Since the dawn of history, communication among people has been the cornerstone for forming and developing social structures through time. The evolution of the means of communication that people invented to communicate with each other has led to the movement of human civilization progress. The milestones on the path of means of communication and transmission of ideas evolution were also milestones for humanity’s transition to the next stage of its progress.
Developing language, writing then printing before modern times were each a beginning of a great leap for the progress of human communities. In the modern era, the invention of the telegraph, telephone, and television were great advancements that took addressing the populace to levels unknown in any previous era. The emergence of computers and their networks, with the Internet at their forefront, however, was a special transition that was different from anything that came before. This technology made it possible for the first time to have instant mass communication among an unlimited number of senders and receivers.
The Internet opened new horizons for people’s communication that were not available before. The spread of smartphones led to the penetration of the Internet into world communication with a ratio that no communication means has ever reached before. This, theoretically, means that any person in the world can publish a message that reaches any other person anywhere, instantly. It also means that any message can be resent to reach maybe billions of people in a short time.
The latest events of history have proved how great an impact Internet applications, like social media, may have on shaping public opinion within one country or beyond its borders. Such an influence wasn’t available in any previous era, and it has both good and bad implications based on the source, direction, and purpose of the influence.
With the speedy technological advances and their great impact on shaping our daily lives now and in the future, arises the need for progressive communication as a crucial means for seeking to have such a great impact directed toward the improvement of individuals’ and communities’ lives.
The concept of progressive communications is based on the values and principles of progressivism, which believe that human communities are capable of evolving and changing to create free, prosperous, and just environments for all their members equally. Accomplishing this aim requires all those who believe in it to work hard incessantly.
Progressive communications is a main tool of this cause. For this tool to be used as efficiently as possible, many people should have a clear understanding of the progressive values and objective and their impact on people’s lives, as well as of how progressive communications may reflect these values and objectives while contributing to accomplishing them.
This paper seeks to provide a clear definition of progressive communications, clarifying the most important progressive values and principles and how progressive communications reflect and help work to reach them. The paper also shows the most important aspects of the impact of modern advancements in progressive communications on social movements, governments, and businesses, which provide examples of what progressive communications can accomplish.
What is progressive communications?
Progressivism is, before anything, an intellectual orientation based on believing that human communities can change for the better. For such change to take place, all the forms of injustice, poverty, poor health and other forms of suffering that most people are forced to endure in their daily lives must be abolished.
As a foundation of several social and political visions progressivism is about tackling the sources of social injustice embedded in political and social systems. It is also all about seeking to instate a group of values and principles at their head are social justice, equality, protection of freedoms and human rights, inclusiveness, and openness.
Communicating with others is the only means for transmitting messages to them, and through such messages, values and principles can spread, and organizing to accomplish them can be achieved. Hence, means of communication of different forms have always been among the tools crucial for progressive movements.
Progressive communications can be defined as using different means of communication to transmit a progressive discourse and to interact with others to spread and reinforce progressive values. Progressive communications is not attached to a specific technology of communication, it is more concerned with the content of the message and the quality of interactions. Accordingly, it uses every means or communication technology available to accomplish its objectives.
Progressive communications, however, is not only a tool for transmitting a message from end to end. It is an effective and crucial means of achieving progressive values and principles in reality. Through them, the collective power of different groups is built to constitute pressure to attain their demands and objectives. Additionally, progressive communications work to organize decision-making processes democratically, expanding the range of participation in these processes. Generally, employing progressive communications for achieving the objectives of progressive movements reflects, by itself and the way it works, the progressive values and principles it preaches.
While progressive communications is not attached to any specific technology, communication technology has become with time a more efficient tool for amplifying voices and reaching the largest possible number of people. Communication technology also helps enable more egalitarian and democratic interaction, especially with the spread of the Internet and its different applications.
The breadth of the concept of social justice is only matched by the expansiveness of the debate surrounding its theoretical definition or practical implementation on the ground. This paper will examine the concept of social justice from a human rights perspective.
Accordingly, social justice is related to the right of every member of society to dignity as an absolute bottom line. This means that every member of society has a right to access enough material and recognition resources required for a dignified life. Above this minimum, every member of society has the right to a fair and equivalent to others’ access to material and recognition resources that allow seeking self-fulfillment and aspiring to a happy, productive, and beneficial life.
