Mediarized Towers Of Babel
Garbled Noise in the Channel
"As our proliferating technologies have created a whole series of new environments, men have become aware of the arts as 'anti-environments' or 'counter-environments' that provide us with the means of perceiving the environment itself. Today technologies and their consequent environments succeed each other so rapidly that one environment makes us aware of the next. Technologies begin to perform the function of art in making us aware of the psychic and social consequences of technology. The medium is the message can be clarified by pointing out that any technology gradually creates a totally new human environment"-Marshall McLuhan.
Today's media and technologies have taken the media revolutions to the neurons of the world brain, and this has helped this contemporary media juggernaut to dominate and to blur our perceptions. At the same time we experience a programmed world and unfolding world in a fully sensory manner. Also, this new media has the capacity and capability to affect and effect the greatest cultural and social changes in our midst; in short, the media can foster and is fomenting a revolution and is revolutionizing both technology society into a cacophony of media savvy users, analysts and public participants. In many other ways, the media is a world-wide culture-wide dance.
Through its constant barrage and consistent repetition the modern media allows a virus to multiply into our hugely self-referential media space, and has an ability to comment on the media itself. Rushkoff says that: "The viral shell permits the memes to spread before they have a chance to be marginalized. Viruses couch themselves in irony and appeal to the objective sensibilities of the viewers. Viral shells can be understood as framing devices that force us to distance ourselves from the issues within them. This objectification of the issues allows us to understand the symbols in our media as symbols and not reality. At the same time, we are made aware of the complexities beneath apparently simple representations of our world." In this case, a society no longer merely uses technology as a support but instead is shaped by it.
Therefore, to reiterate McLuhan as stated above, "Today technologies and their consequent environments succeed each other so rapidly that one environment makes us aware of the next. Technologies begin to perform the function of art in making us aware of the psychic and social consequences of technology. ... Technology gradually creates a totally new human environment." Today, we are being rapidly transformed and depended on the memory and psychology of the embedded technique within the fast emerging interconnected gadgets and technologies.
These new environments have us hooked to our cell phones, iPods to the extent that they have become the extensions of our selves in an interconnected internet babble and new ways of human interpersonal interconnected memes; where viruses, according to media culture enthusiast "Bill Me Tuesday": viruses can act like a logic analyzer. As the virus goes through the operating system, it stops at certain checkpoints, doing its rounds in a given amount of time. This checkpoint will report back what the condition is.
Essentially the virus will serve as a means of creating self-repairing system.... The goal is as a self repairing, crash resisting system, similar to the way our bodies repair themselves. Biologically we are the product of thousands of microorganisms cooperating together. We can apply that kind of thinking in the computer world. We are modifying the concept of a virus to serve us. In turn, technology shaped us as we are today.
It is also important to take a brief look at the impact and effect of language in our transforming the world and how that world transformed us. There are people who believe that language is what makes us human. From the beginning of language usage to using language within and with these new emerging and merging technologies, we have created some forms of different languages in the process. Neil Postman says: "As changes occurred, human beings invented surrogate languages to widen their scope: ideographs, phonetic writing, then printing, then telegraphy, photography, radio, movies television, and computers, each of which transformed the world-sliced it, framed it, enlarged it and diminished it."
To say of all this that we are merely toolmakers is to miss the point of the story. We are the world makers, and the word weavers. That is what makes us smart, and dumb; "moral immoral; tolerant and bigoted".(Insert mine) The new and emerging technologies are shaping our language, our behavior and creating a deep and unshakable dependency of these new and ever changing technologies, that we are barely keeping up and are about swamped by the new gadgets and the techniques, which shape obscure our view of life and spontaneity inherent in us.
As we manipulate technologies, they in turn affect and effect us in minuscule and major ways. We then have developed a language to help us cope, vary and expand our effecting technology and it in turn transforming our every being and ways and means of communicating.
