media”? – I don’t really care.

Our message is clear: we write for the radical openness of education for all.

Read the book!

2 thoughts on “From social to socialist media

  1. An interesting review which steers me towards the book while at the same time letting me know some possible weaker points in the arguments. What impressed me most actually was your final paragraph bringing together the vaious Wiki foundation projects. I'll be reusing that section, with attribution of course!


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