“…. can anyone help me?”
New technologies often precipitate a completely new way of looking at the world. It is not only jobs or industries that are overturned, but often what were once assumed to be basic rules of society.
This is often very hard for people to grasp.
The invention of the telephone in 1876 caused such a radical change in thinking.
Prior to the invention of the telephone, value was vested in rarity.
If I have something, and no one else does, it is worth a lot. I have the only diamond and no one else has one – it is worth a lot. If I have a diamond but everyone else has one, my diamond’s value is diminished.
This notion of ownership + rarity had been a basic axiom of economics since the first Caine slew Able.
The phone changed all that.
If you have the only phone in the kingdom, what is it worth?
The answer is… nothing. Because there is no one to call.
Your phone’s value increases exponentially as more and more people also have phones. The more people who posses phones, the more your instrument is worth, as it gives you more people with whom you can speak.
The phone turns basic value principles on their head.
This may seem obvious. It is not.
When I was at The BBC, the Corporation decided to introduce Blackberrys (blackberries?) to the staff. Everyone wanted one, of course, but The BBC decided that only senior managers would be allowed to have Blackberrys. It was a ‘hot item’ in those days.
Did this make sense?
Who were the senior managers going to text? Each other? (“Hows your blackberry working?’) Their job was to be in constant contact with their teams.. not with each other. The Blackberry might have looked great on their belts ( or maybe not), but as a tool for communication, it was worthless… unless everyone had one.
Now we deal with news and journalism.
Up until now, the ‘value’ of news has been in its rarity.
“Only we’ve got this”, says the local promo.
The search for the ‘scoop’.
This is fine in a linear world – one person delivering ‘the truth’ (or as close as we allow ourselves to come to it) on a nightly basis. “…..and that’s the way it is…”, like Cronkite used to say. But, of course, that was the ‘way it was’ only in CBS’s insular, small, dark offices on West 56th Street.
But we don’t live in a linear world. We live in a networked world now.
And the ‘value’ of the web is in its uncanny ability to rope everyone in all the time.
This is hard to grasp, as we are all used to being ‘viewers’.
But we aren’t. Not any more. We are participants. We are network nodes now. When it comes to eBay, we don’t ‘watch’ eBay, we are eBay. Both users and providers… at the same time. When it comes to MySpace or Facebook, we don’t ‘watch’ MySpace, we are myspace.
And now… The News.
What happens when The News meets The Web?
For the less creative you might say, well now I get to ‘watch’ CNN online… yes, yea, and any time I want.
This is true, but it does not leverage off the true value of a network… a real network.
When it comes to Iraq (for example) what is the ‘value’ of Anderson Cooper?
Well, it is certainly something…. but in all honesty (and nothing personal Anderson), not too much.
But if we are seeking information, what is the ‘value’ of Anderson Cooper plus the entire faculty of Harvard?
And what is the ‘value’ of Anderson Cooper plus the entire faculty of Harvar plus all the members of the Council on Foreign Relations and half the population of Baghdad?
I should say so.
And that is just the tip of what is possible.
With the web it should be possible to create a kind of ‘neural network’ that joins together everyone to participate in a constant, 24-hour a day multilogue about major (and minor) issues.
Will people do this?
I think so.
An article in today’s USA Today says:
“The blogosphere has grown from 100,000 blogs in March 2003 to nearly 73 million in March 2007, according to blog-tracker Technorati. Today the company says it counts some 93.8 million blogs worldwide.”
That is a phenomenal rate of growth. And it tells you something. People are doing this already. They are already all offering information online.. and on their own.
As usual, the ‘News’ organizations are the last to know.
So when our friend Jim Sturges writes that he would go over to this friends at the university and shoot their lectures… nope… They have to join in on their own, when they have something to say. And they will, if we create a space for them… OurSpace, sort of.
News and Journalism can no longer be Katie’s business. It is far too important to leave to any one person (or any one news organization). The future of news (IMHO) is in the network, the global network, one in which everyone participates all the time.
Kind of like an eBay for ideas and information.
Or, as Karl Marx once said, ‘from each according to their ability to each according to their need’.
In a networked world wired for instant information, it kind of makes sense.