Language makes us human. We use this language as a carriage in our interrogating and interacting with life and within life. We use language to talk, sing, voice our opinions, disagreement, thoughts, intention communicate, write, and so forth, in our day to day lives. It is a complex effect one mediated by each person's psychological makeup, social status, age, and how the individual uses the media.
The Quilt of Pretentious Diction
This language issue and usage was covered by George Orwell and we will explore what he really meant and intended to make us see and understand in depth. Given that we speak English we assume we all mean the same thing or understand each other's meaning. Meaning therefore is 'the import of signification'. The study of the social production of meaning from sign systems is also known as Semiotics. Meaning is a largely untheorized, although debates about the meaning of meaning are well known conversation stoppers, but it is well known that it explains how people make sense of their social world.
The media nowadays uses a lot of words, metaphors and diction designed to have a certain impact, affect and effect. Words like phenomenon, element, individual(as noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basic, primary, promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilize, eliminate, liquidate are used to dress up simply statement and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgements. Sometimes adjectives like epic, historic, unforgettable, triumphant, age-old, inevitable, inexorable, veritable are used to dignify the sordid process of international politics, while writing that aims at glorifying war usually takes on an archaic color, its characteristic words being realm, throne, chariot, mailed fist, trident, sword, shield, buckler, banner, jackboot, clarion.
Foreign words and expressions such as cul de sac, ancien regime, status quo are used to give an air of culture and elegance. Some average writers opt to use Latin and Greek words because they are grander than Anglo Saxon ones, and unnecessary words like expedite, ameliorate, predict, extraneous, deracinated, clandestine, subaqueous are gaining ground from their Anglo Saxon opposite numbers. The normal way of coining a new word is to use Latin or Greek root with the appropriate affix and, where necessary, theorize formation.
It's easy to make words of this kind, deregionalize, impermissible, extramarital, non-fragmentary and so forth." Orwell goes on to note about how these words have been used, he addresses meaningless words . Orwell states that: "In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.
Words like romantic, plastic, values, human, sentimental, natural, vitality as used in art criticism are strictly meaningless in the sense that they do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly ever expected to do so by the reader. ... Many political words are similarly abused. The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies "something not desirable" The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another.
In the case of a word like democracy , not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way, Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are; 'class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality and so on.'
Most of the political words cited above has inflamed passions and great debates on all social issues in all relevant media and mediums. It seems not to matter whether people understand or know or might ever experience either socialism, fascism and so forth,they nonetheless use them. What is of concern here is the modern usage of these words in the society and media, mostly for wrong reason and their lack of understanding of them, that creates seemingly, the confusion and talking at each other, rather than with each other.
Orwell concludes this lesson on the meaning of words thus:
"I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Since you don't know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this,but one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with decay of language. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy.
"You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make stupid remarks, its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to anarchist-is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and give the appearance of solidity to pure wind. George Orwell wrote the excerpt above in 1946."
He is merely pointing out to the meaning of words and their usage in day to day life, literature and, as I see it, in the print media and digital media. If we understand what he means by meaning and how it is conveyed, we can better understand how words are used today and what their meaning is intended to be. We always think we understand what we mean to say, since we are all speaking English, it is interesting to note that meaning can be concealed and applied within words to hide the actual meaning to the one that is meant.
Culture is a form of communication and it is also formal, informal and technical. It is important to note that mass-communication media such as the press, radio,television, computers, Internet, cell phones, twitters, Internet games and so on are instruments used to extend man's senses. It is also important to understand and know how men read meaning into what other men think and how this type of communications impacts our world and meaning-making abilities.
Hall says: "We must learn to understand the 'out-of-awareness' aspects of communication. We must never assume that we are fully aware of what we communicate to someone else. There exists in the world today tremendous distortions in meaning as men try to communicate with one another. The job of achieving understanding and insight into mental processes of others is much more difficult and the situation is more serious than most of us can admit." Most of our difficulties stem from our own ignorance.
