With globalization and advancement in technology, the world has been turned into a global village where any required or necessary information can be easily accessed through the internet. With phones, which are WAP enabled and streaming of new technologies, access to information has been made easy with anyone being able to receive information containing images, graphics, videos, and sound files.
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Due to the capability of the internet providing plenty of knowledge by transmitting all forms of information in return this has affected the social and cultural lives of people (Briggs and Burke, 237). As a result of the internet being incorporated in day to day lives, this study will try to investigate whether “Internet creates favorable conditions for monopolization of knowledge, the role of the Internet, as a form of new media, in the human lives, and their impact on various social and cultural aspects”
However, despite the advantages the internet possesses, it has some disadvantages ranging from the risks involved as well as the loss of privacy as crooks and hackers can interfere with your system and finally the monopoly of knowledge where any individual with a need for reliable information goes to the internet.
With its ability to assist men in every aspect of their lives, experts in communication have of late been force to refer to the internet as an extension of the human mind. In this essay, we shall discuss how the internet has provided the basis for a new ‘monopoly of knowledge’? How would such a monopoly come about and to what degree is the discourse of increased consumer choice problematic or illusory?
Monopoly of Knowledge
The acquisition of knowledge involves an exchange whereby a previously held notion, bias, or ignorance is exchanged for a new perception of truth. Once acquired, the knowledge can then be shared for the benefit of others or monopolized for one’s benefit. A hypothetical case would be in the case where a prophet spreads the word and a magician never reveals the secrets of the trade. Knowledge, once acquired, is not always pleasant; it can uncover errors or omissions and can reveal that which was once believed to be factual as not being true.
Sharing the knowledge that something previously thought to be right is wrong can sometimes be very difficult to admit to others, but until the knowledge is shared, nothing can be done to address the problem. The arising consequences vary with the individual’s level of responsibility and acknowledging that individuals do not function in a vacuum. The theoretical basis for this thesis will be on the views of Harold Innis for the monopoly of knowledge and McLuhan for the laws of Media.
According to Innis and Watson (62) sometimes monopolies of knowledge can be created in the atmosphere of hostility which has been created between the two types of media: the time biased media and the space biased media platforms. These two platforms have always marginalized each other. Levinson (12) suggests that “literacy probably constitutes the most significant monopoly of knowledge in human history”. During the early times when knowledge was mainly in the written text, the knowledge remained only on those who could read and understand that decided on which information to convey and which not to.
The monopolies of knowledge developed and declined about the medium of communication that was used or those mediums they were supposed to alternate. For example, while the Sumerian culture base on the medium of clay, it was fused with the medium of clay to bring the Babylonian empires. This forced Innis to conclude that the monopoly of knowledge built up to parchment had been overwhelmed by the new knowledge monopoly created by the invention and the use of paper as the medium of knowledge transfer.
The parchment was a thin material made of skin, which was used for writing on for documents, the emergence of paper made it easier to carry writing materials and as a result, using of parchment was overwhelmed by the use of paper since as the medium of communication, it was easier to use as well as easy to carry
According to Silverstone (145) with new forms of media, technologies have the social behind them. This is because media technologies emerge as material and symbolic objects and also as catalysts for action. Media as cultural forces they are subject to conflicts over rights of ownership and representation
In reality, those who possess and control the knowledge through the existing media platforms also control the lives of those people. They are usually positioned in such a way that they can define the legitimacy of the knowledge they present: the monopolization of knowledge therefore encourages the centralization of power. In modern societies, some people still use languages to create monopolies of knowledge, for example, the jargon used by lawyers and doctors ensures that the information remains only known to them. It was thus clear to Innis that the monopolies of knowledge were the main cause of power imbalance since the monopolies could not give a chance for perfect competition.
In our case, the internet serves as a factor that leads to the creation of knowledge monopolies. The person who has learned and possesses the skills of efficiently and effectively using technologies possesses the power to decide which information is relayed or communicated to the people in need. However, the significance of the internet creating monopolies has been somehow reduced due to the increased knowledge and embracing of technology by many people around the world. Despite the continued embracing of technology, the ever-increasing complexity of digital technologies has been a major strengthening factor for monopolies of knowledge (Carey 2).
The threat of the continued knowledge monopoly has in the past forced the US government to direct the military contractors in finding ways of how they can develop a highly classified replica of the internet with the main goal being to counter react what would happen if adversaries shut down the internet controlled systems everywhere which ranges from the financial markets to telecommunication and aviation systems (Crafty, Par 3).
Every time a new form of media is introduced a new knowledge monopoly is usually created as the knowledge exists among few people and thus those who possess the knowledge can easily control those who do not have. These monopolies derive their power from several sources which include: master of complexity, control of raw materials for the media, performativity, speed, and finally the ability to afford high costs (Soules 18).
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The monopolization of knowledge raises cultural and social problems because monopolies transform societies into a mass of ignorant and illiterate people on one side and to the other side a knowledge elite population. With monopolies of knowledge, there is the centralization of power and since those who know have the power to control what is known to the community, sometimes people end up absorbing inaccurate and irrelevant information.
