The endless chatter in media, social and mainstream often elides with technology — another Silicon Valley break through to increase the ease of media flow or audience assimilation. In itself it serves a tremendous purpose; Marconi’s pioneering work in broadcast, mass satellite television of the 1990s, Snapchat, YouTube and Twitter’s advances that surpassed packet-sending technology and the rest. However, this absorbed notional knowledge of how the latest apps work is the answer to media truths obscures a deeply flawed generalised view in society.
You can tweet, mobile report, AI engineer, place a man on the moon, split atoms, but if the underlying core of the narrative caught up in the technology is wrong or circumspect, a sow’s ear remain just that.
If exterminating a race, or holding back their progress is your belief, then acquiring the latest fastest pipeline does nothing to address this wrong doing. Yet throw a dart blindfolded at amedia conference board and how best to use your social media or to connect 100 people into VR space is writ large.
Are conferences and media to blame? These sessions bring in hard cash in an an environment where cash for content is still a reach — alternative solutions make up for the loss and that roller coaster is endless. Any number of people and organisations on Facebook would do anything within their budget and means to be the number one go-to-place for audiences.
Debating content, and whether it’s warped, tainted, or unfit for our times is a distant thought and where it appears on the horizon, it’s the same flock of WIERD (Western, educated, and from industrialized, rich, and democratic countries) people providing the narrative.
In academic journalism courses across the UK, culture and society that underpin a narratives’ newsworthiness is viewed as a thing for social science departments and this leads me to the second point about media’s operating theatre status. If technology is the magician’s white glove trying out a new trick, then the enclave of magician’s believing their own truth is the continuous white rabbit from the hat. Magician’s detest anyone revealing the source of their illusion — their view of the outliner.
I’m minded by David Olusoga’s piece in the Observer, which emerges from a report, Race, Ethnicity & Equality in UK History, by the Royal Historical Society (RHS). More than 700 UK historians were interviewed in a qualitative survey co-authored by a Cambridge academic, Dr Sujit Sivasundaram. It shows “the negative impact” of the constrained teaching of history in schools and university curriculums that acknowledge diversity and inclusion, the lack of BME staff in history departments and deeply ingrained prejudices by minority staff.
I’m a British born Ghanaian, who was sent to Ghana for my formative education. I’m aware you don’t need that to understand how knowledge of the British Empire has been acutely cherry picked, but on visits to Ghana that history is evident. Britain became a powerful nation not entirely through its roll call of British renaissance thinkers and innovators whilst it brokered its ideology to innocent nationalities overseas, but uncomfortably through its wealth creation and brutal exploitation of people, via slavery, scientificism and political ideological exploitation.
If media is a seamstress that sows together a quilt of knowledge served to the public and historical narratives remain largely written for one nationality, a body of people, this perpetuates an ignorance and in cases violence on knowledge. Truth becomes a perception, held onto, staving off for dear life new understandings which contextualise or overthrow old beliefs.
Take the fact there have been black people in Britain since the 16th Century and that it was not Windrush that gave white Brits their first contact with brown and black faces. This taught in schools would have a profound impact.
Earlier this week, the leaders list, a photographic exhibition of some of the UK’s talented BAM media workers occupying senior positions in the UK were on display at a Sutton secondary school. The photos included: David P Davis whom writes for Dr Who, Eloise King a dynamic woman executive who’s been at the helm of Vice, and historian David Olusoga,The reception has been very encouraging. A part of it now moves to the Mayor’s Black History reception.
Whilst we worship what technology brings us, we should be equally cognisant of historical, contemporary and social knowledge. We’re deeply poorer in ignoring this.