Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Republicans, Democrats, and Special Sauces

These chapters provided an understandable explanation of the modern use of communication theory that we’ve discussed, gave recent updates on the big debates, and took a relatively unbiased stab at explaining the goals of different groups (including within the US, through an extended discussion of the goals of the major US political parties). Their writings helped give answers to questions we’ve come up with throughout the semester, such as why pricing for cell phones and internet is so different between the US and the EU. Overall, it was a current and realistic review of how, through a political framework, the US is handling major issues such as net neutrality. After spending weeks dissecting global governance, these readings reminded me that many issues are still hashed out nationally: and when it comes to crafting national policy regarding international issues, things get dicey. The readings acknowledge that “since the US system is stacked against ambitious legislation on hotly contested issues, legislative deadlock on telecom issues remains likely.” Moreover, they indicate that given our political system, even our best efforts are merely compromises: “A recurring propensity of US political economy is to create compromises built around encouraging new technologies and entrants.”

Content is an incredible factor, as was highlighted here and in our class discussions. Who owns what, and who should have to pay for what? Attempting to develop legislation regarding internet copyright law requires policy makers to both predict and account for all of the rapidly developing platforms through which content is being viewed and distributed. Not an enviable task. In the meantime, it is easy to see how content users can become distanced from the source of their content and resentful of the need to pay for it. As the book reminder us, however: “Nothing is really free.” (As a music major who has also worked in the world of non-profit arts, however, I am familiar with the negative results of consumers who were not interested in paying for content.)

Online advertising and privacy were addressed as well. Just as we unabashedly stroll through the internet viewing content, however, so do others as they view OUR content. These readings also touched on the rising importance of online advertising, much of which is cleverly (and somewhat dangerously) linked to what many view as private user data. It will be interesting to see how successfully the Obama administration can address these and other communication issues.

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