LIBERTY OF VOICES and WORDS
The hero of the novel Fahrenhait 451 is a fireman, whose job is not to put out fires but to burn books that the government has ordered to destroy.
That fireman starts reading one of the books and his life changes abruptly. He takes refuge in a forest where good people like him live. Members of the ensemble memorized all the great books of literature and each of them became an audio memory library. Voices and words cannot be destroyed, even if dictators burn the books.
A society moves away from universal truths only when it begins to affirm and affirm itself. That’s what nationalist societies do. They cannot tolerate different sounds and words. In today’s societies, this belief is established by one-sided media. Broadcasts from the mainstream media become the basis of persuasion. Media replaces reality. If the voice on the radio doesn’t say that autumn is coming, people think the sun is stil lighting.
Non-democratic countries try to monopolize the truth. The government of the Soviet Union tried to hide the Chernobyl disaster from the world in 1986 because the Communist Party was the only authority on what was the truth. Today Mr. Putin is trying to establish the same reality. Russia is not a free country and one voice seems to dominate the whole country. If the truth becomes something that can be fictionalized, people’s voices and words can easily be fictionalized.
One of the milestone of the Age of Enlightenment is encyclopedia and the other is dictionaries.
No matter what language you speak, you get along with words. The images that form in our minds are the concepts that those words point to. The more words you know, the more concepts you will have in mind. This is why native speakers have a wider imagination. If we lose our words, we lose with them the ideas they expressed.
The books that protect words and words from the brutality of years are dictionaries.
“Dictionaries are a forest untouched by literature. Getting lost in it is a real journey,” says the Turkish poet Küçük İskender (1964-2019).
A world where everyone uses the same science and technology, touches the same internet and therefore speaks the same language creates the concept of globalization, and unfortunately, globalization teaches the whole world only English. English, a language spoken by 400 thousand people on the island called England at the end of the Middle Ages has become the common language of the world in today’s tech-world.
Even today, the relationship of social media with democracy and freedom of expression is still being discussed. Social media accounts are banned in some totalitarian countries. Can you talk about a free internet in China, Russia, North Korea, Kazakhstan, Iran or any Middle Eastern country? However, in the first years, everyone thought that the internet was an environment of freedom. We now know that it is not so.
The issue of whether social media (new media) strengthens democracy is no longer debatable. Due to its new media structure, it is open to everyone and everyone can access it. But how can this be possible in countries where internet access is in the hands of the state? It is a good thing that there is no need for an intermediary to reach the information, but who will we trust for real information in cases where information pollution is intense?
Newspapers, magazines and televisions are controlled by the professional principles of the press and the courts. However, there is no such sanction in social media. The new media takes information to incredible dimensions, spreads it and throws it into infinity. Thus, the boundaries of the public sphere expand and even include the private sphere. Because of social media, the public is divided into small groups and the influence on decision makers is reduced. Would such a process strengthen or weaken democracy? Therefore, every social institution, non-governmental organization, association, foundation and trade union that strengthens democracy can open new channels in this way. But it should not be forgotten that the same thing will be used by malicious people, dictators and some rogue states and even free internet can be blocked by power holders.
Social media writer Geert Lovink deals with social media, which has now become the founding element of our lives and our sociality, in terms of power and power relations. Thus, he defines social media not only as good or bad in itself, but also with the political establishment of social conflicts and power relations. It highlights the dangers of social media, particularly in the sense that it highlights a new kind of individualism that undermines collective sociability by minimizing sensation and manipulating perceptions.
Absolutely right. But to position social media criticism within and against social media rather than rejecting it or giving up on it is perhaps Lovink’s most striking suggestion. So Lovink, social media spontaneous democracy, freedom, etc. He reminds us that a more democratic and free sociality can only be established with the activity, organization and struggle we will exhibit in the field of social media. It’s worth paying attention to.
Intellectual production speed brought along with it in the computer age. But this speed often steals the meaning of true art. Up-to-date books are written fluently on computers and products that are consumed rapidly emerge. Cinema, radio, television and computer are speed products. Speed can be enjoyed, but only if it doesn’t end in accident. The production of knowledge is not and should not be speed dependent. If the knowledge that will improve humanity is compatible with universal truths and human dignity, it can stay in the future. Any valuable information left to the future becomes anonymized over time. True knowledge must be independent of any ideology. Every opinion, every view and every artistic event that is wanted to be connected to political ideas from one end is doomed to die from birth.
The debate over whether the sound can be captured or a weapon that can be used towards the desired goal is already going on in the music industry. The existence of artificial intelligence in the music industry, the views that artistic imagination and creativity are only human characteristics and cannot be reproduced by programmed computers echo in the corridors of the system.
“Music poses some problems. It’s the most cognitively, mechanically and emotionally demanding of human activities, and it makes computer repetition difficult. This is the final frontier for artificial intelligence” says Steven Jan, a music researcher at the University of Huddersfield.
Referring to the ability of artificial intelligence systems to learn and operate creatively within the boundaries of the conceptual space, Jan says, “We are still in the investigative creativity stage.” Think about where this creativity could capture of any dictator.
How will artificial intelligence affect the music industry? Will artists disappear one day? Will people just want to listen to music made by computers? Will politicians be able to control all voices? Composer Ash Koosha says: “I try to prepare digital music in such a way that it does not lose human values and does not go in a fraudulent direction where only the machine decides what kind of music it will be”
We must continue to work for a universal freedom of voices and words, not just of the people.
*Murat Erdin, writer and lecturer, based in Istanbul, Turkey