Archive for March, 2008
After a pause and reflection I confess I’m still mighty confused as to the future of media and democracy. There were some mind-spinningly smart talks by some awfully clever people at Media Re:Public in LA (where I’ve spent the last four days), but my main takeaway is that no-one’s really sure what the future holds (no surprise there), but that most people are anxious.
The three speakers whose talks still stick most in my mind are Manuel Castells, David Weinberger and John Kelly.
For Manuel Castells things appear to look rather bleak (as per blog below). He views our current liberty on the net as a brief hiatus, a short interval of (mostly) benign chaos that will soon be controlled, once corporations (and governments?) work out how to ‘commoditize our freedom’ (his phrase not mine).
David Weinberger, though less pessimistic, raised fascinating questions about how one deals – or in most cases doesn’t deal – with a world of information abundance. For him (and this idea appears to be in growing vogue), we will increasingly let the world come to us – via our email inbox – rather then going out to meet it. The vast majority of people will find it easier and quicker to use the ‘social networks’ that already exist in their Outlook address book (or Googlemail contacts) then construct new ones via Facebook or LinkedIn.
John Kelly wanted to describe the present rather than explain the future. He’s spent a while (years?) creating a methodology to map the blogosphere (you can see examples at the website Morningside Analytics). Based on these dot maps, or ‘Kellygrams’ as his colleagues call them, western democratic society is still relatively cohesive (as you can see from the links between the dots and the similar subjects the bloggers talk about) – certainly when compared to the Russian, Iranian or Chinese blogospheres.
Looking at others who have written about the event (and there’s no shortage – try Richard Sambrook, Doc Searls, Neil McIntosh, Charlie Beckett, David Cohn, David Weinberger, or Ethan Zuckerman) I’m comforted that they are still trying to make sense of what they heard too. There seems to be a fantastically eclectic mix of reportage, confusion, wonder, and scepticism amongst the blogs.
I particularly like the fact that it’s the Brits who feel the Americans did not take enough notice of the market.
But for all that was said in LA, the most salient message was that our contemporary media landscape is still remarkably fluid. If you want to make an impact, now’s the time to do it.
People talk alot about our age of ‘information overload’. That’s how I’m feeling right now. Berkman have gathered together such an astonishing collection of internet eggheads (meant in a good way – as Richard Sambrook said yesterday, these are the people you’ll have in your RSS reader if you follow new media developments) at this one day ‘participatory media’ conference that I imagine it’ll take a while to digest what’s happening here today. In other words, blogging real time just ain’t gonna work.
Still, I’ll drop in a few highlights so far (what the hell):
From Manuel Castells (already perhaps one of the most legendary new media thinkers):
- Contemporary politics “is fundamentally media politics”. The media don’t have the power but they are the field of power
- The current transformation of the media is transforming and will transform politics
- Commercial organisations are in the business of turning freedom into a commodity on the net
- Rupert Murdoch is the best at doing this [according to MC]
From David Weinberger (author of Cluetrain and Everything is Miscellaneous):
- Alot of ways or ‘frames’ by which people look at internet are flawed, e.g. as an ‘ecosystem’, as a ‘pro-am revolution’, or as simply an ‘information flow’
- Another way – also flawed but very helpful right now, is ‘abundance’
- And “if abundance of bad stuff is frightening, abundance of good stuff is terrifying”
- Working out how we navigate – i.e. via metadata – is going to be the real question and the real struggle
From John Kelly (project to analyse the blogosphere – from Columbia Journalism School)
I’m not even going to start to describe John Kelly’s dot charts. You need to see them, or rather you need to stare at them for a long time, before working out what’s going on (and they’re worth staring at).
Just to pick one out. He’s mapped an amazing multicoloured dot chart of Iran’s blogosphere that shows: secularist / independent bloggers outnumber conservatives. The second biggest community of bloggers blog about poetry.
I’ll pause there and keep trying to listen and digest.
I’ve just arrived in LA for a Berkman Centre conference called Media Re:Public (see here), all about ‘participatory media’ and the future of news on the web.
I’m just telling you this because I’m going to do my best to capture some of the things people say tomorrow (Friday), wifi and battery permitting. There’s a good bunch here so should be interesting.
Reading today’s Daily Express is a very odd experience.
It still says ‘Daily Express’ at the top and has the incongruous tagline ‘The World’s Greatest Newspaper’. The paper is the same size, the same price, and has the same font. Yet there is something radically different about it.
There is, for one thing, no mention of Madeleine McCann, or her parents, or anyone else to do with the whole McCann saga. No real surprise there I suppose – Carter Ruck’s warnings and a bill for £550,000 finally appear to have got through to Richard Desmond and his editor, Peter Hill.
But neither is there any mention of Diana, or Shannon Matthews’ family, or Fiona McKeown. Heather Mills makes a brief appearance on page 13, but only as part of Ann Widdecombe’s column. Nor are there any ominous warnings of wild weather. The Islamophobia is even toned down – though the paper could not resist a short piece by Cyril Dixon on p.14 reporting that there will be ‘More attending Mosques than Mass by 2020′ (would this previously have been a p.1 splash?).
Does this signify the end of the Express’ endless recycling of the same 4-5 stories? Have Richard Desmond and Peter Hill become self-conscious about their cynical manipulation of the news agenda? Or is this just a brief moment of respite until the criticisms subside and the calls for an Express boycott die down?