Module 3 – Politics, Public Policy, and Social Media: How We Learn, Live, and UnderstandOur World2. Key ConceptsPublic Policy:‘Public policy’ is the term used to describe laws, funding decisions, and regulations draftedand voted into existence by elected officials. Public money collected through taxes is usedto fund projects, social programs, and enforce regulations. The goals and outcomes ofpublic policy can be influenced by stakeholders (i.e. the voters, businesses, special interestgroups, politicians’ personal interests, etc.), and the decisions are made based on what ismost likely to pass into law with the least amount of backlash from the most importantstakeholder in the process. Public policy is how society is crafted, and our social existenceis predicated on the decisions made by politicians in this way.Spin (revisited):Now that we understand agenda and power, we can revisit the concept of spin discussed inthe last module, and understand how the concept of spin can be applied to the influence ofpolitical agendas on public perception through the media – public who ultimately vote forpolitical parties and push for lobbying support on certain issues. Think back to the lastmodule: how is a particular idea presented? What is the agenda behind it? Now consider thepolitical gains that could be made from the push of a particular agenda: Who benefits?What are the political impacts of a particular law or public policy? What are the economicimpacts? Social impacts? Broaden the scope beyond just the representation of a certainidea in the media, and consider the ways in which a particular idea may impact the socialenvironment, and it will help to analyze the ways in which that idea is initially presented, andspun, in the media. As always, power is a very important concept to carry through all ofthese concepts.Research and Research Institutes:Often, important decisions and the push of a particular agenda through the media will belinked to results from relevant research. However, if we incorporate our understanding of theconcepts of power and agenda, we can once again critically think about how such researchmay be influenced. If a research institute, for example, is funded by a particular interestgroup, such as a major corporation or a conservative public lobbying organization, theresearch developed may be biased to serve the particular agenda of those funding theresearch. Further, consider our previous module on news reporting, and how certain issuesare presented. If statistics or research from the example above are presented on animportant issue in the news, is the whole story accurately represented to the public? Whenresearch is used to push a particular agenda, it’s important to critically examine where theresearch comes from and how it may be influenced and used.
Lobbying refers to the push to influence decision and policy making in government.Lobbying can take the form of groups of concerned citizens such as targeted advocacygroups, local and/or national organizations, and associations/groups of individuals fromcorporations, lawmakers/legislators, or members of private industry. Some professionallobbying organizations also exist, hired on behalf of a corporation or interest group, forexample, to try and influence legislation on behalf of their employer(s). While lobbying isseen on a major scale primarily in the United States, many lobbying groups andorganizations exist in Canada, officially and unofficially, both in the corporate/private andpublic spheres. Lobbyists in Canada are hired representatives who present the ideas anddecisions of groups, businesses, and individuals to government representatives in an effortto influence public policy.Social Media:Social media refers to any technological platform that allows users to connect, share andexchange information through virtual networks. Examples include Facebook, Twitter,Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Reddit, and LinkedIn.
A cell phone screen displaying social media apps.
Photo by Tracy Le Blanc from Pexels
Public & private spheres/Alienation:The age of social media bridges the gap between the public and private spheres, connectingpeople everyday in ways that may not have happened in the not too distant past. The privatesphere, traditionally the part of social life that is separate from the public, often includinghome, family, and intimate relationships, all of which are usually separate from the publicsphere, which includes work, politics, and broader social connections. In the age of socialmedia, any divide between the two is gone, as the private becomes public and our personallives gain as much attention and analysis as social issues and the news. Some scholarshave suggested that the breakdown of social barriers between public and private have bothenhanced social connections, but also created a sense of alienation. This concept is onethat has been explored by many social theorists, including Marx and Durkheim. Alienationgenerally refers to a breakdown of social relationships and connections, leaving one feelingisolated from other individuals in society. Some researchers have argued that regardless ofour many online connections, the decrease in real human interaction may be actuallycreating high levels of alienation among those with constant social media use.
Citizen Journalism and the new age of news reporting:With the rise of the Internet and the explosion of popularity many social media sites haveexperienced, we’ve seen a major increase in citizen journalism and independent reporting ofmajor news events, particularly through sites such as Reddit and Twitter. Now, both citizen
journalists and credible news sources rely heavily on social media to report stories, andgauge public opinion on the issues.
Credibility (revisited):In Module 2, we discussed credibility in news reporting while examining the knowledge innews sources utilizing the propaganda model. Now, we can build on that concept andconsider how we come to apply credibility to those who are reporting the news in this newage of Internet journalism. This concept is two-fold; on one hand, news from what may beconsidered a non-credible source, such as a community member live-tweeting a dangerousevent, may be seen as less than reliable as it does not come from an established newssource. On the other hand, citizen journalism through social media could also be seen as achallenge to established news sources that may not be presenting the whole story.
3. Social Media and an Informed Public“A lie can travel halfway around the world, while the truth is putting on his shoes" -MarkTwain.
