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“Digitalisation Has Shaped And Will Continue To Shape This Convergence,” Five Years That Transformed The Way India Communicates

At the same time, projecting the scenario of the future "would be entering unchartered territory" but "three codundrums emerge clearly at the present moment".

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The difference between that "churn" and the contemporary scene today "is that the very pace of the change has exponentially accelerated as digital pathways allow global capital to access markets across the world more efficiently than ever. Pixabay

When Anna Hazare launched his India Against Corruption (IAC) in 2011, little did he realise the media convergence – some term it media disruption – the movement would cause over the next five years, unleashing a “spiral of mediatisation with its ever-widening gyres” that has forever changed the manner in which the country’s citizens and media outlets look at what constitutes news and its delivery.

“When hundreds and thousands of demonstrators converge at a particular spot in real time through Facebook posts and live television coverage; when newspapers get their leads from tweets put out by demonstrators ring-fenced by police; and when an election campaign speech at a rally in rural Madhya Pradesh reaches multiple audiences through WhatsApp, we are talking about radical transformations in the way converged media content is being transmitted, received, negotiated and acted upon in India,” journalist-author Pamela Philipose says in her new book.

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“Non-human processes will raise the speeds at which news/information is generated and it will be tailored to the needs and proclivities of discrete audiences and delivered to them with an unimaginable efficiency,” the author notes. Piixabay

“Digitalisation has shaped and will continue to shape this convergence,” Philipose writes in “Media’s Shifting Terrain – Five Years that Transformed the Way India Communicates” (Orient Blackswann/pp 302), covering the period from the launch of the IAC, through the Nirbhaya gang-rape of 2012, the arrival of the AAP and its brief stint in power in 2013, the rise of the BJP and Narendra Modi in 2014, and the AAP returning to power with an overwhelming majority in 2015.

A quarter century ago, the nature of media content was “fundamentally changed” by the 24×7 TV news cycle. The difference between that “churn” and the contemporary scene today “is that the very pace of the change has exponentially accelerated as digital pathways allow global capital to access markets across the world more efficiently than ever” Philipose notes.

Thus, the data gleaned from users will go to fuel the next wave of the information revolution through artificial intelligence (AI), bring about an era when large tech companies launch products “not for the revenue they bring through the content they circulate but through the data generated through such circulation of content, which can then be monetised through other products driven by AI”. Philipose writes.

“Non-human processes will raise the speeds at which news/information is generated and it will be tailored to the needs and proclivities of discrete audiences and delivered to them with an unimaginable efficiency,” the author notes.

So, if journalism underwent a “complete overhaul” with the age of satellite television, “media functioning in the digital age is undergoing multiple, shape-shifting disruptions, all of them occurring simultaneously along different axes”, the book points out.

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Hundreds and thousands of demonstrators converge at a particular spot in real time through Facebook posts and live television coverage. VOA

At the same time, projecting the scenario of the future “would be entering unchartered territory” but “three codundrums emerge clearly at the present moment”.

The first is the “asymmetrical nature” of access “largely because it is easier to achieve technological inclusion than social inclusion”.

The second conumdrum is that being digital have-nots “does not protect people from the dangers of the internet world, like privacy violations and digital disinformation or fake news”.

The third conundrum “is the drive for the control of audiences by a range of actors through various technological devices and strategies”.

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To this extent, Philipose writes, the electoral triumphs of a politician like Narendra Modi, not only in the 2014 general elction but also in a series of subsequent state elections, “were crucially hinged on the creation of hyper-partisanship through the most sophisticated use of media platforms and technologies that the country had ever seen”.

The impact of this “far outlived” the elections themselves, “with the consequent polarisation permiating Indian society and politics, and teams of ‘influencers’ set up for elections continuing to influence the political discourse through interventions like trolling and the coordinated generation of fake news”, the book concludes. (IANS)

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2019 Was a Year of Climate Change Activism

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Hungary Climate Protest
Following the call of Fridays For Future Hungary and Extinction Rebellion Hungary young environmentalists demonstrate to demand measures against climate change in Budapest, Hungary. VOA

By Jamie Dettmer

2019 was the year of Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion and an uptick in climate action pledges by governments across the globe.

From Britain to Germany, Europe’s mainstream party leaders scrambled to respond to a surge in electoral support for Green parties — and to growing public anxiety about the possible impact of climate change.

During European Parliament elections in June, 48 percent of voters identified climate change as their top worry. Opinion polls in Germany for some weeks of 2019 put the Greens ahead of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s storied Christian Democratic Party, which, along with its junior partner in the country’s governing coalition, has been racing to sharpen climate policies.

