With the advent of modern technologies such as cameras, mobile phones and the internet, the platform for public speaking and freedom of expression is huge. In the 20th and 21st Centuries we have seen the impact of technology on political process. The power of mass images is not a new thing. In the 1960s and onwards, images of wealth in the West eventually exposed the weaknesses of the Communist regime running the old Soviet Bloc. Nikita Khrushchev narrated a film of Harlem in the 1960s to demonstrate poverty in America. Instead, his poor beleaguered constituents focussed on the nylons hanging on clothes lines and the number of fine cars lining the streets – they saw wealth, not poverty.
“The transformative power of the mass media has changed governance and made it more difficult for the state to wall off the outside world.” The Impact of Technology on Political Communication
There are now 4 billion mobile phones in use throughout the world, many of which can capture and transmit images. When coupled with social networking sites, they make millions of people both producers and consumers of information. The internet allows people to quickly spread ideas, information, and to organise political protest.
- The video of Tank Man in Tiananmen Square, placing his body in front of a tank in an act of defiance. Instead of a handful of news photographers hiding to capture images at Tiananmen Square we now see millions of people in the street, mobile phones in hand, taking increasingly better quality photographs of state oppression.
- Every day pictures surface from Iraq and Afghanistan, appearing in graphic detail on our screens. Technology was the downfall of several American soldiers following their treatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. They took pictures of the humiliation that they inflicted, beaming with pride at their achievements.
- During the impeachment trial of Philippine President Joseph Estrada, thousands of Filipinos, angry that their corrupt leader might be let off the hook, organised themselves via text to converge at a major crossing in Manilla.