Honest and sincere men fail to grasp the significance of the fact that culture controls behavior in deep and persisting ways, many of which are outside our awareness and beyond the conscious control of the individual. Hall advises on this issue by stating: "Man's brain has endowed him with a drive and a capacity for learning which appear to be as strong as the drive for food or sex." This means that when a middle-aged man stops learning, he is often left with a great deal of drive and highly developed capacities.
"If he goes to live in another culture, the learning process is often reactivated. For most Americans tied down at home,this is not possible. To forestall atrophy of his intellectual powers, man can begin learning about those areas of his own culture which have been out of awareness. He can explore the new frontier."
Therefore, to understand other cultures, it would be better to learn about those things within ones culture that one is not aware of, and has been left out of the loop about their existence and functioning patterns.
Another thing to note is how mainstream cultural studies have given scant attention to the institutional contexts in which mass communications are produced. As we seek to rectify cultural studies and their neglect of the organizational processes of the media, we must also be cognizant and consider how the context of production — whether this can be conceived as an occupational milieu, a specific organization, an industry or the wider social relations of power in society — influences what is produced.
Importantly, it would be worth it to interrogate cultural mass communication and media to see if it is possible to differentiate between contexts of production, and the multimedia packaging of cultural goods, cultural practices and whether these promote social empowerment or subordination, either foster aesthetic innovation or traditionalism, or do they or they do maybe enhance or detract from the quality that is produced.
The best reason for the layman to spend time studying culture is that he can learn something useful and enlightening about himself. It forces one to pay close attention to those issues of life which differentiate others from yourself
Ways of Seeing and Knowing the Culture of Media
The news we receive, as numerous critics point out,is the product of organizational processes and human interaction. It is shaped by the methods used by journalists in gathering the news, the sources they draw on, and the organizational requirements, resources and policies of the institutions they work for(Fishman '80). Usable and predictable regular copies that need to be secured, makes some journalists to be assigned to certain 'beats', such as town hall, law courts or legislators. This pre-cues news, encouraging activity in these areas to be reported more fully(Tuchman '78). This also locks up journalists into a complex pattern of interaction with key sources in which information is traded for publicity(Gandy '82) .
In a nutshell, a prior decision about the allocation of personnel within a news organization can influence what new is reported, and how it is reported. Some critics also point out that information is selected and presented as news within socially constructed frameworks of meaning(Schudson '91). The news is signified thorough the 'symbolic system' of society. It draws upon assumptions and premises, images and chains of association, that are embedded in cultural tradition. The news is also structured by formats and genre conventions of news reporting, which vary in different societies and evolve over time(Schudson '94) We can therefore view news as the product of the culture of society and industry in which it is produced and processed.
There are still some other people who see the output of the media not as a reflection of raw, unmediated realty, but rather as a social index of attitudes and feelings. Sometimes our media ca be seen and portrayed as reflecting not a common culture and unified society, but a plurality of social groups and the hybridity of individual personalities. There are those who distinguish between values and normative attitudes , or between consensus and contended opinion(Alexander '81) Here, the argument is that the media both expresses the values and beliefs that most people in society hold in common, and also give voice to those differences of opinion and orientation that characterize a pluralist democracy.
One way in which the media may reflect change, it is argued, is to register a shift in the boundaries between these two things over time(Hallin '94). How the media functions and disseminate news, and how culture plays a role in all this meta media of contemporary merging and emerging technologies and memes, has not changed so much, but has been enhanced and upgraded because of the addition of the Internet,which has become an extension of ourselves like our nervous system in our bodies-because we experience it on the internet, in the datasphere and cyber world: like when we are surfing, texting, twittering, emailing, blogging, posting, commenting and so forth.
Under the Umbrella of Technology
Our nation is depended-on and is controlled by technology. Even as we utilize language to media application and participation, or manipulation of these technologies and techniques, we are still not aware to the extent we need them and their impact on us; but, surreptitiously, technical gadgets and their in-build techniques, by creating dependency of the efficiency, we end up being slaves to technological gadgets, technology and technique.
