“reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined”
On the 26th of January 2012, the Irish government passed new legislation aimed at the control of un-copyrighted and pirated material both over physical state borders and virtual borders online. In addition to this, this new ‘Irish SOPA‘ (a joint legislation known as ACTA) makes it easier for holders of copyright, such as large movie companies and record labels, to call for legal action to be taken against individuals they deem to be infringing on copyright, essentially enabling a new environment online where websites can be pulled/restricted and users persecuted for sharing copyrighted material. Affecting sites supporting the sharing of information such as Wikipedia or Twitter. This was passed without parliamentary discussion or a say on the matter by Irish citizens, even when 80,000 individual anti-ACTA signatures were signed online. Meanwhile, state news on RTE chooses not to cover a story involving huge implications for free speech on the Internet and legislation with such a large number of citizens in opposition. As an active user of Twitter, i get a regular feed of information important to me, from sources worldwide, fed on to my Twitter feed page as its is announced. Keeping me up to date, and giving me information and opinions from many sides of an event, i like to think i am quite informed on world events and aware of things of importantance to me, or which affect me in some way. Maybe not everything, but pretty close. As such, prior to the day this ‘Irish SOPA’ legislation was due to be passed, i was made aware of it and its possible implications to me as a media student and an Internet user. I continued to follow news of it as it came, involved myself in some capacity by signing some of the ‘Anti-ACTA’ petitions organized online, and watched video footage uploaded or streamed online from news sites and video sharing sites on the topic. I followed news on similar situations across Europe of other ACTA-like laws or legislations and the previous SOPA bill considered in the United States. I also followed the retaliatory actions of Internet hackers and virtual anti-ACTA/SOPA activists such as Anonymous and their downing of government department, music label and other websites online.
Had i solely watched state televised news, which aims to provide information to its viewers of domestic and world events, i would not of heard a single word about Irelands ACTA legislation or of the massive opposition it garnered online.
Being an active user online, i frequent social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, read over blogs posted by others online, and watch several videos on sites such as YouTube and Vimeo; all in the space of a day, many times seven days a week. I rarely ever watch news on terrestrial or satellite TV, only watching it in passing when another person is doing so. In fact, i can certainly say that i currently dont actively watch any TV; that is to say, that if an internet connection is available, whether by mobile broadband or public WiFI, i would choose to view media online rather than on TV. The Internet provides a freedom of vast information, compiled and continually by milliions of active users worldwide. Recent technology such as smart-phones, broadband, WiFi and laptops have added to the Internet and computers, to provide a easily accessible network, making the searching and gathering of information far easier than it has ever been. Online, video sharing sites such as YouTube and Vimeo allow users to upload videos captured on digital cameras or camera phones from any location with Internet access, allowing that footage to be shared with others across the world. Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook provide users with the tools to connect with others online, develop a vast network of contacts, upload and share information, form relationships, organize groups and mobilize physical events; drawing together individuals of shared interests from all corners of society. Thoughts and ideas on the world are given an outlet through the use of independent blogs and community forums, where users can speak openly and converse with others on issues important to them, without fear of suppression for speaking their minds. All these tools combined, create a ‘global community’ of people worldwide, largely devoid of the physical defects of the physical world.
To the more conservative, or those of older generations, may consider my idea of a typical day, with a percent of each day spent online, a tad extreme and that this time could be spent better doing other things. My view is that a time spent online is a time spent learning about other people, places and events across the world. The traditional media outlets of yesteryear where most of our daily news and information was fed from: the televised news bulletin, the broadsheet or tabloid newspaper, or broadcast radio programs; these are limited in their resources. Programming must be scheduled, news stories gathered by teams, sources of information found and gathered, news organized into a easily comprehended story, and then broadcast at designated times. On top of this, the news given can only then be considered news if it is then received by an audience of individuals, waiting at the designated time to hear the stories and information being fed. The Internet puts aside many of these restrictions; the availability of technology to the public today, combined with the free time available before, after or between work and other activities (or ‘Cognitive Surplus’ as Clay Shirky calls it in his book ‘Cognitive Surplus‘), along with the ease of access to technology (smartphones, camera phones, Internet, social networks, video sharing sites); means anyone worldwide with the access, time and the means to contribute to online information will do so, sometimes more so than others. This new worldwide community of active virtual contributors lowers the resources needed to gather and organise new information and news; providing a vast and continuous feed of current information from sources worldwide.
Sites such as Twitter (which i admit to being quite shackled to at times) have harnessed this worldwide feed of information, allowing users to organize news and information according to their individual preferences and interests; gathering information from sources worldwide and thereby filtering this it down to news important to you. With access to a resource such as this, televised or radio broadcast news looses its immediacy and detail, as well as its relevance to you as an individual.
One of the days following the passing of ACTA in Dáil Éireann, got into a conversation with some friends over things we had seen on TV or online the night before. After some chat on a few funny videos seen on YouTube, some gossip from Facebook and different programmes watched on TV; i spoke about the ACTA legislation passed in Ireland a few days before, the effect it would have on the freedom the Internet and the massive opposition it has online, 80,000 signatures are not to be ignored. One or two responded to me with some passive interest in the topic, them having read something about it on a Facebook post and such, while others responded with blank faces or a simple response of “I didn’t hear about that”. With televised news or occasional use of the Internet for basic email or socializing, this major topic had simply passed them or failed to weigh an impact on them due to its lack of exposure in major media outlets.
In conclusion, if my reality is how i see “the state of things as they actually exist”, i would say mine is social media, mainly Twitter. Being the medium through which i recieve most of my information, whether by providing important details from sources of interest, links to articles or linking me to images and videos, it gathers sources of information important to me and feeds it to me there and then when it happens. So until the next most efficient social network or news feed comes along: my reality is Twitter.