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15-year-old Swedish girl Greta Thunberg holds a placard reading “School strike for the climate” during a manifestation against climate change outside the Swedish parliament in Stockholm, Sweden. VOA

British move

In Britain, the ruling Conservatives announced a hugely ambitious carbon reduction plan, enshrining into law a pledge to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, making Britain the first major economy to do so. Some smaller countries, including Finland and Norway, are earmarking dates earlier than 2050 to become net-zero greenhouse gas producers, but so far have not made their goals legally binding.

In America, an alliance of 24 states and Puerto Rico promised to uphold the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate action, despite the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the international pact.

Shouldn’t all these plans and pledges be music to ears of climate action activists and scientists?

Apparently not. On the eve of Christmas, Thunberg tweeted: “I hear many say 2019 was the year when the public woke up to the climate crisis. This is a misconception. A small but rapidly growing number of people have started to wake up to the climate crisis. This has only just begun. We’re still only scratching the surface.”

For Thunberg, her guardians and loyalists, change can’t come fast enough, however wrenching and dislocating it might be. Governments aren’t doing enough and are failing to count their emissions accurately, they complain, and corporations are dragging their feet.

For activists, December’s Madrid climate change conference epitomized the foot-dragging and a failure to be truly aspirational in cutting emissions. For Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion activists in Britain and Australia, the key task for the Madrid gathering was to unveil ambitious new goals — and fossil-fuel-dependent countries, notably Brazil and Australia, flunked it, they say.

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The COP 25 conference center is seen in Madrid. VOA

Rich vs. poor

The rift between wealthy, developed nations and poorer, developing nations over who is going to pay for reducing greenhouse gas emissions also remained as wide as ever. And governments in Madrid stalled on agreeing on new regulations for carbon markets and the trading of carbon permits between countries for the offsetting of emissions, one of the most critical and contentious issues at the climate change conference.

“In Madrid, the key polluting countries responsible for 80 percent of the world’s climate-wrecking emissions stood mute, while smaller countries announced they’ll work to drive down harmful emissions in the coming year,” said Jake Schmidt of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a U.S.-based climate action advocacy group. “World leaders dithered instead of taking stronger, critical action soon to reduce the global climate threat. They ignored dire scientific reports, worsening evidence of climate destruction and demands from millions of young people to protect their future.”

For others, though, the Madrid conference symbolized how politically complicated it will be to deliver climate action — a complexity activists ignore and glide over, some analysts warn. The venue for the conference itself spoke to that. The meeting was scheduled to be held in Chile, but it had to be switched to Spain because of riots in the Latin American country over a “Green” hike in transit fares.

And it wasn’t only in Chile that protesters were taking to the streets to complain about expensive Green policies that could make living standards plunge. In France, the Yellow Vests, drawn mainly from small towns, persisted with their demonstrations against the government of French President Emmanuel Macron, an agitation triggered initially by the imposition of higher eco-taxes on fuel.

The year 2019 also saw strong resistance in Germany from motorists, as a well as automakers, to planned higher fuel prices and an abrupt shift to electric cars — yet another front in a political backlash to climate action.

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Smoke rises from chimneys of the Turow power plant located by the Turow lignite coal mine near the town of Bogatynia, Poland. VOA

Tricky politics

For governments, even environmentally friendly ones, climate change poses a massive political dilemma, and 2019 brought that home. Impose the tax hikes and costly regulations scientists say are needed to lower emissions and move economies away from dependency on fossil fuels, and governments risk prompting a backlash, largely from lower-income workers and pensioners, who can ill afford to bear the expense.

The alternative is to move slowly and risk blowback from climate action activists and their supporters among largely middle class and higher-income groups able to adapt with less hardship. Squaring the circle between those who demand fast-track climate-friendly measures and those who want to slow down and mitigate the impact of moving toward a low-carbon future isn’t going to be easy, say analysts.

In Europe, Central European governments sense the acute political danger to them and have been resisting a European Union plan to join Britain in earmarking 2050 as the year the bloc has to be “net zero.”

Poland has been especially vociferous in opposition. The country is heavily dependent on coal for its energy needs and more than a quarter-million Polish jobs are tied to the fossil fuel industry. Without coal, many towns in Poland will have no economic raison d’être. “You can’t expect Poland to leap to zero carbon in 30 years,” according to Marchin Nowak, a coal industry executive.

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While smaller developing countries fret that they will bear too much of the burden of climate action compared with richer nations, so, too, do those who already feel left behind in developed countries, fearing the costs and benefits of climate action will be unfairly placed on their shoulders. 2019 saw the opening salvos in this new political war over environmentalism. (VOA)