Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Socio-technical shifts
At Networking, knowledge and the digital age, instructor weblog for Business Administration 482B a group of bloggers write unsigned posts, one of which is about socio-technical shifts (linked by Anne). This is a very interesting model, and to a point I find it very illustrating. The weakness lies, however, in the need for absolute categories in order to make Internet and broadcasting appear like oppositions or totally different. The Internet is so open it contains - and is perhaps dominated by - the qualities they ascribe to television, while the television has long since at one point or an other experimented with what they claim are the characteristics of the Internet. While a model like this is interesting because it says something about what the technology facilitates with greater ease, it does not take into consideration the peculiar blindness caused by a need for easy binary organisation of concepts, lack of knowledge about media history, theory, form and content, as well as how trends influence all media, as well as Academia.

This is a good attempt at a model, but there are too many examples of either side appearing in the other medium that it does not really work. Take raw television - it was a very popular genre of documentary and reportage, and has since been frequently used as a form in fiction, no longer raw but the aesthetic ideal of rawness utilised to push the story forwards: remember the Blair Witch Project? While JenniCam definitely was wild and unedited, what about Big Brother? Which, by the way, was a compound, a show running both online and broadcast at the same time. But did the immediacy or the rawness of JenniCam make her existence into a conversation? I am afraid not, while several broadcast shows have always relied on the feedback either from contestants, a live audience or through combining television and telephone technologies.

We can't even say that one thing is narrow-casting and one is broadcasting - not if you have ever watched community television in remote places like Norway, where the potential for viewers for a lot of the broadcast content is much smaller than the potential reader mass of this blog. Infinitely smaller. And when we come to user experiences we really get a problem. Television is in no way hypnotic/engrossing. Television is a medium of distraction. It uses redundancy so heavily (hence the endless recaptures of previous events) in combination with a very descriptive soundtrack because people don't really sit down and watch television. It is somewhere in the background, and then, when the music changes, we run to see what happened now. The Internet is a lot more engrossing, because it does not permit this distracted reception, but depends on user attention and action in order to progress. Not even the good old consume/create divide is absolute. I am old enough to remember when video cameras were big, bulky and horribly expensive investments you needed connections to get your hands on. Today they are tiny, very user friendly and carried around by tourists all over the world. Amateur videos and pictures have been used to break news in several cases, September 11th prominent among those, not to mention the role amateur video played in the hunt for Bin Laden.

Technology and the development of technology towards easier access for the masses is not limited to the Internet and the computer technology, although computer technology has increased the speed of this development and pushed the western society towards "The Information Age" at hazardous speed. But in order to understand the computer as a medium, and compare it to other media, focusing only at what apepars to be differences gets us - I will not say nowhere, but certainly into blind alleys.

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