We are permanently in the groove of merging with emerging technologies and technological gadgets, that in the end we are unable to separate and differentiate ourselves from them. There are psychic and social consequences of technique and technology and modern technical gadgets on our persona, culture and society.
Marshall McLuhan, in this extended excerpt put it neatly:
"The medium is the message means, in terms of the electronic age, that a totally new environment has been created. The 'content' of this new environment is the old mechanized environment of the industrial age. The new environment preprocesses the old one as radically as TV is reprocessing the film. When machine production was new, it gradually created an environment whose content was the old environment of agrarian life and the arts and the crafts.
"This older environment was elevated to an art from by the new mechanical environment. The machine turned Nature into an art form. For the first time men began to regard nature as a source of aesthetic and spiritual values. They began to marvel that earlier ages had been so unaware of the world of Nature as Art. Each new technology creates an environment that is itself regarded as corrupt and disregarding. Yet the new one turns its predecessor into an art form. When writing was new, Plato transformed the oral dialogue into an art form.
"When printing was new, the Middle Ages became an art form. "The Elizabethan world view" was a view of the Middle Ages. And the industrial age turned the Renaissance into an art form as seen in the work of Jacob Bruckhardt. Siegfried Giedion, in turn has in the electric age taught us how to see the entire process of mechanization as an art process." Today we see the modern technologies turning electricity into an art form, because through the internet, we are moving through the information age and data speed and the speed of light.
"The confusion and Babel that has transpired because of these changes of technological gadgets, technology and technique, we should not be confused and be startled; we only need to accept the fact that the new era is moving us into a new environment, and the old machines and electricity are being turned into an art form; it may be our reactions that cause the cacophony in the media, and we should not view that as confusion.
But McLuhan concluded that: "We can afford to use only those portions of them that enhance the perception of our technologies and their psychic and social consequences." As a society under the groove and roof of current technology and techniques, we need to understand it thoroughly and completely and begin to master its cybernetics and reduce entropy in the channels.
How Technology Will Obviate Learning
Recent technological advancement framed within the context of new theories about the pivotal role of language in human evolution are decreasing the value of foreign language competency. Our confidence in technology's ability to rebuild the Tower of Babel should remain steadfast, thanks to the newly emerging scientific theories. It is now becoming clear that language was pivotal in the early development of humanity, and where such critically exists, so do markets and business opportunity ripe for exploitation.
In his recent TED TALK, evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel asserts that language was a social technology(a la Ong), that emerged out of homo sapiens' new ability to accurately mimic anything they saw. In order to prevent this "visual theft," language was used to protect the ideas and innovations of early human cultures from those of other competing groups. In describing this theory, Pagel elucidates this language as:
"...A piece of neural-audio technology for rewiring other peoples' minds ... it allows you to implant a thought from your mind directly into someones else's mind, and they can attempt to do the same to your without either of you having to perform surgery." These "discrete pulses of sounds" allowed homo sapiens to cooperate on levels theretofore unwitnessed on Earth. Competing species like the Homo Erectus were never able to develop language like us and remained outside of our cooperative networks (cultures). Using technology to eliminate cultural barriers and thus enhance global human cooperation is a direct descendant of these early evolutionary developments.
The Tower Of Info-Babel: Cyberspace as Alternative Universe
This is Jorge Luis Borges' remarkable vision of the 'Library of Babel:
"The universe [which others call the Library] is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries.... From any of the hexagons one can see, interminably, the upper and lower floors. The distribution of the galleries is invariable. Twenty shelves, five long shelves per side, cover all the sides except two; their height, which is the distance from floor to ceiling, scarcely exceeds that of a normal bookcase.
"One of the free sides leads to a narrow halfway which opens into another gallery,identical to the first and to all the rest.... Also through here passes a spiral stairway, which sinks abysmally and soars upward to remote distances. In the hallway there is a mirror which faithfully duplicates all appearances.... The Library is a sphere whose exact centre is any one of its hexagons and whose circumference is inaccessible."