Means of communication are among the main and most important resources of any society, especially in this era. Progressive communications reflect the value of social justice by seeking that all members of society have a fair opportunity to access means of communication. Access to the Internet represents in our time one of the rights that progressive movements seek to have instated officially so that countries around the world are obliged to work on providing access to the Internet to all their citizens.
Additionally, as a unique means of communication, the Internet in itself is considered a means for accessing many different resources more easily than was possible before. Hence, progressive communications seek to use the Internet and its different applications to provide such resources as knowledge, education, training, healthcare, opportunities for work and employment, as well as affordable commodities and services to as many members of society as possible. This isn’t about only making these resources available through the Internet, but also that they are available in a form that allows maximum benefit for the largest number of people across their different social and educational backgrounds.
On the other hand, progressive communications seek to exploit the opportunities different means of communication made available for supporting the work of progressive activists and their groups and organizations in their work defending issues related to social justice.
Equality is one of the fundamental progressive values. It’s tightly linked to social justice, but while the latter is related to fair access to resources, equality goes beyond that to the right to recognition and respect. What is meant by that is that every member of society regardless of gender, race, social status, origin, place of residence, religion, sexual orientation, or else, has the right to be as persons, as well as their identities recognized. Equality also means that all members of society are fully respected equally without discrimination.
On the other hand, equality means equal access to participation in every social activity, including the right to participate in making collective decisions, and to express opinions and make suggestions.
Progressive communications reflect the value of equality by removing obstacles to accessing means of communication themselves regardless of any identity differences among users. Additionally, progressive communications recognize the right to anonymity, which is the right of a user of communication means that no identity-revealing data are available beyond their wish.
Progressive communications also reflect the value of equality through making available tools that make communications among the members of any group conducted in a manner that allows each an equal chance to participate in discussions or common activities.
Collective Power Building
In all societies the way that political, economic, and social systems work deprives many social groups of their power. This means that these groups don’t have enough impact on how things are going so that they may protect their rights and preserve their interests equivalent to others. What is meant by power building is for these groups to have enough influence so that they can effectively defend their rights and interests.
Progressive communications contribute to power building for marginal and vulnerable groups in many ways. Communication means are in themselves very important tools of influence. Accordingly, one of the elements of power building is providing access to means of communication and using them for voice amplification for those who have usually no voice in society.
Tightly linked to this, progressive communications provide a media platform that has a wide reach to make the voices of marginal and vulnerable groups heard and amplified. Modern progressive communications also allow the organization of events and awareness, defending, or advocacy campaigns that highlight the aspect of social injustice and discrimination that some social groups are subjected to.
On another side, progressive communications is a very important and effective tool for association, forming pressure groups, and coordinating between individuals and organizations to work more effectively in defending the rights of marginal and vulnerable groups and giving them more influence over the policies related to their concerns.
Organization is one of the basic progressive principles, being the tool for achieving other progressive values and principles. Organization is tightly linked to the power-building principle, but it goes beyond it to perform main roles in achieving other principles like equality.
This is related to organization structuring. The closer an organization is to networking and decentralization, and the farther it is from hierarchy, centralization, and the concentration of the power of making decisions in the hands of the few, the more progressive and more able it is to achieve the progressive objectives it seeks.
Progressive communications is a basic cornerstone of the organization-building process and their work for achieving their objectives. As more egalitarian is the access to means of communication the more it is possible to sustain democracy within the coordination of collaborative work.
Openness is a basic and crucial value for establishing effective communication. Openness is in principle related to the possibility of getting over the obstacles of differences among individuals and groups to make civil conversation among them possible. Openness depends on accepting the different other and achieving closeness among different people based on the human general commonality, as well as special commonality related to issues and conditions getting them closer to each other. Openness allows safe environments for communication and positive dialogue and getting individuals and groups closer to each other leading to potential cooperation and joint work for achieving common objectives for the benefit of all parties.
Progressive communications allow wide possibilities for achieving the value of openness. First, progressive communications provides the opportunity to get to know each other closely and through original sources. This means that the other’s voice is transmitted directly allowing her to express herself without intermediaries. This contributes to breaking many fake obstacles created by ignorance of others or knowing them through intermediaries who might not be honest in transmission or might have their own biases that disfigure the image of the other.
Progressive communications also allow the creation of communication space where interlocutors are equal making it possible for the communication to be more honest and truthful. Progressive communications also allow wide areas for expression in many forms contributing to coming to know different human aspects of the other drawing a multi-dimensional image of her and clearing larger ranges of closeness and similarities on a human ground.
