According to the Lexico-Oxford Dictionary, colonialism is defined as the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically ( Lexicon-Oxford\’s collegiate dictionary, 2019). Colonialism is a practice that has been shunned by most of the world today but unfortunately, it has been replaced by a new type of colonialism and that is electronic colonialism. The electronic colonialism theory explains how multi-media giants are corralling audiences minds by packaging media that attracts large audiences around the world.
Electronic colonialism creates an environment where media conglomerates are creating large media empires primarily through the english language by creating high-quality and mass-produced media messages and systems. To fully understand electronic colonialism, one has to understand the impact colonialism and structural imperialism have had on the world and this will be explained in further detail as the paper progresses.
According to A Structural Theory of Imperialism, imperialism is defined as a special type of dominance of one collectivity, usually a nation, over another. Basically, it is how the center in the imperialist nation establishes a bridgehead in the center of the dominated nation by tying the two centers together by harmony of interest ( Galtung, 1971, p.81). Structural or Western imperialism is a consequence of colonialism. This is because western powers refused to relinquish their hold on “developing nations” creating an asymmetrical relationship between the information starves south and the information rich North. The intent of a divide like this is to create dependency where underdevelopment in the third world can be traced to the pursuance of the economic interests of the Western developed nations (Oguejiofor, 2015). This parasitic relationship ever-present in the past, has been seen in modern electronic affordances like the internet. And through this cutting edge technology, the world has become a global village.
On a global scale, mass media influences which happen to largely be westen influences, dominate how people of different cultures think, look and act. This creates a form of cultural mortality where on average, one language dies every 14 days. By the next century, nearly half of the roughly 7,000 languages spoken on Earth will likely disappear. The imposition of colonialism in Africa altered its ways of thought, patterns of cultural development as well as its history forever. Colonization especially on the African continent was primarily done by the English and the French and there were three reasons why it occurred. The first reason colonization occurred was the need to gather scientific data on the “Dark Continent.” The second reason came from European racism that was rooted in part in the Christian faith.
Traditional African beliefs were seen as inferior and followers of the Christian faith had to proselytize Africans to Cristianity. The third reason was based on imperialism and the desire by European patriots to contribute to their country’s grandeur by laying claim to other countries in distant lands. This history of colonialism is directly responsible for the structural or western imperialism that we see today. According to A Structural Theory of Imperialism three phases of imperialism are seen: the colonialist phase where the two centers belong to the same nation (the period of white settlers), the present neo-colonialist phase where they are tied together by the means of international organizations and the neo-neo-colonialist phase for the future where the ties are established through rapid communication (Galtung, 1971, p.93).
Western imperialism has created a political, socio-economic as well as an information divide and most recently it has also created a technological divide. This divide led to the popularization of the modernization theory which stated that despite exposure to capitalism, many formerly colonized countries failed to develop.
Modernization theorists like Rostow believed that tradition was holding developing countries back. They believed that modern and traditional values could not work in tandem and in essence, traditional values will stagnate economic growth and change. Rostow believed that an initial injection of aid from the west in the form of training, education and economic investment would be enough to jolt a society into economic growth an overcoming these traditional values (Thompson, 2015). Critiques of the modernization theory argue that it is mostly a vertical model of communication and creation as well as distribution of wealth is unequal.
Other critiques made were that the modernization theory disregarded the social, cultural and political dimensions of the people of Africa and Asia. Based on the negative consequences of the modernization theory, researchers came up with the dependency theory. The dependency theory states that in a dominant capitalist system that relies on the division of labour between the rich ‘core’ countries and the ‘poor’ peripheral countries. Over time these core countries will exploit their dominance over an increasingly marginalised periphery. The problem with dependency is that it is a historical condition which shapes a certain structure of the world economy such that it favours some countries to the detriment of others and limits the development possibilities of the subordinate economies (Dos Santos, 1971). One strength of the dependency theory is that it increases the dominance of developing nations in terms of leading the narratives of the wrongs imposed on Africa.