We then learn and cull from Reg Whitaker this following Historical piece:
"Given the frenetic and feverish manner in which the information revolution is being hyped, it is worth pausing to ask just what is actually involved in this revolution. The initial answer is deceptively simple. Essentially there are two closely linked technological departure points: the computer and instantaneous communication systems. Both technologies have been developing in an exponential, explosive trajectory, but it is in the fusion of computing and communications (networks), that the truly revolutionary potential lies.
Just as the capacity of the human mind to store, sort, retrieve and manipulate vast amounts of information is being enormously enhanced by means of ever-smaller, ever-faster and ever-more powerful microprocessors, the reach of individuals is being immeasurably extended through fibre optic cable and satellite communication to form 'real-time' networking of all computers.
This technological fusion has literally created a new world, a new space — cyberspace. Cyberspace exists nowhere and everywhere, it is a tabula rasa in the sense that it is constantly being constructed and reconstructed, written and rewritten, by the simultaneous interaction of all those networking in the medium. With Virtual Reality - which eventually will shed its clumsy apparatus of goggles and gloves for something
More akin to StarTrek's Holodeck, an all-encompassing artificial inter-active environment — cyberspace will actually become a lived space, with its own land scape and geography, into which people will 'move' and inside which they will 'act' (and be 'acted upon'). The discovery of such a new world, and more, a world that is apparently plastic, that can be moulded (closer to our heart's desire), unlike the intractable and often perverse real world, bound to bring out the Faustian in those who first glimpse its expansive, seemingly limitless, contours. They stand with wild surmise upon a peak in Darien.
With Faust, let us give the devil his due. The possibilities are endless, intoxicating. Space - old-fashioned physical space, distance — already shrunk by technologies like the telephone, is finally dissolved in cyber-space. People communicate with one another without regard to physical location: communities (systems of communication can transcend not only locality but the artificial constructs of the nation and political boundaries). New languages are born out of the new forms of communication, and with them, humanity reshapes its own consciousness.~
Already, not in some speculative future, but in the here and now, cyber-space is giving birth to new, 'artificial' life forms. In computer labs, programs have been designed to replicate particular environments (say, an 'ocean') and into these environments a 'species' (for instance, 'fish') has been introduced that is programmed to adapt to changing conditions. Generations pass and adaptations are made quite independent of the original program. The fish swim about, eat, reproduce and die in cyber-space.
They are not 'real', they have no physical materiality, yet they behave just like 'real' fish, they interact with their environment, and they make something of themselves in the processing~the most recent Star Trek spinoff series, Voyager, there is a brilliant creation, the Emergency Medical Hologram, a computer program containing the most advanced medical knowledge projected holographically as a 'doctor' who must serve as the starship's chief medical officer in the absence of a human doctor.
This hologram behaves remarkably like a human being when interacting with 'real' humans; he is self-conscious, he experiences anxiety, irritation, affection5 And why not? How does 'real life' differ from its 'artificial' replication in cyberspace, presuming only that the program is complex enough?
Of course, the Library is not really the 'Universe,' its architecture is not the architecture of matter: It is an analogical 'universe'. Its shelves store information in the form of texts which contain 'data' that mirror or reproduce the material universe. Borges advances two axioms about the nature of the Library that he considers indisputable. The first is that it exists astern. The architecture of information is too complex and elegant to have been the product of man, the 'imperfect librarian'. Call it
God or Nature as you please, but remember that information is about something, it is not that thing itself: But this is easily obscured when the focus shifts to what is in the Library. Borges' second axiom is that: 'The orthographical symbols are twenty-five in number' (the letters of the alphabet plus the period, comma and space). This has allowed the formulation of a General Theory of the library. All books tire made up of the same elements, but in the 'vast Library there are no two identical books'.
From these premises it may be deduced that the 'Library is total and that its shelves register all the possible combinations of the twenty-odd orthographical symbols [a number which, though extremely vast, is not infinite]. In other words, all that it is given to express, in all languages. Everything: the minutely detailed history of the future....'
