Very recently a minister in India went public with his ideas on the censorship of social networking websites like Facebook and Google. Needless to say that his preposterous idea was rebuked everywhere, even by the members of his own ruling alliance. It was interesting to note how the media covered the news and published scathing reports about the wild idea of the minister in question and his non-conforming behaviours of the past.
The question arises – Why did the regular media i.e. print and electronic media houses react with such concern and against the censorship of social networking websites on Internet? Such practice of censorship in whatever limited or effective forms does exist in few authoritarian countries of the world.
History of mankind is full of various ways and means adopted by political leaders through the times to address the masses to achieve their desired political goals. Control of media especially the print, recordings, radio, television and cinema by the political masters is very well known.
Very desire to censor the contents of any form of communication medium is the de-facto recognition of the mass communication reach and powers of the medium.
For simplicity sake let us list down the present mass communication media.
- Print Media
Some disagree to ¨Mobile¨ being listed as a mass communication medium. Some consider it as just a tool to access the Internet only. Here we look at why should the ¨mobile¨ be considered as a form of mass media in its own right.
Let us examine an example, when radio was very much an established form of mass media, the introduction of television though being a similar electronic broadcast medium brought in a new media all together for a simple reason, it carried live pictures of the event being broadcast. In simpler terms, television was doing something which radio could not due to the very character of the medium.
On similar lines, mobile form of Internet access has specific characteristics which sets it apart from regular non-mobile Internet access. Further, the mobile / smart phones have characteristics which sets it apart from regular desktop computers.
A user on a regular desktop computer interacts with Internet using monitor, keyboard and mouse where keyboard and mouse being the inputs.
A mobile user interacts with the Internet with many more inputs – touchscreen, camera, barcode scanner, microphone, motion sensor, keypad, location input (GPS / Network).
Availability of a plethora of input interfaces on the mobile phones defines a character of the Internet access over mobile phones much different from a desktop computer.
How does it really differ?
- Mobile phones being mobile are carried around
- Connectivity to network – Internet is (mostly) always ON.
- Authenticated payment modes are built-in due to service providers.
- Users make use of the medium at their will or impulse.
- Communication is most effective due to very reliable audience information.
- Location and social context of the user is captured (if sensors are enabled).
- Serves as maybe the only personal mass communication medium.
A mobile user out on the street and while on move clicks a picture of a live event and uploads it in real time and mass publishes to viewers and tweets and mass communicates about it while still moving. While a static desktop computer Internet user´s activity is limited to the four walls.
Maybe the earlier mentioned minister known for his unrealistic assumptions had assumed that Internet users exist on a few regular desktop computers alone and can be regulated through some bureaucratic means. The presence of many many many more users of mobile phone based Internet may not have occurred to him.
The ever growing adoption of Internet enabled smart/mobile phones makes the concept of personal mass communication medium so strong that intelligent users and the media houses found the idea of censor of social networking sites on Internet as absurd and idiotic.
Millions of mobile phone Internet users tweeting on tweeter and posting, commenting, sharing and liking on facebook is beyond conventional censorship of mass mediums. At best the complete mobile Internet connectivity has to be blocked / switched off. Such scenarios do exist in few authoritarian societies alone where even SMS is blocked.
Mobile websites serves this new world wide mass communication media and much differently than conventional websites for desktop Internet. This requires a completely different thought on how to build websites for mobile access. The much practised offerings of optimizing existing websites to suit the small screens of mobile phones is far removed from the reality of mobile specific and mobile only websites.
Mobile websites is destined to bring about a revolution in the mass communication media.