A Word of Advice from John Pilger: FODI

After John Pilger’s FODIĀ  talk, “Breaking Australia’s Silence”, I was lucky enough to be last in line for his book signing and scored 5 minutes with him to ask his thoughts on Network Literacy and it’s importance for society in challenging and questioning power, a topic I’ve written on in my past blog posts, and whether he felt social media was inherently dictatorial due to the ownership of the platforms we engage in digital social networking within, or inherently democratic due to their existence as shells in which users generate the communication content?

Pilger was quick to indicated he didn’t use Facebook or Twitter and that these shells themselves were owned spaces formed by U.S. based businesses. Which I felt touched back to a point he made in his talk, that in Australia and Western society the voice we increasingly speak with is framed, largely by media and politics, within an American nationalist narrative. He noted that in cases like Lebanon, and the subsequent Arab Springs, that digital social networks had shown some potential for challenging power, but that we should also be aware of these platforms corporate nature.

He to share concerns that it was vital, if we are to make them work for us instead of the other way around, to understand how these networked communication platforms and public spaces operate and are developed (via an increased network literacy), and who owns them and operates them and to what end, and who consumes them, who is writing on them, why, and to whom are they speaking?

In his talk he noted whistle-blowers Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange, and credited whistle-blowers, in his experience over many years of journalism, as being among some of the best sources of the most interesting and important information for the public. He reflected this in our discussion of network literacy afterward, noting that these ‘great whistle-blowers’ of our time have all been incredibly tech savvy. It would seem to me to keep power in check on the scale of the 3 noted cases above, in today’s networked world requires a level of technical knowledge of this world.

A great talk on stage (which I’ll do another blog about shortly and link to here), and a delightful personal exchange of ideas following, that ended on the succinct note of advice from Pilger with regard to communication platforms and power structures, “Always Question them.”

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