The Multimedia explosion, quo vadis?
Should we feel threatened by today's dramatic advances in communication or should we regard them as a source of hope? If many leading thinkers hold different views on this question or hesitate to state their position, it is because these advances are ambivalent, because their present impact and likely future effects imply such major changes in our ways of living and thinking that we are simultaneously fascinated by the new perspectives they offer us and nervous about the unknown, unpredictable aspects of the world they force us to accept.
This issue of the Courier has been prepared to help readers to see the situation more clearly. It attempts first of all to show that people's perception of the media and communication explosion tends to be coloured by where they live in the West, the East or the South; by whether they side with the powerful producers of state-of-the-art technology, who transmit knowledge, information and entertainment, or with those parts of the world that can only receive what is sent their way by others. Viewpoints also vary according to whether one favours freedom of expression or commercial freedom, responsible citizenship or passive consumption, access to a global culture or the defence of a specific culture.
But after reading the contributions from many backgrounds that try to come to grips with this issue, it is hard not to return to the one question that seems to encompass all the others: are advances in communications restricting and stifling our freedom, or are they extending and deepening it?
We are inclined to believe that these advances are on the side of freedom, and even that today's major world challenges are inseparable from the incredible explosion of freedom that has accompanied the computer and media revolution of the past two decades.
In the East and in the South, new-found freedom has broadened individual horizons. It has extended people's opportunities to assess, compare, judge, choose and take personal initiatives more than it has consolidated their political and social rights. This is why it often gives rise to doubt and anxiety; to desires, needs and hopes that are far greater than the means of satisfying them; to the temptation felt by those left by the wayside to think nostalgically of paradise lost, to reject freedom, progress and the rest of the world out of hand.
Today's world does not measure up to the expectations to which this new freedom has given rise. But surely there is nothing new in this. The spirit of freedom always appears first. It challenges privilege and the forces of inertia, changes attitudes, breaks new ground and opens new horizons, leading to solutions that only a short time before were thought impossible. The next step is for the world to adapt and change in order to accommodate the projects that will spring from the imagination of people who are freer, more responsible and more united.
Discover this issue. Download the PDF.