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Matthew LoBello November 17, 2013 Communication 30 Professor Littau Technology: Breaking Barriers and Building Democracy Barriers restrict our actions, voices, and freedoms. For so long, barriers of entry such as money and prestige created significant obstacles into the journalism and publishing industries. Due to the social and political impartiality that exists in many large, impactful media outlets, expression of individual voice was difficult, and the ability to induce change was even more challenging. Oftentimes, this neutrality within news corporations created a framework that diluted messages, in turn reducing the impact and influence that was possible. However, that is all changing as a result of technological media sources, which allow citizens to easily connect and come together to broadcast their news and beliefs all around the world. As Clay Shirky illustrates in his book Here Comes Everybody, revolutionary change, which was once limited to large institutions and governments, is now possible for all of us. Through means such as the Internet and social media, collective action and revolution is easier and more influential than ever. Shirky illustrates the emergence of collective action that has resulted from the rise of technological media sources. This has enabled ordinary citizens to share their stories and voices to the rest of the world, something that was previously unattainable. This is evidenced by Shirkys excerpt that comprehensively summarizes his thesis and leads to countless examples such as Ivannas lost cell phone, the incompetence of American Airlines flight 1348, and the rise of Voice of the Faithful. When we change the way we communicate, we change society (pg.

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17). All these movements, and more, that Shirky illustrates would be impossible without the emergence of our current media sources. These technological developments that allow individuals to speak freely have led to large-scale collective action projects like nothing we have ever seen before. This was evidenced by the actions of Kate Hanni, a passenger aboard the American Airlines flight 1348. In the days following the delay, she, along with other proactive passengers, connected via comment pages of an Austin newspaper article. Her efforts spread their cause to a national level and drew attention to the intolerable conditions that were evident during delays. The social tools that were available to Hanni allowed her to make a difference; they have provided a platform for individuals to speak up against powerful corporations that were previously untouchable. These social tools have provided citizens with a voice to say: No longer is it acceptable for corporations to take advantage of their customers and subsequently cover it up. As a result, this shared platform that Shirky mentions ensures accountability and transparency among individuals, firms, and governments alike. Yet, this evolution of our communication has never been more essential than in our global fight for democracy. All over the world, individuals as well as social groups are turning towards technological sources to voice their desire for freedom and democracy against authoritative regimes. The same social tools that are being applied to uncover inefficiency within American corporations are now being used to declare freedom and discourage the rule of authoritative administrations. The documentary Burma VJ directed by Anders Ostergaard shadows video journalists for The Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) in their fight for freedom during the Saffron Revolution. The groups goal is to record the corruption within the Burmese state and publish the footage all around the world. For decades, an authoritative and corrupt government

LoBello has led Burma. The military, which has overseen the state for the better part of the 21st century, has restricted communication within, as well as outside of Burma, in an attempt to maintain the steady stream of propaganda that the citizens receive on a daily basis. Due to the strict rules of the government, these journalists must conceal their video cameras in bags or under their shirts. If they were to get caught, they will be beaten, arrested, and sentenced to life in prison, or worsedeath. These reporters film footage and send it out of the country to Oslo, Norway, where images can be distributed around the world and, for the first time ever, back into Burma.

The citizens had previously generated an uprising in 1988 (known as the 8888 Uprising because it began on August 8, 1988), which gained great momentum until the military-controlled government opened fire on its citizens, resulting in 3,000 casualties. As always, social tools dont create new motivations so much as amplify existing ones (pg. 294). The inspiration for democracy and freedom has always been evident for the Burmese people, but they have struggled to find a medium to express their beliefs. Unlike the 1988 revolution, there are social tools available to the DVB to spread their principles such as the Internet, satellite television, and short-wave radio, which are bringing hundreds of thousands of citizens together for one cause. As Shirky describes, New technology makes new things possible: put another way, when new technology appears, previously impossible things start occurring (pg. 107). This new technology that is evidenced by the DVB is their means of distribution, which were previously unachievable. Recorded information has been exchanged from Burma to the outside world, but for the first time ever, through the DVB, that information can now be sent back into Burma to counteract the influences of the propaganda. This is vital in the fight for democracy because educated individuals, ones who know their predicament, can begin to plan for revolution. This information makes citizens question their authority, and

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doesnt allow them to be held captive to the propaganda. Due to the improved social connection, the previously impossible things, are now possible. Following the brutal beatings and arrests of the Burmese monks, the government imposed strict sanctions on its citizens in an attempt to defuse the revolution. However, that only made the revolution stronger; through the DVB social networks, a rally was scheduled the next day, and against government regulation, people began to assemble and unite for their democracy, something that was unimaginable twenty years earlier. Social tools that have emerged throughout the century have provided citizens all over the world with a voice. The barriers that once restricted ordinary voices have been destroyed, replaced by ones that promote opinion and freedom. Without the DVBs voice in Burma, their cause would be silenced; they would go unnoticed, and consequently forgotten. These social tools that have enhanced our society have created a march towards independence for Burma and a hope for freedom.

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Works Cited Burma VJ. Dir. Anders Ostergaard. HBO Documentary Films, 2008. DVD.