While reading these three essays and remembering the film The Corporation, I couldn’t help but notice this singular theme of communication which permeates them. At first, it isn’t particularly clear how Nail’s essay on the Occupy Wall Street movement and The Corporation have communication as one of their central themes. Postman’s essay, “Media as Epistemology”, and McLuhan’s, “Reversal of the Overheated Medium”, make much clearer connections regarding communication’s role in modern society.
I’ll go through my analysis regarding communication linearly as I read them. One of the central aspects of Nail’s essay is horizontalism; he states, “A popular assembly is a group of very different people who gather together in order to discuss the shared concerns by which they are all effected.” Nail is stating, horizontalism allows for egalitarian access to information and participation in decision making. This information is to be passed across, the “bridge” as he states, to different groups where ideological, political, socio-economic, regional, or ethnic differences are both irrelevant and embraced. This irrelevancy of the groups’ differences allows for the pursuit of common goals, which are formed by each group’s acceptance of a compromise; however, these differences allows for stronger bonds as each group can contribute ideas and resources, which the other groups are ignorant of or lack altogether.
Nail’s article is more concerned with the structure of horizontalism and its dynamics; he doesn’t go into the details of group communication. However, this is where Postman’s and McLauhn’s articles share a connection. Postman’s article is only focused on communication. He is concerned with how the truth or validity of information is assessed, and how has it changed through time. His salient point is TV’s programming is proliferated with junk and “… most dangerous when its aspirations are high, when it presents itself as a carrier of important cultural conversations.” I would argue, television has been replaced by social media in the 21st century, and Postman’s arguments are even more profoundly applicable today. The best way to reach the millennial generation is through mobility apps and social media marketing. (Entrepreneur.com)
Postman continues with how society accepts what is true changes over time. In the 21st century, social media and mobility have replaced traditional print and TV. Millennials now accept this new media type for their facts and truths. Postman would argue most of what is found on these platforms is junk; however, he would also say “… its emotional power is so great that it could arouse sentiment against the Vietnam War or against more virulent forms of racism.” This statement referred to televisions but is more potently applicable to social media. The connection can now be made between Postman’s and Nail’s article: Nail states, “The second dimension of the Encuentro proposed by Zapatistas is the creation of an alternative media network for the coordination (weaving) of concrete words and actions around the world.” Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media outlets fit Encuentro’s proposal perfectly. Social media allows for decentralized communication and dissemination of information; anyone can create a blog post, tweet, or Facebook page which could be read by millions.
But this change in media communication is the same sort of reversal which McLauhn explains in his article, “Reversal of the Overheated Medium”. Prior to social media, all news outlets were either of traditional print or TV formats. These formats are conducive to a hierarchical structure, where information is cultivated and disseminated by a select few. This is primarily due to the cost of running a TV station or printing large amounts of paper. This cost is what allows neoliberal capitalists to fund these media formats and control, or heavily influence, the media’s content. For example, corporations have used psychologist to craft traditional media messages to sell more products and create larger profits, as seen in The Corporation. This type of behavior is also an example of the “… intellectual(s) holding the whip hand in society.” (McLaughn) With social media, the cost is still borne by large corporations through advertisement, but the content is created and consumed by individuals. This shift in content-creation, from the select few to the many, gives an individual a voice and power which never existed before in human history. This shift allowed the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Arab Spring to flourish despite large commercial interests or neo-capitalists with opposing interest.
Social media and horizontalism give ordinary people the power to fight neoliberals; McLauhn would call this a break point.