New media a powerful tool for self-representation

Review: Reclaiming the media: communication rights and democratic media roles edited by Cammaerts and Carpentier (2007)

In the light of the increasing role of new media in international relations, it is appropriate to reflect upon if and how new media may challenge the notion about communication rights, citizenship and the public sphere. The three notions run as guiding principles through the diverse chapters contributed by different scholars in Reclaiming the media: Communication rights and democratic media roles. In the following, I present a short summary of what I took note of from the reading and what I  consider relevant for the discussion on this blog.

Communication rights

Access to a wide range of information from various sources is today considered as a key condition for democracy. New media technologies have not only enabled citizens to consume information available on the global net, but also become themselves active producers of information and interpretation to a greater extent than in the past. This has opened up a range of opportunities for sometimes unheard groups of people to get a voice. At the same time, traditional communication channels have been forced to adjust to a new media situation. Pluralism and diversity have become a mantra within most democratic societies. Yet, the meaning and nature of these values are various and often a source of controversy in the contemporary debate on these issues. Therefore, it is central to ask whose voices are given legitimacy?


Being a citizen today is very bound to the nation state, as it is still the most powerful political entity. Nevertheless, the escalating globalization has notably challenged the sovereignty or even the legitimacy of the nation state. As a result, the relationship between citizenship and nation state has been blurred accordingly. Cultural citizenship has come up on the agenda. Cultural citizenship is comprehended as a membership of an actual virtual community and is not based on any national identity. It can be based on ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, region and so on and so forth. For the changing notion of citizenship, global media, including Internet, is considered to play a significant role.

Public sphere

It is true that new media has opened up opportunities for people to unit and organize with likeminded across national boundaries. It has above all given them tools for self-representation. Additionally, new media has changed the concept of the public sphere, if understood as an area in social life where individuals can come together to freely discuss and identify with social problems ( Today, public opinions can be formed and discussed in virtual as well as in real life public spheres or communities. Hence, new media has become an interesting tool for activists who seek to bring about social or political change. However, as the present reading underlines, for actions to be successful it is important to communicate outside the comfortable circle of likeminded sympathizers. Otherwise new media risk having an isolating and fragmenting effect. Having a voice, being heard, and having influence are after all three different things. On the other hand, they are significantly connected. Personally, I believe that new media offers strengthening tools for a citizen oriented approach that is more than the production of selfies on social media. What is your opinion?

For more inspiration watch Andrea Cornwall’s opening speech “Reframing Development: From Assistance to Global Justice” at the Voice and Matter Conference on September 17th  this year. She exemplifies the power of new media as a tool for self representation, in this case for sexworkers in the Global South.

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