Review Blog

May 22 2012

More or less : democracy and new media ed. by Helen Sykes

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Future Leaders, 2012. ISBN 9780980332070.
(Senior secondary: Adult) Future leaders is an organisation which seeks to foster and promote leadership by young Australians and their latest publication is a collection of essays which guide consideration of the nature and role of new media in Democratic society. The second half of the book contains examples of creative writing pieces submitted by senior secondary students.
Contributions by prominent Australians and academics form chapters which are distinct and unrelated beyond the common theme of media. The observations are often complex and sometimes expressed in lofty terms, to the point that some contributors could be considered self - indulgent. Other writers employ ordinary language to convey worthy and thought provoking points of view and because the works stand alone, the reader can be selective.
Whilst many secondary students will reject this work as too challenging or because they are disinterested in the topic, others will benefit from the opportunity to consider concepts and ideas which they might not readily encounter in their regular sphere. This is a notion touched upon by some of the writers when referring to the standard and style of news / current affairs appearing on television and radio or the staggering political bias perpetuated by suffocating and dominating media ownership. Agenda driven or erroneous material available on websites and blogs and the capacity to reduce serious matters to puerile catch cries or to convert inane or unimportant incidents to 'news' in online updates, sound grabs or tweets is also revealed. Populist movements, regarded as powerful and just or alternatively naive and ineffective, (depending upon one's point of view) also come under scrutiny.
This book offers many insights on topics such as the balance of freedom of information against personal privacy and security, questioning whether we are becoming more ignorant when access to information has never been greater and consideration of the principle that exchange of ideas is vital in healthy democracies. If nothing else is gained however, students will understand that they must be discerning in what they read, see and hear, to appreciate who is behind the presentation and to what extent they are being manipulated.
Rob Welsh
Editor's note: A free copy of this book is available for every secondary school. Contact Dr Helen Sykes at Future Leaders: helen@futureleaders.com.au

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