Good Morning Brazil…
This morning, we wake up in the almost incomprehensible Sao Paolo.
With a population of nearly 20 million people, covering an area of 3,108 square miles, it is the largest city in the world. (by some measures).
It is big.
It makes NY look like… well, manageable, at least.
I am here to give the keynote address at MediaOn, a pan Latin-American conference on journalism and the Internet. I will be speaking tonight, so much of today will be spent getting my act together, so to speak.
The sponsors of the event have asked that I direct the speech toward, obviously, the impact of technology but also the US Elections and social networking on the web. These are the ares of focus for MediaOn this year, and the keynote address is supposed to bring them together.
At first I thought these we relatively disassociated topics, but the more I think about them, the more I see there is a direct linke between Barack Obama, John McCain and Sarah Palin and the ‘revolution’.
They are all outsiders. Biden is the anomoly, but was elevated to the position by Obama. Hillary Clinton more properly belongs in the group (and perhaps had Obama chosen her, we would not be in the mess we are in – but more on that another time).
The core of the speech of course (and most of what I do) is the revolutionary impact of new technologies – faster, cheaper and accessible, they have cracked open the world of media to anyone – the ‘democratization’ of television, print, web etc. Now anyone can produce, write, publish and distribute globally at almost no cost.
This is a revolution as groundbreaking as Gutenberg’s invention of movable type and will have ramifications as far reaching (and as hard for us to predict as newspapers were for Gutenberg in this time, despite the technology being in front of him).
Gutenberg’s printing press did far more than simply allow him to make cheaper bibles; it overturned an entire world. We transmogrified from being an oral culture (the Law was the Word of the King, religion was the Word of God, translated by priests) to a written one: the law became written consitutitons, available to everyone; religion became the word of God, readable in the vernacular by everyone. Whole institutions collapsed.
I think the same thing is going to happen here. I think the power of video/web/democratization is going to impact every aspect of our own society, government included.
the web/video/democratization revolution gives rise naturally to social networking online. It is almost an instinctive human reaction to communalize, to seek out those of a similar bent. It is the village square write large.
This democratization has liberated and elevated the ‘average person’ to a kind of digital equality with those who were once the ‘decision makers’. The blogger today is no different from Tom Brokaw, really. In fact the potential reach for web borne blogs is global, while NBC Nightly News is confined to its cable/broadcast limits. We are only at day 1 of this revolution, but like looking at Gutenberg’s printing press, you have to be able to see the future in the seeds of technology.
What does this have to do with the US Elections?
Elections are, for better or worse, in the end about mass popularity.
We elect candidates who, in some ways, reflect the ‘vibe’ of the moment.
Richard Nixon certainly reflected the paranoia of the times.
Clinton, I would argue, was a product of the 60s.
Barack Obama, who came from nowhere in about a minute, is a manifestation of a culture which now is just beginning to feel the power of democratization. No party machine would have selected him.
The GOP, feeling the vibe, the resonance that Obama generates, responded by elevating Sarah Palin, their own ‘average person’ to the level of national politics to counter the Obama phenom. It seems to have worked.
If anyone can get online and blog, well then anyone can be President.
Or so it seems.
After all, when Gutenberg was printing his first bibles, who in their right mind could have conceived that someone like Angela Merkel, a woman, a commoner, would one day rule Germany?