Within the framework of the development of communications in our time, progressive communications seeks to encourage people to not be satisfied with communicating with those who have common collective identities, either citizenship, religion, political ideology, or else. Progressive communications work on this by building open spaces based on interests that don’t depend on identity. Progressive communications also seek to make available tools that help go over more difficult obstacles like language, and cultural differences, so that people with different cultural backgrounds can communicate with each other.
Inclusiveness is a value tightly linked to openness. Inclusiveness means opening the door for participating in communication in its different forms as well as in the types of activities depending on it for everyone without discrimination based on any identity. While inclusiveness intersects as a value with openness and is considered a tool to accomplish it, it however goes beyond in its impact on individuals. Inclusiveness contributes to building individuals’ self-confidence and reinforces their feeling of self-worth independent from any collective identity.
This is in turn reflected in the possibility to establish positive communication and dialogue among individuals. Possessing self-assurance, independence, and acceptance among peers allows for more candid, honest, and truthful communication. Feeling self-worth and the ability to act created by being accepted within different groups, also leads to trusting the ability to achieve far-fetched objectives. This is why inclusiveness is considered a core component of building social power. Individuals who have self-confidence are closer to being involved in collective work to achieve common objectives.
Progressive communication contributes to accomplishing the value of inclusiveness through building platforms and spaces that are open to all and accept them equally without discrimination. Also allowing access to means of communication allows each individual to have equal opportunity to address others without intermediacy building self-confidence, independence, and self-worth. Progressive communications also seeks that communication spaces have rules for civil interaction and communication with implied mutual respect and acceptance of others, so that each individual feels accepted in these spaces and that she has a voice and worth equal to every other individual.
Cooperation is a very important progressive value. It is one of the values more dependent on positive communication among people. While cooperation is tightly linked to collective work for achieving common objectives it goes beyond this to build the foundations for mutual aid among individuals and groups without the need for having common objectives, but only based on human unity, empathy, and the recognition of the other’s humanity and respecting her rights.
Cooperation and solidarity are human values that allow people to expect others to venture into lending a helping hand and aid when needed, not based on identitarian unity of any form, but only based on the unity among humans as such. Accordingly, besides providing a safety net for many people lacking enough resources for emergent hardships, cooperation reinforces the value of human unity and builds routes for closeness among people. Cooperation opens spaces for more mutual aid and the discovery of grounds for collective work for achieving general human objectives and ends.
Progressive communications has sought and continues to seek throughout all times to build spaces of communication among people that go beyond the different borders and obstacles that usually keep them apart. Within these spaces people get closer as humans, creating human bonds that allow empathy and recognition of similarities of needs and basic rights.
On this basis, cooperation initiatives are built, and progressive communication also seeks to provide them with tools that allow achieving them in the real world. Progressive communications contributes to this through solidarity messages or the means of providing help for those going through crises and hard conditions. In addition to the initiatives of exchanging knowledge and information and making available resources for learning and training for those who don’t have them through individual and group initiatives that seek no interest but provide help to those in need of it.
The foundational principle of human rights is that every person born on planet earth has a set of basic inalienable rights, which is related to being human regardless of any other identity. This principle is one of the primal progressive principles on which many of its other principles are based. Human rights as a whole as well as in each of their details represent an expression of many progressive values and principles that many have fought for more than two centuries to impose their recognition by world states.
While the juridical expression of human rights through international convents, agreements, and charts is considered a foundation for the international commitment to the principles of human rights as a whole as well as to each right on its own, for progressive thought it is still considered an important step but an intermediate one toward transforming progressive principles into an obligation for political power represented by nation-states to respect and protect basic rights of their citizens.
The human rights movement keeps working as a progressive movement that seeks the expansion of international recognition of more rights that every individual in the world should enjoy. The movement also seeks to fix the formulation of obligation in international covenants and agreements to avoid many of their slips, that allow violation of rights to the extent of voiding them of content and purpose in many cases with pretensions like national securities of stats and preservation of public order and modesty, cultural specificity and else.
Progressive communications has always been and continues to be a main pushing force for human rights. It also has been and still is an important component of human rights. Progressive communications plays a central role in allowing the practice of many basic rights at their head are the right to free expression. The right to privacy, the right to access information, and the right to political participation.
In the following, the paper discusses briefly this role in the case of two major human rights which are the right to free expression and the right to privacy.