When it was proclaimed that the Library contained all books , the first impression was one of extravagant happiness. All men felt themselves to be the masters of an intact and secret treasure. There was no personal or world problem whose elegant solution did not exist in some hexagon. The universe was justified, the universe suddenly usurped the unlimited dimension of hope.
Thus our own era of info hype, the unlimited promise of the great Internet (the embodiment of Borges' Library condensed into millions of individual computer screens as-[w]windows into cyberspace, a 'sphere whose exact centre is any one of its hexagons and whose circumference is inaccessible'). These are no small matters. The devil's promises are enthralling, enchanting, alluring.
No wonder s o many have been drawn by the siren's song. But wait . . . cyberspace is not another universe into which we can escape via a magic doorway. Dream worlds exist in the minds of dreamers, who live in this world, breath air, eat food when hungry and drink water when thirsty — or not, depending upon their material circumstances. Cyberspace is a dreamed world, but the dreamers dream it through the mediation of computer hardware, fibre optic cable, complex telecommunications networks, and specific social and economic systems that support and deliver these technologies.
Cybernauts are wired, in more ways than one. There is, or at least there should be, a political economy of cyberspace. Yes, even in the free-floating delirium of this new world, the old dismal science, like gravity, drags the cybernauts back toward earth.
Some uncomfortable but unavoidable facts: most of the people of the present real world not only lack computers but even lack access to telephones. To most of the world, the Information Revolution is not even a rumor. The IBM television ads that portray "solutions for a small planet" with cute clips of people in traditional and exotic settings discussing (with subtitles) various arcana relating to the latest IBM technologies perhaps tell us more about the imperial delusions of corporate power, or about the penetration by new products of Third World elites, than about any reality of 'solutions' for a 'small' planet.
The Information Highway may be opening out like a vast autobahn across North America and Europe and the hyper-developed parts of Asia, but when it reaches into Africa and Latin America and the less developed parts of Asia, it reaches as narrow fingers into privileged islands; for much of the Third World, it simply stops short altogetherN~or is there any rational reason to think that the information revolution offers a magical solution to the endemic problems of poverty and underdevelopment.
It is rather the latest name given to the enduring and ever deepening domination of the many poor by the wealthy few. Access to the Internet is as much use to a Bangladeshi peasant as hitching a ride on the Challenger space shuttle; but it is very useful to the multinational corporations that rule the global economic system that maintains Bangladesh as a ghetto of misery.
There are similar arguments against facile idealism applicable within Western societies. A reasonably up-to-date computer clone, pirated software, modem and monthly connect charge may not represent a huge investment. Yet it excludes a great many, as does the specific context of computer culture. The result is that the Information Highway has a decidedly middle-class look. Users tend as well to be disproportionately male, white, and the other familiar categories of privilege.
Of course, over time these things may change. But just as with the case for Third World development, there are overheated notions afloat in political and bureaucratic circles (viz., the frenetic mind of Newt Gingrich) that a computer in every kitchen will somehow solve the problem of unemployment and regional economic decline.
It is, of course, out of the question that rightwing neoliberal politicians (who tend to be the ones that babble most about the transformative power of the computer) can devise and execute and pay for a vast public works scheme for actually putting the hardware and software required into the hands of the poor and the unemployed.
Unfortunately, social democrats have been equally complicit, if less utopian, in talking up the computer as empowerment. Even the limited schemes undertaken by some social democratic governments to 'retrain' (a mantra of contemporary capitalist crisis) redundant fishermen with no fish stocks, coal miners with closed pits, or workers with skills tied to vanishing heavy industries, via the route of imparting 'computer skills' quickly disclose their derisory limitations.
At best, these retrained workers hunching over their consoles have instantaneous access to the intelligence that no jobs are available. At least lining up outside the unemployment office provided some minimal human contact with others of like predicament, even if the end result is the same.
The attraction of neoliberal politicians to info babble has little to do with any notions of redistribution of wealth and power. The computer as 'empowerment' is a wonderfully ambiguous piece of rhetoric. This 'empowerment' offers a convenient and trendy rationale for further
Slashing the public sector.
