Today’s guest post was written by Andrew Nielsen, or Void from A Green Mushroom. He writes about gaming and modern media from his generation’s perspective. Enjoy!
The way we consume media is changing. 4 out of 5 Americans now say they would give up television to keep the internet. This is a huge shift for us as a culture. We’re moving away from a passive medium and toward an interactive one.
With the rise of the internet we can choose what we want to read, watch, and participate in. This has caused a fragmentation of our media experience. My media experience can be completely different from yours, and your experience can be completely separate from your neighbor. We live in a fragmented era.
There are all kinds of advantages to living in an internet age. We can stay current on the news we’re interested in and choose to ignore the things we don’t care about. There are less filters on our content. Information flows more freely when anyone can blog or create a website. We can get more news from the people in the middle of the action instead of through reporters that have to go through an entire editing process. Common citizens have the power that was once exclusively in the realm of professional journalists.
We have more voices in communal areas online then we have ever had in the past. The internet is a giant experiment in the Socratic method. We have open debate and inquiry between everyone who wants to participate. Sometimes conversation may devolve into screaming matches, but who’s to say that didn’t happen in the ancient forums as well?
To produce these modern day open forums there are entire sites devoted solely to connecting with other human beings. Facebook and Twitter are only the latest in the evolution of social media. Social networking has progressed with us as we grow with technology. There are only going to be more and more ways to find friends and like-minded people to connect with virtually.
Why should it be a surprise that television isn’t the go-to entertainment option? With the sense of connection and control offered by the internet people want to be online instead. Even if they only read and view the content that’s created by others they’re still choosing it over traditional television. The control and interactivity offered by the internet is more appealing than the passive act of watching television.
When we do watch television we usually do it on our own time. Whether we use a DVR, Hulu, YouTube, or any of the other video options online we are more often picking how and when we want to watch our favorite shows. No one wants to watch 8 minutes of commercials during a 30 minute show anymore. No one wants to plan their schedule around the time a TV show airs. When is the last time you sat down to watch live television? We want our content without ads and available at any hour of the day.
But there is a downside to decentralized content. People can get completely out of the loop about topics they don’t actively seek out. If all a person reads is sports news then the only thing they’ll be up to date on is sports. The same thing goes for any specific subject we choose to devote all of our media time too. We are concentrating more on the few subjects that interest us to the exclusion of all others and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
There used to be only a few newspapers and television channels that everyone would collectively pay attention to. You could talk to anyone on the street and have an intelligent conversation about current events. Think this is still true? The other day I had to explain to a co-worker what the BP oil leak was. Yeah, the leak that’s been gushing for over a month and might devastate all of our oceans, that’s the one I had to explain. Somehow she had avoided all news about it for over a month. Even a few years ago it was impossible to avoid current events unless you cut yourself off from the world and went to live alone in the middle of nowhere. With the internet at our fingertips we can now isolate ourselves just as effectively virtually.
The political ramifications are not to be underestimated either. When each individual can pick the exact content they want to listen to it’s completely possible that they won’t ever hear a dissenting opinion that goes against their political views. People won’t know the other side of an argument because it’ll never even be brought up. It was somewhat apparent in the last election but expect to see it more in every political race from here on out.
Because of this virtual isolation content needs to be delivered in new ways. Content producers are now targeting niche audiences because it’s extremely hard to target the mainstream. Mainstream culture doesn’t exist anymore. The mainstream is dead. We pick our own content instead of simply consuming the content that has been put in front of us.
No one truly knows what the future holds. Will we see the re-emergence of the mainstream in a new form? Will media continue to fragment even further? How about both happening at the same time? I can’t tell you what technology will be like in ten years, but it will be interesting to watch our media experiences develop in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.