Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Television to Internet Transition: social decentralization

When the television/radio culture was introduced, people were at the mercy of local programming. We all watched the same shows. We all heard the same news. At first there were just a few tv/radio channels, so the effects were greatly pronounced. We were unified around the content provided by a few people. If they did not say it, we did not know it.. unless we we read it in a book or were taught it in a school.

Then cable came and had a thousand channels. It did not change things too much, because so much of the cable programming is just fluff and the real meat stayed very near the staple networks (ABC, NBC, CBS). 24/7 news networks are the real exception to the fluff that cable offers. Anyways... I am going off on a tangent.

With the invention of the internet, we are decentralizing from the television model, where we must consume whatever we are fed. With the internet, we create our own content. The power is of the many, not of the few. We are more aware and connected to our loved ones via social networking like Facebook. There are still some high-traffic hubs and centralized information powerhouses, but we now choose what stories we are aware of, what news we consume. We can find and form our own little cultural niches.

In many ways we are returning to the social model of old, where we knew the ongoings of our families, and towns, but not much outside of that besides what little news made it to town via newsletter or messenger, but instead of actual 'little towns' we create cultural niches that we are interested in and pay attention to.

For example, I tend to check my email and Facebook each morning when I wake up. I am much more aware of my family and friends. Then after that I only am exposed to the sites that I am directly interested in. If you ask me what is going on in the world of 24/7 prayer movement I could talk your ear off. On the other hand, if you asked me about the latest music trends, I would be completely clueless. This is largely because of our cultural gravitation away from television to the internet, which allows us much more specialized self-directed information sources.

There are ups and downs to this. I admit, when I watch television, I have much less control what I am exposed to, but I get a much more well-rounded picture of American culture. On the internet, if I am not interested, I don't click on it. On TV I have to complain and muscle through it 'til the next segment.

That all said, with the internet, we can shape our world. We control what we see and pay attention to. The result is less uniformity over the population, and greater tendency toward extremes due to isolation in our own little self-controlled worlds, and a much greater diversity of opinion and debate. That is the often viewed as the downside. The upside is much greater exposure of truth.

During the days of ABC, NBC, CBS power only, if they did not cover it, we did not know it. Now if I uncover something, I can insert it into the public arena with a few clicks. We tend to think that there is much greater corruption in our nation due to all the information that is now revealed, but I would argue that it is just that we know about it!

If you are frustrated with media bias, that they are not covering your favorite news story, just remind yourself that the only reason you know about the news story in the first place is due to the decentralization of media power. Before the internet, we would not even be aware of the news that is being ignored and glossed over. Anyways... this is way too long. Good night!


1 comment:

  1. Interestingly.. on the Internet I just found a differing opinion on the effects of internet decentralization...
    "The Internet, because it is a decentralized network with no one in a privileged position of authority, challenges such notions of centralized power. With everybody on the network considered on equal ground for participation, it is a democratizing force that redistributes power from the elites to the masses, which will inevitably lead to all the children of the world holding hands together to sing a song of peace in universal harmony."

    Where as I observe and theorize the diversity of opportunity that the internet provides to result in greater debate and diversity, this gentleman imagines a the result of the decentralization to be greater unity and peace... I love the internet! People are fun!