“Get your skates on!” I sometimes hear, especially from harassed parents trying to speed up apathetic children.
I can’t call communication rights advocates apathetic, but we should feel pushed to move faster and harder in response to rapid digital technology developments.
It is, of course, fair to say that many of the same communication challenges and rights apply whether we talk about television or social media – power and accountability, misinformation, language, affordability, equality and more. The major difference, however, is the speed of technological development, the narrative that accompanies it, and the changes in societal relations because of it.
One statistic that has made headlines recently is the time new tech has made it to 100 million users. The telephone took 75 years. The mobile telephone took 16 years. Netflix took 10 years, and Twitter a little over 5. YouTube and Facebook come in between 4 and 5 years. TikTok reached 100 million users in 9 months. And ChatGPT? It’s set the new record at two months.
When ChatGPT was launched, media and social media exploded. From apocalyptic predictions akin to “The Terminator” to accolades of economic salvation, everyone had an opinion – and at least one (tiny) part of the reality. Of course, there is value in waiting to see how much the tech lives up to the hype, and the current limitations of ChatGPT and other AI tech soon became more apparent (and at times amusing). But it may also signal a transformational shift that even tech savvy influencers find disturbing.
Certainly there were voices talking about the power of unaccountable big tech, expressing concern for rampant fake news, lamenting the impact on education and more. And I carefully read and watched the range of analysis. But this also convinced me even more that precisely because the same rights issues arise, we as advocates need to not only find better ways to be “influencers” of the moment, we need to get ahead of the change, to be active advocates of communication rights principles that are necessary foundations of a sustainable, democratic, justice-oriented society.
This is what WACC stands for and promotes – but we need all like-minded people and organisations to help us turn these timeless principles into education and action that reach new generations and build a resilience so that no matter the technological development, we pursue what is just, inclusive, and contributes to the common good. Can you help us “put our skates on?”
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