Does web culture create a virtuous cycle?
Web-enabled smart phones or PDAs are the emerging platform for digital culture, building on the foundation laid down by the desktop and notebook PC. With no stake in these legacy technologies, Nokia has been at the forefront of discerning the habits of the young mobile tech consumers who are leading this wave of wireless adoption. In December Nokia summarized the results of 9,000 intervierws with 16-35 year olds. Here is the lead paragraph:
“Up to a quarter of the entertainment consumed by people in five years time will have been created, edited and shared within their peer circle rather than coming out of traditional media groups. This phenomenon (has been) dubbed ‘Circular Entertainment’ “
I blogged about this study last month and today when I saw a re-release of the results through the Center for Media Reseach (which is a good, if late, filter that culls such reports from many sources) but I revive the story today with the same mix of skepticism and enthusiasm — plus an additional link that helps emphasize the significance of this finding.
My skepticism, last month and now, is how in the world one would put as figure (one-in four) on the concept of collaborative entertainment. I suspect the report writers had to concoct a number because percentages convey a certain authority. That’s OK because what strikes me is that Nokia is telling us that young people are not content to merely consume media. Many of them — whether one-in-four, five or three hardly matters — will alter, convert or create media products. And my hope and suspicision is that this act of creation or participation will create a more media literate and therefore less gullible citizenry. You know the saying: laws, media, you name it, is like sausage; it changes a person’s tastes to see what get stuffed into the sausage sleeve.
Ditto for media and politics. At least so I prefer to believe. This is the hope that I see in new media — that information and entertainment will not be, like mass media products, something handed down. Rather media will be something passed around and embossed or embued with some point of view of topspin that helps each flavor of the message find its audience.
In looking about this morning for a graphic that might represent the concept of circular collabotation I found the picture above on the web site of Steve Bosserman, a self-described agrarian populist from Kansas. That is remarkable because I consider myself an agrarian populist, though obviously by choice rather than birth given that I grew up in Brooklyn.
Bosserman’s graphic captures what I think to be the emerging cycle of information dissemination; ideas will get passed about and chewed on, the way dogs pass bones, until the darn thing is cracked open and exposed right down to the marrow. Collaborative media empower small teams of like-minded individuals. Toward what ends? Well, those are likely to be as varied as the range of individual inclinations. I’m not worried about what people are likely to do with their newfound power to put their stamp on imagery and ideas handed down from on high. As people build media products they will gain media literacy. And that must eventually make for a better informed citizenry.