Who needs armies of public sector workers to offer support services when former state clients have the opportunity to plug in directly? Who needs expensive capital investment in physical infrastructure and maintenance when services can be accessed on the Net? Right-wing politicians in North America who are tired of seeing tax dollars going to universities and colleges have started talking about the 'Virtual University,' where courses are on offer to clients (formerly called students) receiving information designed by programmers (formerly called professors) and tapping in assignments and answering exam questions, without ever leaving their home computers.
In the fullness of this vision, the entire support and maintenance staffs, most of the teaching staff and the administrative apparatus can be lopped off the public rolls, and the physical plant (formerly known as the campus) can be sold to the private sector for more productive and profitable use. This is a paradigm for other such schemes for a 'Virtual Public Sector' or the 'Virtual State'. Like Virtual Reality, users allow their senses to delude them into believing that they are somewhere they are not, that they are really doing things that are not happening at all. The opiate of the masses indeed.
There is an ideology among many of today's cybernauts, especially the Americans, that can best be described as frontier capitalism, or rugged individualism. The self-image is that of the lone frontiersman out there on the cutting edge of civilization armed with his [the gendered pronoun is used advisedly] contemporary equivalent of the six-gun, the high-speed modem. It is expressed in a powerful aversion to the traditional enemy of the frontiersman, government and its attempts to regulate and domesticate his wild energies.
Thus, there have been ferocious reactions to the clumsy attempts of the Clinton administration to impose surveillance over the Internet, from the 'Clipper Chip' and the embargoing of exports of various encryption programs; to the FBI's ham-handed attempt to enforce tapping of digital communication (and make the users pay for the privilege); to censorship initiatives from various levels of government against cyberspace pornography and hate mail. These are probably reasonable responses under the circumstances, but they are also classic examples of navigating via the rear view mirror.
Neither individual free enterprise nor an aggressive interventionist state are particularly relevant to the new political economy of cyberspace. Hardware and software are produced by corporate giants like IBM and Microsoft, and the infrastructure of the Internet is currently a bone of contention between the telephone and medial cable giants. The real frontier is the commodification of information by capital. To shift metaphors, cyberspace is like the commons under attack from enclosures. The relentless emphasis in recent years on 'intellectual property' as a crucial element in international trade agreements points us clearly in the direction
That the so-called information revolution is traveling. The architecture of cyberspace may well look very much like the dark vision of William Gibson in his 1984 science fiction novel Neuromancer that first invented the very term 'cyberspace': vast mysterious collections of data looming like mega-fortresses fiercely guarded by giant corporations — while the 'real world' wallows in urban squalor, petty criminality, violence and tawdry escapism.
Information is a resource whose relation to late twentieth century capitalism is like that of oil to the capitalism of the early twentieth century. This is not to say, as some have unwisely extrapolated, that industrial capitalism is dead. Automobiles still provide the basic means of transportation for much of the world, and oil must still be tapped to feed the voracious appetite of automobiles for fuel. Information has not displaced older resources, just as postindustrialism has not displaced industrialism.
But the computer and the new communications technologies have redefined how production and distribution take place. Mass production and mass consumption have, in the process of fulfilling their promise of growth, been transmuted. Production (including services) requires fewer workers and greater 'flexibility,' and mass consumption of mass-marketed goods is increasingly matched by 'niche' marketing of specifically targeted production.
On both sides of the equation, information and high-speed communication of that information is a crucial resource. The shift from the primary to the information-intensive services sector that is evident throughout the rich industrial nations is another indicator of this same change. Command over information and its transmission will be the key to success in the capitalist world of tomorrow.
The notion that this crucial resource will be allowed to become a public good is idealism at its most inane. Thus the cyberspace commons is enclosed as rapidly as its space expands. The advocates of 'electronic freedom' have their hearts in the right place but their heads in the sand. More apposite to the realities are the young freelance cyberpunk hackers who for their own fun and profit break into the dark corporate information towers that loom over the wired world.