However, a criticism of this theory is that the dependency school of thought considers ties with multinational cooperation as detrimental, while they are important means of technological transfer. In a global marketplace, information and technological transfers are paramount and there should not be room for the ever growing digital divide that separates center and peripheral countries. A digital divide is any uneven distribution in the access or use of information. Sean Macbride, a researcher realized that there was a socio-technological imbalance that existed between western countries and the developing world.
MacBride created a commision called the New World Order Information and Communication Order (NWICO) that was charged with creating a set of recommendations to make global media representation more equitable. The western powers that be dictated that NWICO under UNESCO had a soviet agenda that went against the rights and freedoms of a democratic, free press. They also believed that reduced media ownership was a direct threat to western democracy. These are some of the reasons NWICO was scrapped and western media domination on the world remained. In retrospect, NWICO was trying to abolish the vertical flow of information, the digital divide as well as trying to stop this narrative that existing media ecosystems are neo-colonialist at heart. Brian Solis coined the phrase “This just in …News no longer breaks, it tweets.” Architects of news media are realizing that the new reality of real-time world is that news no longer breaks it tweets. This is because electronic affordances like the internet have created platforms where news media can more effectively track, check and report on breaking news stories as they unfold. The archaic vertical flow of information has been abolished by the internet.
The internet has created new ways for people to communicate with each other and an example of this is citizen journalism. According to techopedia, citizen journalism refers to the reporting of news events by members of the public using the internet to spread information (Techopedia dictionary, 2019). Citizen journalism is an example of how changes in technology have created new forums for people to communicate. As amazing as the internet is, technology is facing a similar kind of imperialism that has been on the African continent since colonialism graced its shores.
According to eColonialism Theory: How Trends are Changing the World Electronic colonialism represents the dependent relationship of poorer regions on the post-industrial nations which is caused and established by the importation of communication hardware and foreign-produced software, along with engineers, technicians and related information protocols. These establish a set of foreign norms, values and expectations that, to varying degrees, alter domestic cultures, languages, habits, values and the socialization process itself (McPhail, 2014). This dependent relationship can be seen through search engines like Google.
How many times a day do people use Google? Does the user know how Google search results are organized or who controls which results the users are allowed to view?Google is an example of electronic colonialism because Google is a global provider for finding information easily. Even though Google is offered in many different languages, the automatic language that Google uses is english. Google was created by Larry Page and Sergey Brin who at the time were two American PHd students. Google is one of many platforms that was created by westerners that monopolize the minds of the masses globally. Platforms like twitter, facebook, instagram and the likes are elitist in the sense that in order to communicate effectively with the rest of the world, an internet user needs to be fluent in the english language.
Subsequently, this means that these platforms were ont designed for African users in mind. Electronic colonialism seeks to influence and control the mind and it is aimed at influencing attitudes, desires, beliefs, lifestyles and consumer behaviour (Mcphail, 2014). Another problem with electronic colonialism is that platforms like Facebook collect users personal data without consent and this is intensifying concerns about the company’s privacy violations. Applications on a users smartphone can share information with facebook anonymously and facebook will use this information to target adverts to users. Countries like China are creating surveillance technologies that track its citizens. According to Business Insider, the state has even created a social credit system that ranks citizens based on their behaviour and doles out rewards and punishments depending on their scores (Ma, 2018).
United States is following in China\’s lead as well with the foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Created after 911, it was granted enormous power to collect data from phones, e-mails, internet usage, and other areas as well (McPhail, 2014). Two of the biggest superpowers in the world today are subjugating their citizens through electronic colonialism. Activists like Ryan Snowden are being hunted for releasing sensitive information about the United States government surveillance programs. As technology evolves, people\’s freedoms are over-looked repeatedly and agencies like the CIA, NSA, FBI and MI-5 need to be brought under control and held accountable for the public good. According to the Lexico-Oxford dictionary cultures are the ideas, customs and social behaviour of a particular people or society (Lexico-Oxford’s Collegiate Dictionary, 2019). As people grow up in different environments, they are influenced by that society. How they think, look and act will be greatly influenced by where they are born. Someone born in Kenya will speak Swahilli, potentially wear their traditional clothes and eat traditional food like Ugali.
