Viacom. Disney. General Electric. Time Warner. Sony.
These are just a few names of the companies that currently control your media. They report what they want to report; they advertise what they want you to buy. In short, this handful of companies is indirectly in control of how you think. Give Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News a nice watching, and see if the stories they choose to cover and how they cover them influence your opinion at all (although, it’s my grandmother’s opinion that even Fox News is too liberal).
Today, around half a dozen companies control the flow of newspaper, television and radio information, as opposed to around 50 corporations in 1983. Mergers brought more and more information into the hands of very few. And with history as a guide, tight control of information is only a few steps away from tyranny.
There is a glimmer of hope in this sad state of affairs: YouTube.com. Blogs. Podcasts. Peer to Peer.
Now, instead of waiting for a Viacom executive to give a green light to “Jackass”, you can go online and download a clip of a guy strapping bottle rockets to himself while singing the “Star-Spangled Banner” and skateboarding down a home-made ramp that just doesn’t look all that sturdy at the bottom.
Instead of the overly-hyped American Idol, you can watch artists just doing what they love. The good and the bad ones.
In other words, the control of input is in your hands. What you want to see is only a click away. Also, the means of production are in your hands. Can you sing? Can you do retarded things? Do you have a viable opinion about anything? Unlike any other time in history, you now have a community of people ready to stream your thoughts directly into their living rooms; and if they disagree with you, they are welcome to post a response. Unedited. Uncontrolled.
This is a truly democratic means of information. When you are reading your favorite blog, there is no editor. There is no middle man or big suit in between you and the speaker. It is as if you were personally invited into his house to have a good conversation with him. There is a direct connection.
Old Media attempted to include the new in a recent primary debate. It was a nice attempt, but they got the formula all wrong. There was a central ringmaster. YouTube.com provided the questions, CNN (Time Warner) provided the filter. Again, you have a middle man that asked what they wanted asked.
What I am waiting for is a true YouTube.com debate. Let the candidate stick an issue on YouTube.com. Let them dedicate the time to actually answer the unedited and unscripted responses posted.
Almost all the candidates now have a MySpace.com and Facebook.com profile and post some form of online media. This is a sad attempt to try to involve the younger generation of voters. Although the extra sources of information are always beneficial, they have nothing to do with purely democratic discussion.
We are at the dawn of a new shift in the consumption and production of our entertainment and information. Want to know about the war? You can find blogs written by both G.I.’s and Iraqis. Want to see a dude get hit by a football? Want to bypass the middle man and ask your future president a question? I am hoping it will happen sometime in our lifetime.
So, as I end my rant about my hope for the new media, I will introduce myself. I am a senior undergraduate in computer science and engineering technology. I look forward to helping you kill your time between classes, help introduce you to perspectives you may not have considered and generally just give you an earful of what I feel is wrong and right about the world in which I live. Feel free to agree, to disagree, and to have your own opinion. In fact, I encourage it.
And yes, like Sideshow Bob ranting about his hatred of television on a Jumbotron, I realize the irony of going through my editor in order to send you this message. But, I’m hoping he’ll be nice and accepting, since this is my first article.