Wikileaks: The global hunt for new metaphors

Naomi Wolf’s article is hilariously for many reasons. And David Weinberger’s nuanced position worth to reconsider. The lines are drawn by others anyway.  While Weinberger’s sees the significants of wikileaks as primary symbolic, Wolf is the artist who puts on the audience as a mask. Mark Zuckerberg’s baby is exercising the same effect on the individual that wikileaks exercises on institutions; identity crisis. Facebook’s goals are clear and find much support in driving a profession to embrace social networks for their purpose. To “master the art of behavioral targeting” sounds more familiar to our ears as “a just civilization“. But the effect is the same.

“This year they passed 500 million users. … The scale of Facebook is something that is transforming our lives. One in 10 people on the planet, and it’s excluded in China where one in five people on the planet live,”

Assange’s appearance creates the attention facebook has in 2007. And it divides opinions along the same lines as does wikileaks. How did the journalistic profession react to facebook? Uniformly they reacted in the same way to facebook as they did to weblogs or RSS a decade ago. Although Kuebler-Ross’s five stages of grief played out not quiet as simultaneously around the globe for weblogs as they did for facebook the structural impact was the same.

The first stage was one of finding a new language, new metaphors for what was mostly old vine in new bottles. Only some years ago consultant’s announced the marriage of “magazines” with “newspapers” (newszines)  the way to go,  Juan Antonio Giner now sees Journalism as about “finding” the news not just “releasing” and “decorating” it. Forgetting that his innovation was the response to the massive decline in advertisement revenue due to changing media consumption habits. Advertising plays the major role in stabilizing a media system constantly threatened by technological advances. As the internet is expected to take over newspapers in 2012 (in terms of advertising spending) the years of traditional TV are counted. The employment effects of this technological change are well documented and not unlike that of other sectors. A rise in budget cuts, rise in atypical working conditions and higher workload for many journalists around the globe. While new tools demand new skills to master the old craft of story telling much stress was underway long before wikileaks captivated so many so fast.

What happens now to wikileaks is what happened to all previous technologies. Diversification in degree and kind relative to the “rooster in the house”. A selection progress is yet to come by which the niches established provide an environment in which a given species can flourish. But for now we are left with a global hunt for new metaphors to “purify the dialect of the tribe” (T.S. Eliot correctly described this process).

While government’s response is uniform the business world has to wake up to the new realities unleashed by wikileaks. Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times reflects the understanding that “whatever American’s secret agenda was held to be, they definitely had one – only the naive could believe otherwise”. He dismisses the point that governments need to protect themselves from their own population; a principle embodied in diplomacy. While marketing seems at first to be the means to achieve for private companies what diplomacy does for governments, we can be sure that 2012 will see a rise in global advertising spending as much as in cyber security.

Wikileaks leesens the east-west divide, a comment by Boynoton Rawlings seeing Assange akin to Prometheus who “chained to the mountain with his liver eaten out by an eagle” is as much an attempt to update our sensibilities to the new realities as the comparison of Assange to Neon (the hacker from the Matrix). Prometheus stole the fire from the gods who resided in the heavens and brought it down to men. A titan himself who felt sympathy for men revenge for Zeus autocratic regime. Zeus won, and send Pandora with a box down to men – the rest is history: for the greeks at least. In the following comment G. Rayners is right in assuming that “in terms of freedom of information and consideration of human rights that west and east are now set on a convergent course”. But he is wrong in that it is a truism. After all, the “Great Firewall of China” was build by European and American companies. And TOR, the encryption system Wikileaks utilizes, was developed by a chinese to overcome the firewall.



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