In Technology feeds grassroots media Dan sets out to tell the great unwashed about the technological impact of the net on the media landscape, but along the way he lets slip the real story.
The democratisation of media is also, fundamentally, about the people we once called mere consumers. Their role is evolving from a passive one to something much more interactive, but they are blessed (or cursed, depending on one's viewpoint) with an unprecedented variety of voices and services.
Dan is right, but doesn't take the extra step; the sudden emergence of all those new voices in all their variety is a sign of how controlled and monocultural the mass media is. It has evolved into a tool for driving cultural conformity and uniformity, only one message is heard, only one perspective is validated, that's why "getting on TV" was so important, it validated whatever it was that you represented. But the cost has been the suppression of dissent, even of alternative voices and perspectives, and the oppression of whole sectors of society whose "News" meant, effectively, nothing. The technology is undermining that attitude and fragmenting the mass to the point where Tah dah! there are no longer going to be the economies of scale created by the monocultural hegemony.
Mass media cannot possibly cater to the diversity of any community, let alone a city or a state, that is why we are gobbling up with such speed the possibilities of the net. As Britain turns off - and logs on makes clear.
Britons are grasping the 2 1st century with both hands: we now spend more time watching the web than watching television, according to internet giant Google. A survey conducted on behalf of the search engine found that the average Briton spends around 164 minutes online every day, compared with 148 minutes watching television. That is equivalent to 41 days a year spent surfing the web: more than almost any other activity apart from sleeping and working.
Gee, I wonder why? I'm all for it. And no, delivering TV over the net is not the same as "watching TV", are trucks delivering fridges on the same roads that I drive my car, that doesn't mean that I want to live in a fridge. Hey, we can all do non sequiturs.
Maybe the new landscape will look a little more like the one Paul Reynolds inhabits, although he still assume that he will be the focus, and that is not at all likely. Bloggers: an army of irregulars says Paul:
I regard the blogosphere as a source of criticism that must be listened to and as a source of information that can be used.
The mainstream media (MSM in the jargon) has to sit up and take notice and develop some policies to meet this challenge. Most big organisations, whether in news or in business, have no policy towards blogs. They might, as the BBC has, develop a policy towards their own employees setting up such sites (no political opinions etc), but they have nobody monitoring the main blogs and have little idea how to respond to any criticism on them.
First, here are a few examples of how the Bloggers have, for me, become a useful source.
- Only this week, they tracked down the origin of a fake cartoon which has been fueling the furore over the characterisation of Muhammad in a Danish paper. ... The picture had nothing to do with the prophet. It was a photo of the winner of a "pig-squealing" competition held last summer in the French Pyrenees.
- ... after Hurricane Katrina wrecked New Orleans. ... There was a lot of discussion about who was to blame for the failure of the relief effort. Then someone sent me a photo that had been circulating on blogs of yellow New Orleans school buses inundated in their parking lot. They had clearly not been used for evacuation as they should have been according to the city and state plan. This showed that the mayor, praised without much stint until then, had something to answer for...
- I also benefited from the Daily Kos site when the issue of the use of white phosphorus by the US military in Iraq was under discussion. The Pentagon initially denied its use as a weapon but the bloggers were able to link to an article from an embedded reporter who had watched marines using it as such and to a report in an army magazine about its use in Falluja.
The examples show the collective strength of blogs. They have an army of what Sherlock Holmes called his "Baker Street Irregulars," that is an almost unlimited number of people around the world, many of them expert on the subject under discussion, scouring sources and sending information in to an easily accessible central site which can disseminate it instantly.
Don't give me instantly, it still has to pass through the media filter, and that filter has not changed which is why Gillmor's piece is on the mark. If I want instantly I have RSS and I either take the feed from the "expert" who is already blogging their knowledge or from someone whose feed I take who points to the expert.
The media has been both filter and aggregator in a previous technology environment, but now I have Awasu and Technorati et al, what exactly does a mass media business offer me?
He has figured out the tools, but now he has to figure out just what value does he, and his organisation, add to the flow and why that is better, faster, more accurate and more comprehensive than a site like DailyKos which already offers on American politics and the war in Iraq and to which I can subscribe directly?
At this stage the BBC still has access to the compulsory payments of the British license fee and it uses that money to anoint people like Paul who are trusted (by whom exactly?) to tell the story, but the networked information environment is catching and enveloping them and nobody has a business plan for how they survive.
I have a theory that maybe they will become reporters again, the people who have the time to gather the information that the blogosphere then processes and interprets. They do the interviews and put the whole thing online, they note the facts and put them online, they take the photos and put them online, all of it, the dud pics, the fluffed questions, the first and second takes of the video. They follow Shirky's advice, they publish into the filter that is the network and the network will make sense of it.
At least until Kofi Annan and Tony Blair and GM and the Tinbasher all have live webcams in their boardrooms and corporate offices into which we can tap any time and to which we can send a query and have it answered by someone, any time we like.
I still have no idea how that gets paid for, but I think that's where we are heading.