The Right to Free Expression
Communication among humans is the only medium through which any person can practice the right to free expression of opinions and feelings. Each form of expression, whether using written, spoken, or sung language, or using other media of visual or sonic artistic expression, is basically a form of human communication.
Progressive communication has an important role in developing tools that remove technical obstacles that can make it difficult for individuals to express their thoughts satisfactorily. Modern evolution or digital technologies made available for an increasing number of people tools of expression and creating messages. Some of these tools made expression using traditional media easier, some others opened the door for imagination and innovation for creating new media and mixing them with traditional ones in forms that are only limited by experimentation, innovation, and imagination.
Progressive communications seeks on the other side to make available for everyone fair opportunities to make their messages relaying their expression of their opinions, thoughts and feeling reach as large and audience as possible. It also seeks to remove the obstacles that may prevent this. In the forefront of course are censorship practices by some states seeking to prevent access of their citizens to some content, as well as penal practices that persecute creators of specific messages under laws and legislation that limit the right to free expression, or outside the law and circumventing it. Progressive communication also seek to provide means of circumventing the techniques of these practices. In the case of the Internet, as the main medium of communication today, technologies like encryption, VPNs and others provide means for breaking through systems of censorship and content filtration. The same technologies also provide means for hiding identity to avoid persecution.
The Right to Privacy
The right to privacy is one of the most important human rights that are tightly connected to psychic integrity of persons, In an environment of unlimited potentials for communications and transmission of data and information, people feel increasing threats of privacy violations and interference in their personal lives details.
Protecting privacy along with freedom of communication among people represent two sides of a coin that can’t be separated. Freedom of communication implies free choice of its limits which individuals should have to choose themselves without interference of external dictation.
Progressive communications seeks to provide means and tools that allow each person to have maximum possible control over the limits of her communication with others. This means that the each person determines clearly what is available through this communication to each other party in terms of personal information, data and details, including who, when and under what conditions she may be contacted.
With the evolution of telecommunication technologies, progressive communications seeks to limit any negative effects of this evolutions concerning the protection of the right to privacy, It also seeks to provide individuals with tools and means to combat personal data preaches and privacy violations practices.
Sustainability as a general concept is concerned with preserving the existence of human spices by making sure that human behavior whether individual or collective don’t lead to an unbalance of the necessary requirement of this existence. While environmental sustainability is a branch of this general concept, its relation with objective threats to human existence in the relatively near future led to its being on top of people’s concerns related to sustaining their existence as a species. Accordingly, the concept of sustainability is usually taken to refer to environmental sustainability.
Environmental sustainability is concerned with preserving the elements of earth environment necessary for supporting the continual existence of the human species. Under current circumstances, the concept is more concerned with working on stopping the fast deterioration of earth environment which threatens the life of humans.
This deterioration is the product of decades or maybe centuries of the evolution of humans exploitation of their planet’s resources irresponsibly, especially polluting the environment of this planet with the waste of industrial and agricultural production operations. This led to very dangerous phenomena that threaten the stability of this environment, most importantly are climate change, loss of biodiversity, and deterioration of soil quality.
These and other phenomena are threatening with very dangerous consequences, including high temperatures and melting of the ice cover of the two poles, which leads to rising levels of oceans and seas waters, which in turn will lead to drowning large land areas in many locations of the world. This threatens the disappearance of whole cities. Also, higher severity of natural disasters and higher rates of causalities threaten the loss of many people, with some estimates putting their numbers in the rank of billions.
All the mentioned above put environmental sustainability on the agenda of progressive communications as one of it urgent and important objectives. Progressive communications works through the use of all available means of communication to raise awareness of the dangers of the continuing deterioration of earth environment, publishing the right scientific information about climate change, and combating the counter-propaganda of the environment threats deniers. Progressive communications also supports the efforts of the groups and organizations that work all over the world to change the policies of governments and businesses to tackle the environmental threat.
Evolution of Progressive Communications
The evolution of computing technology, digital communication and their networks including the internet, represents a very important turning point for the evolution of progressive communications. These technologies have carried within their structure and the way they work unlimited potentials for communication in the way that progressive communications seeks to accomplish.
With the wide spread of these technologies the impact of progressive communications is greatly increased. This is reflected in many fields, some that has a traditional connections with progressive communications like emancipatory social movements, and some used to be until recently a closed space for it, like governments and businesses. In the following the paper discusses some of the impacts of the evolution of progressive communications on these thee fields.
