Friday, July 15, 2016

Society of Tragedy

As new forms of media emerge and older forms of media find different capacities with technology growth, the standard saying is that the global society as a whole is brought closer together. Indeed, those who advocate for and against globalization tend to recognize the veracity of this saying, although they might disagree over the virtues globalization itself.

Generally, the idea of bringing global society together is viewed as positive. It is now possible for families separated by vast expanses of space and time to see each other on a regular basis online, strengthening the bonds of family and identity. Businesses can connect with each other to expand their market shares and help spur growth in multiple countries and regions, creating new coalitions of interests and benefits. Sports fans may now watch a match and cheer on their favourite soccer team from a different continent, creating a sense of identity with a club or team that transcends borders. Students who once might not have had access to university studies or to courses in certain professions can now access them through online teaching mechanisms, creating a global community of knowledge. These are some of the ways that advances in and the globalization of media have created unofficial societies that transcend borders.

Events through the years have shown that another form of society has been and continues to be created and recreated through advancements in and globalization of media – that of society joined by tragedy. With the increase in connectivity throughout the past century, the way that global society has been constructed has been altered and this has directly impacted the construction of tragedy.

What once might have been a small item in a newspaper about an event far away is now the lead story for media outlets and social media. This allows us to better understand the world in which we live and to feel that we are impacted by it. It also creates a society that reacts to and feels the effects of tragedy in a place far away more closely than ever before. Through the 24-hour news cycle and social media we are able to see images of a tragedy as it unfolds – be it natural or manmade – and are able to perceive the immediate impacts of it on victims and on bystanders.

As audiences, we hear the cries of the wounded and the tales of survival and of loss. We are able to see that such tragedy cuts across stereotypes. We visualize the event and the destruction it causes as it occurs. In this way, through advances in media, we, as a viewing public, become witnesses. We are also able to feel sympathy for those who have suffered from tragedy and in many instances display empathy as well because we are able to understand the events from a more intimate perspective. We are able to glimpse inside the reality of a tragedy.

In this way, advances in and the globalization of media have combined to create a society of tragedy as well as of benefit. There are concrete results to this – moments of silence observed across the world, official declarations of solidarity and, depending on the event, outrage, as well as personal statements by millions around the world on social media. There are also more private, deeply personal moments that result from watching tragedy unfold, even if it impacts those one has never met.

During a tragic event there are often legal responses by the affected country – such as declarations of emergency – and in the aftermath there are often new laws created or efforts to strengthen existing laws to prevent the tragedy from happening again. The families of the victims grieve and mourn, as do friends and colleagues. These are the traditional methods of mourning and progressing. Through advances in and the globalization of media, there is a larger global society that also feels the impacts of tragedy and marks the tragedy and the victims of it in myriad smaller yet still meaningful ways. In this way, a larger, global society of tragedy is created through a combination of media and humanity.

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