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Youth UPF

Vienna Youth Forum: The Role of the Media in a Pluralistic World

Vienna, Austria - In advance of the UN Alliance of Civilizations Youth Forum in Vienna in February 2013, Youth UPF-Austria hosted a panel discussion on "The Role of the Media in a Pluralistic World" on December 11. The following questions were discussed:

  • Is there a global media society?
  • Should opinions which disturb the public order be restricted?
  • Is social media a waste of time or a tool for democracy?

A question and answer period followed the panel discussion, and the evening program closed with a networking buffet.

One interesting aspect of this array of themes is whether the Internet or the digitalization of communications makes people more active citizens? How will the digital natives or digital citizens transform democracy? Is the digital citizen a global citizen?

This raises a question: Do social media create the illusion of political activism? Are we politically active and contributing substantially to the development of our community and society just by posting items through social media channels?

Harald Katzmair and Harald Mahrer in their book Die Formel der Macht (The Formula of Power) emphasized that social networks often leave an illusion of power, since those utilizing those networks do not necessarily have the critical resources necessary to turn their “circles” and “friends” into influence.

It is obvious that an increased amount of time spent in front of screens will not necessarily help people learn to go beyond the borders and boxes they live in. Those screens might even tempt them to rather stay in our zone of comfort than to step out of it.

All questions are very relevant to young activists who seek to become global citizens and build a responsible culture of peace that goes beyond borders.

For photos of the event see http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.347618212003320.76951.174297956002014&type=3&l=fcce1c2b5f

The New York Times picked up this issue in its "Global Agenda" series and published the following comments:

Serge Schmemann moderates an interesting discussion between media experts who try to evaluate the impact increased digitalization has on our lives and therefore also on politics.

Susan Greenfield expresses her concerns not only about the time spent in front of screens but also the fundamentally different role new media claim in our lives:

The current technologies have been converted from means into ends. Instead of complementing or supplementing or enriching life in three dimensions, an alternative life in just two dimensions — stimulating only hearing and vision — seems to have become an end in and of itself. 

Maria Popova does not share Greenflield’s concerns but talks about a “chronology bias” that is inherent to a lot of social media. The newest information appears to be the most relevant.

Evgeny Morozov emphasizes that the Internet and the social media we are using and used to today was essentially shaped by “a political economy and various market conditions.” Facebook and co. make their users (a.k.a. us) like, view, and post stuff in order to learn about them and increase their advertising value. Depth and informed decisions are not in their interest per se.

To read the report, click here.

For a response by Laetitia Sengseis, click here.

NOTE: In February 2013, 150 youth leaders from around the world will come to Vienna for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Vienna Youth Forum, which will address (1) the universal right to religious freedom and promoting a new religious pluralism through education; (2) media pluralism and the diversity of media content and their contribution to fostering public debate, democracy and awareness of diverse opinions; and (3) shaping a new narrative for migration, integration, and mobility in the global economy. These are the topcs of the broader Alliance of Civilizations forum in Vienna on "Responsible Leadership in Diversity and Dialogue." The fact that 3,500 people applied for acceptance into this forum for 150 people indicates a compelling interest in these issues.

This is the second of three forums planned by the UPF-Austria Youth Committee in advance of the Alliance of Civilizations Youth Forum. For a report of the first forum, on a new religious pluralism, click here.

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