Social Movements and the Use of Progressive Communications
Social movements have a long history of using progressive communications due to the fact that these movement are mainly based on progressive values and principles. With the huge evolution of progressive communication, these movements where the first to benefit from it.
The emergence and spread of the Internet has particularly led to opening large space for these movements to facilitate many of their work pillars. The internet contributed to reaching larger, and more varied audience beyond traditional borders. It also helped addressing the people no matter where they are in the world, and communicating with individual and groups with similar ideas and objective allowing coordination and organization on a large scale, especially for interacting with world events related to their interests. Additionally, progressive communications helped internal coordination and organization in a more effective and flexible manner. It raised the levels of transparency and participation in decision making within these movements.
One of the unprecedented aspect of progressive communications impact on social movements is the ability to build effective campaigns in short time while attracting large numbers of supporters for these campaigns without a need for a common ideological ground. What is meant by this is that raising specific issues draws the attention of people who are usually not concerned with progressive views, so that their support is gained concerning these specific issues raising the weight of impact and pushing specific demands that many can agree with.
For instance, the success of such movements build around the MeToo hashtag, or Black Lives Matter, as well as demands of the cease of current Israeli aggression against Gaza. These are all examples of the huge impact of coming together around specific issues and stances which wouldn’t have been possible with the evolution of progressive communications in our times.
The Turn Toward E-Government
The evolution of digital computers and communications networks has also allowed progressive communications to penetrate the space of bureaucratic operations of governments through pushing and promoting the concept of e-government. This concepts is based on achieving some of the important progressive values and principles through developing the techniques of governmental operations using advanced technology.
In the forefront of the e-government features is the availability of data and information collected and produced by governments bodies in different fields. Also making it possible to used this data and information for research purposes as well as for the purpose of monitoring governmental policies and the procedures of public entities operations, including the ways policies are set and executive decisions are made.
While making governmental data and information available achieves the transparency principle as will as the right to access to information, it is the foundation for the second feature of e-government which is accountability on levels which were not available before even under democratic regimes. Political accountability till recently has the ballot box as its sole tool, and wasn’t able to go beyond general policies to getting into their implementation details.
With governmental information available on a large scale it is now possible for experts as well as the populace to inspect closely the details of government operations. This allows an expansion of the range and depth of accountability reaching the procedures and executive processes that touches on the details of citizens’ everyday lives.
The World of Business and Progressive Communications
The world of business was also an area that denied progressive communication access to it. While governments (at least in democratic countries) are obligated to have a level of transparency and accountability, the world of business is formed of private entities that laws don’t allow interference in their internal management. Business leaders are not accountable to people, only to investors and shares holders.
But businesses in the same time have an increasing impact on daily lives of millions of people. This became more clearly manifest with the emergence of big tech corporations and their domination of a large part of Internet governance, especially when it come to content moderation policies. Accordingly, these entities have a large social responsibility that is proportional to their size and the range of their platforms’ impact.
Progressive communications has always sought to raise the awareness of users as well as governments of the large size and depth of influence businesses have, especially big tech corporations that manages social media, content publishing and search engines platforms on the internet.
These efforts haves succeeded in pushing a number of these corporation to implement initiatives that allow more transparency of their procedures relevant to their users’ rights, especially the right to free expression and the right to privacy. It has also became expected that any social media site would make available more settings that allow its users more freedom in choosing limits of communications and privacy protection they need. Many corporations made available courses of complains and appeal for penal procedures, as will as processes for reporting violations.
Additionally, some countries including the European Union have issued legislation and bylaws for more monitoring of the way big tech companies manage their platforms on the Internet. While this doesn’t cover all the guarantees needed for users rights, and achieving progressive values and principles, pushing for more keeps going on encouraged by what was achieved so far.
Progressive communications is a very large field, as it is connected to the everlasting aspiration to achieve progressive values and principles in real life through the creation of more effective and egalitarian spaces, means, and tools of communication. Progressive communications also contribute to building environments that encourage mutual trust and open horizons of cooperative work among people to change their societies and combat systems of social injustice and political oppression.
This paper has sought to provide entry points and basic definitions of progressive communications that allow more exploration of the progressive potentials at the core of means of communication among people by their nature. The paper has also sought to encourage seeing communications as much more than a neutral tool for exchanging messages among people. It is by no means possible to separate the medium of communication and the content transmitted, which is a fact proved by human experience for centuries. Hence, the essence of progressive communications is the continual aspiration for the medium of communication among people to be a vessel for transmitting, spreading, and achieving progressive values and principles.