I just watched a great video of Leo Laporte talking about “The model of the New Media Model”. It is well worth listening to. He talks about a lot of things that I think are “common knowledge” with new media, but puts them together in an enjoyable speech. Perhaps part of why I think it is common knowledge is because the people I connect with in new media are the ones who have been talking about these ideas for quite some time.
The first and most powerful message is the power of the reduction of cost of entry. (No, not free, but sufficiently cheaper.) When getting a message out required a radio station or newspaper publishing company or a broadcasting studio and million dollar cameras the ones who owned the media owned the message. They could chose what you could hear.
Over the past couple of decades the cost of being able to create video & audio has dropped. That opened the way for independent film makers outside of the big studios. With the development of social networking tools not only has the cost of the production of content dropped but the cost of distribution and promotion of that content had dropped. The has enabled individual people to own and share their message without needing to pitch it and make it through the large media corporations.
The second point that stands out for me is his pointing out the interactivity of new media. Not only do we get to chose if we watch, listen or read to someone but we also talk back. A lot of what makes the new media different is that interactivity. This fact both amuses me and pleases me.
Back in the text internet days there was much interactivity. Most publication sources were interactive, read news, mailing lists etc. When the web came out there was a lot of discussion and concern that the internet was becoming a one way medium. The fear was that big sites will push out information and the great power of democracy that came from the internet will be lost. For a while web sites were all about pushing your message out. Interactivity was the shopping cart. But sometimes the underlying technology has a voice that can’t be silenced and once again we see that interactivity coming back out. While there was a time where the interactivity was lost the increased usability and use caused by the web as evolved has made it so that rather than the democracy of the internet being something shared by academicians and geeks in select high tech companies that interactivity is now available to the mainstream public.
One more point that stuck me as worth highlight from the talk is something that was an answer to a question. Someone asked whether something will be lost if mass generalized media is lost. While I’m not quite decided on my view on that, Leo pointed out that this big mass media style that we have become accustomed to is something that is relatively new. It can be easy forget how recent mass media is, but it is a relatively new thing. While a personal voice and interactivity is something we think of as “new media”, in some ways it returning to an older style of media, yet in a very changed form.
In the book Democracy in America by Alexis de Toqueville he talks about the strength of the United States of America being in the degree to which citizens were involved in the democracy. People came and debated in the town halls. Issues were discussed in the taverns. At one time news was by those who felt they had a message they had to share, and that news was also interactive. With the globalization of news and it being piped in via radio and TV the nature of news and participation changed to passive recipient system controlled by media corporations.
What new media offers us is a return to a more democratic voice. One where anyone with a network connection can send their message out – and in many cases where that message becomes part of a discussion and part of a community. This is much like the very old media.
The place where this is different is in the global nature of the new media. Before your message could only travel so far. If your area of interest was unique you might only have one or two people to discuss or perhaps even exchange mail over the topic. With the global nature of the internet the message can reach anywhere and every niche has a community that can be found. The power of the reach is amazing and the potential for democracy and participatory politics is huge.
We are still very early in this change in media so it will be interesting to see how it evolves as participation in the media as two way conversation changes from something that is new, to something that is taken for granted. There are many possible paths that can be taken with the new medium of news, and I think this is certainly something to watch and continue to discuss and to question. There are impacts in the power of selective media. There are impacts in the style of news where we wait for the news that matters to filter through our personal networks – how broad is the information that we will hear? Just because the medium is interactive now does not mean it will stay that way. Looking at statistics on interactivity by generation it looks likely to stay interactive, but it is still a question.
One of the exciting things about being here now as the transition occurs is that we are at a place where so many possible directions and opportunities available. It allows us the opportunity to explore different models of information, of funding, of value assessment. It also allows us to look at how we receive and share our information and ask where is this going and what are the potential impacts both good and bad.