16 Feb 2022 Building Credibility and Trust in the Digital World
The latest issue of Media Development, WACC’s quarterly journal, features some of the reflections and ideas generated before and during the historic symposium, Communication for Social Justice in a Digital Age, organized in the fall by WACC and the World Council of Churches (WCC).
The symposium focused on the impact of digital transformation on communities and societies worldwide, and brought together faith, civil society, academic, media and technological organizations “to identify opportunities to advocate for democratic digital inclusion,” writes Philip Lee, Media Development editor and WACC General Secretary, in his editorial. The gathering itself “can be viewed as the start of a lengthy process of reappraising digital communication rights and the way digital technologies are changing society and perhaps even the nature of being human,” Lee adds.
The issue, with the theme “Building Credibility and Trust in the Digital World” includes the keynote speech delivered by Dr. Ellen Ueberschär, President of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, which tackles the positive and negative aspects of digital technology, and urges civil society organizations, faith-based communities, and NGOs to “take up the fight for freedom and dignity” in both digital and offline spheres.
“The forces of democracy and public welfare must stand together in the fight to build credibility and trust in the digital media world,” says Ueberschär in her incisive speech. She also stresses that, digital participation “is not a luxury or merely nice to have, but a prerequisite for the development of inclusive societies. Free access to information and unhindered opportunities to disseminate it form the backbone of democratic, open, and prosperous societies.”
In the article, Dreaming of the Common Good, Dennis Smith, a past president of WACC, synthesizes the discussions by a study group, made up mostly of researchers from the global South, to prepare WACC’s contribution to the symposium.
It notes how, since time immemorial, “competing power elites have struggled to control access to and dictate the terms of distribution” of the communication systems.
However, notes Smith, “While those in power have always sought to exert hegemony over the systems humankind has used to create meaning in common for their own benefit, no attempt to control public space has
ever been completely successful.”
Today’s digital media platforms are no different, he writes.”…Even when they are privately-owned and operated to promote the interests of sectarian groups,” they remain “public spaces where human communities express creative impulse and question what it means to belong.”
In the article, Bridging the gender digital divide from a human rights perspective, the Association for Progressive Communications, underscores the importance of considering not just “access for ‘who,’ but access to ‘what.'”
It notes: “The internet has become a critical space for women to access relevant information, which is often unavailable to them offline due to social and cultural norms – for example, information on sexual health and reproductive rights. Yet increasingly, this information is being dubbed obscene and then censored online too.”
Women must have access to all information online to help them make informed and vital choices, it stresses.
The issue also includes:
* Digital justice, by Heinrich Bedford-Strohm
* In what ways has the digital era changed the notion of public
space? by the Working Group
* Communication for Social Justice in a Digital Age Symposium Manifesto
* The Copenhagen Pledge, by Tech for Democracy
* Corona, the digital divide, and Indigenous peoples, by Donn J. Tilson
Media Development is free for individual and organizational WACC members. See information on joining WACC here.