While someone born in Russia will speak Russian, potentially wear their traditional clothes and drink copious amounts of vodka. These two analogies of two different places in the world might be influenced by what I have seen in the media. These insights to different cultures might be dangerous stereotypes that are perpetuated by mass media influences. In order to understand mass media influences or media effects one had to understand the depth of influence that media has. This includes but is not limited to voting a certain way, individuals views and beliefs or even fake news that can skew a person’s knowledge of a specific topic. All types of media function as cultural socialization agents. Socialization is a continuous process that helps individuals acquire culture to assimilate into whatever culture they were born in.
Researchers agree that the extent of the influence of mass media has over audiences is hard to measure. Prior to the internet, the rapid growth of the television influenced personal, cultural and social perceptions of the people around the world. According to Media and Culture most of the research that has been done on media effects has centered around television and this is largely due to the rapid growth of the television industry and its pervasiveness in everyday life. As a socialization agent, the mass mediated images that appear on television, via the news, soap operas, situation comedies, dramas, talk shows, sporting events, and so forth, can have a tremendous influence on how people view themselves and others (Orbe, 2019, p.8).
Research on media effects is important because it gives you insight into the impact media has had on people over a long period of time. This research has also created media theories as to how the media affects how audiences think, look and act and this research is ongoing. Historically, the earliest media researchers believed that the media gave audiences information and the audience was passively consuming this information. This theory is called the direct effects theory and it first manifested in the early 20th century. The second theory is the limited effects model where scholars tested the assumptions of a direct effects approach and found little scientific evidence to support their claims. These results lead scholars to advocate for a limited effects model-a theoretical perspective that argued that media has little influence on people. This model was supported by research that showed that media consumers selectively exposed themselves to media messages that were consistent to their existing beliefs, attitudes, and values (e.g., Lazarsfeld, Berelson, & Gaudet, 1948).
The third theory is the Uses and Gratifications Theory that builds on the limited effects theory and it states that while consumers of media are active and not passive there is the added dimension that these audiences are motivated to use different types of media programming to fulfill different needs. Research found that viewers were purposeful in their media consumption and actively selected media to satisfy specific needs and wants (Pearce, 2009b). As more research was done, a new theory was formed and it is called the cumulative effects model and this model focuses on the agenda setting function that media plays. This means that mass media plays an important role in giving prominence to what topic they think is important as well as how to feel about said topic. More recent work within this area has led scholars to describe ways in which the media also provides direction as to how people should think about the issues that they deem as important (McCombs, 2004, pg.10).
The last media effect is the cultivation theory and according to this theory, media consumption works to create distorted perceptions of the world (Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, Signorielli, & Shanahan, 2002). Heavy television users begin to view real life as they would television life and occasionally these people will perpetuate behaviours they see on television. An example of this is when James Holmes the columbine shooter set off grenades at the premier of Dark Knight Rises and shot at the audience killing twelve people and leaving 70 others injured. Many people believe that his psychotic break was linked to watching the violent Batman begins rises. Media influences are the effects that media culture has on individuals through thoughts, attitudes and behaviours.
According to eColonialism Theory: How are Trends Changing the World, the issue of how much imported material the receiver retains is critical. The concern is that this new foreign information, frequently favoring the English language, will cause the displacement, rejection, alteration or forgetting of native or indegenous customs, domestic messages or cultural traditions and history (McPhail, 2014). The media uses electronic colonialism to influence how people look, think and act. The aim of electronic colonialism is to look at how mass media influences the mind.
Digitally based information focuses on the consequences concerning the mind, global consumer behaviour, and the structural changes across many aspects of life (Thussu, 2000; McPhail, 2014). Culture is a learned set of shared interpretations about beliefs, values, and norms which affect the behaviours of relatively large groups of people. Scholars have argued and contended over the years that culture is not a genetically inherited trait of human beings, but rather learned (Lusting & Koester 1999).