ANNIVERSARY POST: The Medium is [Still] not the Message

Posted: April 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Ephemera | 2 Comments »

Believe it or not, Cappuccino-ers, this digital coffeehouse turns one year old today, and it’s instructive to think how much has happened in the realms of technology, politics, business, and media that are our daily grist:

1. The Democratic primaries finally ended. Sarah Palin helped Tiny Fey find her life’s calling. John McCain sputtered his way to irrelevance leaving President Barack Obama to usher in, among other things, the rise of the individualist left. In Britain, David Cameron gave us a sneak peak of what individualism looks like on the right: war with the NHS. Arlen Specter left the Republican Party, marking, among other things, the breaking of the coalition between institutionalist rightists like Specter and individualist rightists like the party chiefs.
2. Obama’s campaign also highlighted the political power of social media technologies, though the President was not the only practitioner. At various points, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Paris Hilton, Gordon Brown and Hu Jintao, the Swedish police force, and Pakistani legal activists all made forays into interactivity.
3. Despite Robert Wright’s promises to the contrary, many parts of the world continued to grow more violent. Russia went to war in Georgia, Israel went to war in Gaza, Bombay was held hostage, the drug cartels upped the ante on the Mexican border, some IRA hands and Tamil Tigers were up to their old ways. The situation in Pakistan went from optimistic to disastrous, with the military finally deciding a Taliban takeover of the country was worth fighting against today. The Obama administration, meanwhile, turned Pakistan into a counterweight to its Iraq and Iran strategies, continuing and expanding irrationally (and perhaps illegally) hawkish courses of action to balance its dovish stance re: Baghdad and Tehran.
4. The global economy collapsed, taking down Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and a whole host of economic experts, sending the rest of the financial sector and the auto giants to the government for handouts and raising tons of populist rage against Wall Street. One silver lining, perhaps, is a new IMF+Free Trade approach to development that emerged from the London Conference, a dramatic improvement over the Doha disaster.
5. The next big paradigm shift in the web began as the first wave pioneers, like Bill Gates, left the scene, second wave leaders, like Google, started to face criticism, and second wave memes started to lose their luster. Web 3.0, though still in its nascent changes, showed signs of being more oriented towards globalism than its predecessors.
6. The media apocalypse picked up its pace, taking down the Christian Science Monitor (in print), the Rocky Mountain News, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Tribune Company, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and most recently, Portfolio. The madness of those on both extremes expanded. Jeff Jarvis called for us all to become Google [who want to help newspapers, promise], while the Associated Press hammered all the aggregator startups for linking fees. But the beginnings of a cross-platform future began to emerge in the ashes of the recession, with the battle on between individualists and institutionalists to structure of that future model.
7. The downsizing of our over-leveraged ambitions brought a downsizing of technology trends, favoring the rise of the netbook over the laptop and desktop and most significantly, the rise of Twitter as a challenger to Facebook. In a sign of the media apocalypse, see above, commentators hailed Twitter not only as a useful social tool, but as some form of alternative journalism. Not only does this violate the speech/press divide (a victory for radical individualists), but confuses what Twitter offers users. Yours truly joined several weeks ago to test the service out, and I’m finding it to be more like Facebook before the applications: Indeed, as one who misses old Facebook, I’m glad to have it as a tool. It is all conversation with people I know that resembles the early days of social networking, lots of aspirational expressions “Maha wishes she could get more sleep.” or “Maha is mysterious,” and very little by way of information content. Indeed, when falsehoods appear on Twitter, there’s no effort by the company to shut them down and a certain flippancy from its founders about what goes on the site. That’s okay, because so long Twitter is just a social platform, it’s not legally or economically accountable for facts.  It’s just people talking, and people lie. That’s why the best “journalistic” use of Twitter I’ve seen is the same as the journalistic use of people in the analog world–quote them saying their piece, go out and verify or debunk what they say and put the raw facts in your words. Twitter, Facebook et al are a beautifully efficient way for reporters to get the views of the man on the street that have peppered our stories for years.
Thanks to everyone who’s kept the conversation fiesty on these pages–here’s to another year of digital caffeination.

2 Comments on “ANNIVERSARY POST: The Medium is [Still] not the Message”

  1. 1 rafigagum said at 4:38 am on April 29th, 2009:

    congrats, beta for persistence and keeping your sense of outrage

  2. 2 Michael Morgenstern said at 11:39 pm on May 26th, 2009:

    Great job keeping up the blog…just found it and I’ll be sure to keep reading!

    What exactly do you mean by the beginnings of Web 3.0? I’d say we’re still in the throes of w2.0, but what does 3.0 look like to you?

    By the way…take a look at your Tina Fey / Sarah Palin link – I think you’ve been Palin-Roll’d!

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