The monopoly of knowledge also leads to instances of instability in the society since every person in the market tend to provide to the people only the information which makes people go to their side or understand their part of the story while overlooking the others (Silverstone,133)
Frost analyzes the Innis contribution by stating that the new systems of communication do not require centralized control. Internet messages are self-directed with multiple packets of information and this is evident when he states that. “The new technology was introduced into a world which was already undergoing liberalization in every sector where the globe was becoming the relevant geographic location” (Frost, 124) and as a result, this translated into making communication more mobile and decentralized due to the required coordination between the different locations. Among the social consequences that result from the internet, overuse is that it forms new cleavages whereby only those who possess the technological know-how can operate them thereby creating an isolation
Innis explained that these knowledge monopolies were formed as a result of the biasness of the new media which were being introduced in the way they were organized and controlled. These types of bias were classified as either space biased media or time biased media. A time biased media include the forms of stones or maybe clay. Such forms are usually durable as it is difficult to move therefore they cannot be extended.
For example, the customary and sacred issues remain as they were without modifications. On the other hand, the space biased media are light and as a result, they allow extensions as can be moved through huge distances. They are easily transported and they facilitate the expansion of an empire. With the new technologies, new media is created while the old technologies retain the old media. We truly reaffirm the fact internet truly contributes to knowledge monopolies.
Deception of Consumer Choice and Destructive Effect of the Monopolization of Knowledge by the Internet
The destructive effect of monopolization of knowledge by the internet is usually brought about by the risk of communication. With the internet controlling what information the consumers have about a product, risk communication concepts and practices are usually integral to the decisions a consumer makes. Consumers engage in risk communication albeit most of the time unconsciously when they make their everyday decisions on what to eat and on not what to eat. As the information provided to the consumer tries to balance the benefits of what is seen or displayed as good from what is displayed as ill.
With most parts of the world being liberal democratic where some people decide to indulge in what others presume to be risky, some people may make decisions contrary to widely accepted information and this leads to the tools of information to be insufficient in enabling the consumer to decide what is ill and what is not (Krueger 72)
Boudreaux and Crampton in their paper “some economies of false consciousness” explain that although no one can understand the reality in full, a situation of false consciousness exists whenever there is a high degree of misunderstanding that people mistake social arrangement that harms them for social arrangements that benefit them through knowledge monopolies. Through the knowledge monopoly created by the internet, the makers of the internet control the information available to consumers making the consumers concentrate more only on those products in which knowledge and information are readily available while overlooking the others despite the benefits others might have (Boudreaux & Crampton 30).
However, with consumer power becoming a cliché of modern culture, the markets have realized that consumers are too smart to be fooled. The consumers are now free to make their own choices; although a tradition of criticizing the marketing practice and consumer culture as some form of domination still exists. According to some experts, consumers remain helpless against the seductive and the manipulative power of the want makers.
In line with the centrality of power, the markets are ill-equipped with the understanding of the various intellectual traditions. In general comparison, most of the time the internet empowers the consumers through the increased competition in the marketplace since every marketer provides more and more information about the product, therefore, enlightening the consumers and spoiling them with choices (Schroeder, Zwick & Knott 951).
As the corporate interests increase, the internet has emerged as the arena for new struggles whereas it remains unclear whether the internet will become a cyber mall or whether it will be nurtured as a virtual public sphere with positive implications for democracy (Milberry 6).
The problem of deception and knowledge monopoly can however be reduced through cyberspace and networking. This will pose a problem to all the bureaucracies that have been established and knowledge monopolies will be hard to thrive in a world where everybody is offering some information about the topic and the cyber consumers becoming global citizens as they devise new political practices, social forms, and technical designs. (Freenberg16). As more people use the internet expectations will change too. With everybody accessing data from the internet for different purposes, it seems the new media will raise interesting questions to everyone while transforming the old questions from different perspectives (Du Plessis 8).
The Internet plays quite numerous roles in the life of many people currently in the world. It has created a platform where people can conduct businesses; receive medication, access market information for the farmers, and many other basic requirements. However, this overdependence on the internet is likely to lead to numerous problems with the most eminent being the problem of knowledge monopoly, which according to Innis is created in the atmosphere of hostility between the time biased and the space biased media where one marginalizes the other.
The space biased media are light and can be transported along with large territories thus reaching a larger audience while time biased media tend to preserve the information since they are heavy and not easily transportable and thus the biasness in communication is brought about by how the media exerts control especially the way the society is organized. The internet controls what people have and know and what they cannot have and in return, this can control how the consumers behave, since most of the information available on the internet will tend to be seductive and manipulative to control what the consumer uses.
However, with the late increase in the usage of cyberspace and networking, and with those who possess the knowledge competing with other rivals in the market the creation of such bureaucracies will reduce with information being overly and easily available for everyone who wants to use.
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