The massive increase in social media platforms over the last few years has truly consumedmuch of our current social world. And while they can certainly seem harmless and evenmindless at times, they actually carry just as much power as major media sources, and assuch still carry with them the proponents of the Propaganda Model, and the new reality ofhigh-speed news reporting and information sharing. What does this mean for how we learnabout current events? What effect does this have on us?
Algorithms designed to keep social media users engaged track users’ behaviour and feedthem more content that conforms to their interests. If you like five photos on a chef’sInstagram feed, Instagram will assume you’re interested in food photos, and willrecommend more similar content, as an active and engaged user is necessary to theirplatform. The same is true of news sources on Google. If you consistently click the link to astory from CTV, Google assumes you want to see CTV coverage of news before any othercoverage, making it the first link when you search for a news story. How do you think thisaffects the content that you see? As the platforms learn more about you, they’re able to feedyou more and more specifically targeted content, creating an echo chamber of content andusers with similar opinions and interests to you.
Impact of Rumors and Misinformation on COVID-19 in Social Mediahttps://koreascience.kr/article/JAKO202016151586109.pageInformation Overload Helps Fake News Spread, and Social Media Knows Ithttps://www.scientificamerican.com/article/information-overload-helps-fake-news-spread-and-social-media-knows-it/
Social Media Continues To Amplify White Supremacy And Suppress Anti-Racismhttps://www.forbes.com/sites/janicegassam/2021/01/08/social-media-continues-to-amplify-white-supremacy-and-suppress-anti-racism/?sh=269bf22c4170
4. Featured Videos
Video ReviewEach of the following videos provide different discussions and examples of some of thecontent we have discussed in this module so far regarding the evolution of the news. Aftereach video, reflect on the theoretical discussions we've had so far, and ask yourself: Howhas media affected how you learn about new information, how you think about the storiesyou are told, and how you frame important discussions like public health issues?YouTube videohttps://m.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=55&v=4oPj7hjPNhI&embeds_euri=https%3A%2F%2Furcourses.uregina.ca%2F&source_ve_path=MjM4NTE&feature=emb_title
5. Module 3 Wrap-Up
Module 3 ReflectionThis module builds on the previous modules in helping us to understand yet another aspectof power. Much like the propaganda model developed by Chomsky and Herman, and theexample of news reporting in the previous module, lobbying and corporate influence on the
creation of public policy is one more example of the ways in which our social world is verymuch shaped by the presentation of issues, and how we understand them. If the public isnot made aware of corporate influence on certain agendas, or certain issues are notpresented with all the information in the media, the public may lobby themselves, or trustothers to do so on behalf of them, causing real changes to the laws which govern andsupport our lives. As we go on in this course, understanding power and the many ways inwhich it can manifest in the structures of society (government, media, etc.) will help you tosee the connections in the knowledge we acquire through major structures like the media,and how that knowledge could be greatly influenced in one way or another to serve thepurpose of a particular agenda of power.
Discussion Forum Questions:
Can you think of a recent example of public opinion and debate on a public policy?What are some of the different ways in which this issue was presented in the media?Did the presentation of this issue affect your opinion on how the government should moveforward on it?
Response to student – start with I agree.
The first thing that came to mind for me about debates on public policy is abortion.Especially since everything that has happened in the USA in the past year. This was a verycontroversial topic on my social media because some of my friends are religious and areagainst abortion, whereas the majority of my friends are all for abortion. The news, socialmedia, movies, and television shows present abortion with a direct opinion on it I find,whether that be they are all for abortion and women’s rights, or they are against it anddefend themselves by saying all ‘baby’s lives matter too’. These side notes that are shownin the media when it comes to abortion show the broadcasters/influencers’ views and theyoften are not afraid to show them. However, when these views are shown so clearly andpushed on other people, it affects others’ own opinions on the topic. I do not want to go onhere and say I am right and push my opinion on anyone, but just to be clear with you all, Iam pro-choice, and I am for abortion and women’s rights. In my opinion, nobody should tellanyone what they should or should not do with their body.
I want to say that the media did not affect my opinion on abortion but at the same time itdid because with each post on social media and each movie I watched where a girl fellpregnant by rape, it made me more and more for abortion and almost made me not likepeople who are pro-life. I am the type of person who can get along with many people
despite our differences in opinion and beliefs, and I still can, but the media almost mademe not want to be close with the friends I had before who are pro-life. I believe the reasonfor my change in views and strong opinions happened because of the media’s role inabortion. I believe that awareness should be spread about these awful stories of womenfalling pregnant from the worst-case scenario, but I also believe they really influencepeople’s views and push ideas on people without allowing people to really think on theirown and come up with their own ideas and opinions. I find this happens a lot with publicpolicies and not just abortion.
These are just my thoughts and opinions from this module, let me know what you all thinkand how the media has directly influenced and impacted your opinions and beliefs. Thanksfor reading my post!
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