Garrison, B. (2001, Aug). Diffusion of online information technologies in newspaper newsrooms. Journalism, 2(2): 221-239.
Most of the dialogue in the mainstream media about online sexuality tends to focus on access to porn and kinks, and particularly their problematic aspects. But what evidence is there that Web porn and kink-exposure has actually affected our sexual attitudes and behaviours?
I spoke with Professor Feona Attwood, Principal Lecturer in Communication at Sheffield Hallam Universirt and author and editor of Porn.com, a collection of research from academic specialists in this field published in 2009. Here, she discusses the ways in which the Web is making a difference in term of production and consumption of explicit sexual material, its long-term effects on the sexual evolution of today’s media-savvy young adults, and - importantly - how online porn is no different from porn in other media.
What is Life on Wheels?
Life on Wheels was born out of feeling of anger and frustration, which I think generally, plays to the birth of every revolutionary movement. Essentially, I was going to college every morning and bus drivers would not let me on the bus because I was in a wheelchair. So in response to these feelings, I began writing the blog, generally once a week detailing my experiences.
Why did you choose to use the digital tools?
If you’re trying to get a message out or raise people’s awareness, the aim is to get it out to the largest amount of people as quickly as possible. I saw that how I could do it was on the Internet. If you’re not given a platform by others, you’ll make your own. If your form of resistance is writing, then you will find any means necessary to get that writing out into the public consciousness, even if you have to write it on a piece of paper and go and pin it up on walls around London. The way I saw it, everyone I knew was going on the Internet. So if you put it in that context, it becomes visible.
What is it about digital tools that make them effective for galvanising people?
I don’t think the Internet is some kind of grand solution that will solve all our problems, but it helps because of its global capacity to reach people across the world. Che Guevera was a big internationalist, Malcolm X talked about the global context. A lot of these revolutionaries talked about necessity of encouraging revolution and resistance in any context around the world. If we’re writing on the Internet, the hope that someone in Kashmir or Palestine or Iraq can read what you’re writing is a good hope. With the Web, people in power can’t edit or co-opt what we’ve said. Every newspaper you read has an agenda, or it wouldn’t be printed. Every paper has a school of thought they want to promote. With the Web, I can publish whatever I want to say. They can’t censor our voices any longer. You can say whatever you like about Julian Assange and Wikileaks, but you can’t change the video or the images that one million people saw in one day of American soldiers eager to kill Iraqi civilians. People see those images and know the truth is in front of their eyes.
What are its shortcomings?
We need to realise that most people in the world don’t have access to the Internet. Whilst recognising its benefits, we also have to recognise the reality of the situation. The Internet is the first step. It’s not the answer. How can we get the information out? After that, the revolution will come when people translate what they’re reading about, the videos they’re seeing, into actions on the street and actions that are direct threat in a physical form. There’s a danger if people get into the mindset that writing things and making videos is enough. This is only the start. The movement we want to build, the revolutionary movement for equality for all people, can only happen through direct action, and direct action on the streets. The Internet can play a role in our political education, raising our political consciousness, but as long as people remember that this is a way to plan the actions, to organise ourselves, to connect people, but not the solution, then we’ll be ok.
How will the Web change the world?
The power lies with people, not with the technology. Who’s running the Internet? It’s not a computer that’s putting the content there: it’s people. Power always lies with the people. Once we unify ourselves as a strong revolutionary political force, and once we put our minds together and harness that power, we can make a real change. I don’t think the Internet will change the world: people will change the world.
What will happen when the people currently in power learn to use the Internet for their own ends?
They’ll try everything, but they’re never gong to defeat the resistance. You can’t kill ideas. You can put people in prison. You can murder our brothers. You can demolish our homes. But you can’t kill the ideas in our minds. People are realising their own power. If we can harness that and translate the theories into action, then we can make a real change and a movement for a real equality.