Friday, November 1, 2013

An Accident to be Corrected: Mass Media


When it comes to the traditional media business, there is often a pervasive nostalgia for “the good old days,” when a handful of newspapers and TV networks ruled over the media landscape and profitability was so taken for granted that huge family dynasties with names like Sulzberger and Bancroft were built on that foundation. Many media executives no doubt dream about magically returning to such a time. But what if those days were just an illusion — a kind of accident of history? What would that mean for the future of media? [..]

As Humphreys describes it, her research shows that if you look at human communication over a longer period than just the past generation or two, it becomes obvious that one-way, broadcast-style “mass media” isn’t the norm at all — instead, the norm is interpersonal or multi-directional communication that shares a lot more with social media such as blogs, Twitter and Facebook. Rather than creating a new communication style, we are actually returning to one.


V. True. And what brought mass media (and the sorry system it lives in) into existence? Two words: big machines.

Big, expensive machines and lots of unskilled (replacable) people that are needed to operate those machines. The rest of the structure flows naturally from these core tenets. The machines are big because of the limits of that day's technology. To get these big machines you need concentration of money. Power and influence will flow from concentration of money. Expensive machines cannot sit idle; people must fit their schedule to the schedule of the machine, not the other way around. And on, and on.. Next thing you know, you are in front of the TV watching the same show with 50 million other people [1].

This was one great, hunking structure, with its mass production, mass consumption, atomic individual, nationalistic, big, centralized, concentrated society (capitalist or socialist, no matter, superstructure is the same shit) - and it is finally crumbling. Mass media is only one part of this decay.

[1] I read somewhere the show Breaking Bad finale drew ~10 million viewers, and that this was some kind of big achievement. Well - the famous 50s show I Love Lucy used to draw 4 times as much, for a normal, regular episode. Lucy Goes to the Hospital ep was watched by 44 million viewers. This was the 50s.

Let Them Sink