A recent study published in Information, Communication & Society shows that new participants in the social media space are disrupting long-held assumptions about how news and information flow from one geopolitical entity to the next, including by government-run networks such as Voice of America, Al Jazeera and Russia Today. In particular, non-institutional social mediators – like individuals, bloggers and twitter accounts associated with major corporations – are entering into the conversation and enabling more two-way communication between news sources and audience members.
Historically, the flow of news and information has tended to originate in larger nations – known as “core” nations – and then migrate to smaller, or “peripheral” nations. This is important in shaping the worldview of individuals, as core nations are better able to imprint their own cultural values and geopolitical priorities on the citizenry of peripheral nations. Such communication has tended to be very top-down, aimed at passive audiences with little or no ability to influence the discourse.
According to co-author Itai Himelboim, associate professor of advertising and public relations at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, this dynamic is changing.
“Our ability to predict and understand information flow based on traditional assumptions is eroding,” Himelboim explains. “Non-democratic governments such as China, Saudi Arabia and Russia are now about to bypass news media gatekeepers and establish more direct communications with citizens of foreign countries, thereby increasing the global reach and influence of their own worldview. As a result, the international news system is becoming somewhat more egalitarian than what we’ve been used to seeing.”
Guy J. Golan, Itai Himelboim. Can World System Theory predict news flow on Twitter? The case of government-sponsored broadcasting. Information, Communication & Society.
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