The first (anti)hero of the first cyberpunk novel was Gibson's Case, cyberspace cowboy who had made too many powerful enemies. Yet even these latter-day information highwaymen are themselves gobbled up by the very corporations they have successfully targeted: the electronic safe-crackers are hired on as smart high-tech security guards to keep out others and, who knows, to crack their competitor's security as well
Already we may be moving into a new era that leaves behind the individualistic hacking frontier: organized electronic warfare employing disciplined teams of corporate hackers setting about systematically to break into or to sabotage the data banks and operational software of economic competitors may become the order of the day.
Computer viruses, first transmitted by freelancers out of malice or just for the hell of it, will increasingly be utilized as weapons targeted at specific competitive information systems (the biological warfare of cyber-space attacking the synapses of the enemy's information economy). This is a long way from the 'promise of the Internet,' from the limitless vistas of information laid open to each and all who wish to browse its fields and pluck its free flowers of truth. Let us be blunt: this is a vision of Never-Never-Land, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.
We should consider carefully why the promise of the Internet is such a pleasing delusion. It is not because capitalists are evil persons, or because corporations are conspiring against the public interest (both propositions might be true, but still be beside the point). Information is a product. Raw, unprocessed data is not yet information — and even that requires someone to collect it in the first instance and store it in accessible form. Already there are claimants expecting compensation for their work.
Processing data into a finished product useful to potential consumers is even greater value added. All this will be reflected in the final price. Only in the for-profit private sector are there the resources both to produce sophisticated information and to purchase the finished product on a commercially viable scale. Public sector information services were once fairly widely available on a free or relatively low-cost basis, but in this neoliberal era, market principles of user-pay, cost recovery and servicing' clients' have led to the virtual privatization of public sector information.
Even those once-privileged bastions of state information secrecy, the security and intelligence agencies, are flogging their information services to the highest bidders in the private sector. Governments increasingly post free information on the Internet, but this is mainly for democratic legitimation of their cost-recovery supply to the private sector: the very fact that information is Freely available is generally proof of its relatively low value as commodity.
Cyberspace will be a treasure trove of information only for those who already have treasuries to spend. For the rest of us, beneath the false promise of the Internet lies an overstuffed, cluttered, anarchically disorganized jumble of info trash so worthless that it has been discarded to lie along the sidewalks of the information highway for the casual use of anyone who cares to pick the odd item up.
As time goes by, even this litter will be cleaned up and replaced by smaller business ventures selling baubles and beads: North American television viewers have already seen the future in the Shopping Channels. Information is a valuable commodity, and it is power in the form of competitive advantage. But it is crucial to understand that information is power in a deeper sense. Ever since Foucault's Surveiller et Punir: Naissance de la Prison was published in 1975, we have been alerted to the importance of surveillance as a primary mechanism of social control in the modem world.
With Foucault, the Panopticon - Bentham's plan for a prison designed in such a way that each prisoner was under constant hidden surveillance, or what amounts to the same, would believe that he might be watched at all times — became the quintessential metaphor for a modem technology of power. Others have elaborated Foucault's insights into a concept of the 'surveillance society.'
This technology of power rests on the accumulation of coded information used to administer the activities of individuals about whom it is gathered. In contrast to earlier political forms, the modem state lays less stress on overt coercion to sustain its rule. Instead it favors pervasive, and penetrative administrative power, primarily through the collection, storage and retrieval of information within an administrative context of regulated definitions of tasks, functions and roles that situate individuals and groups in relation to other individuals and groups in an administrative or organizational framework.
Under a surveillance regime, people disappear into abstract, bureaucratic categories: 'client,' 'customer,' 'taxpayer,' 'functionary,' 'law enforcement officer,' 'supervisor,' 'shop steward,' 'teacher'. The routinized exercise of surveillance implies coercion, but overtly involves only the marshaling of information as a means of regulating behavior. The lineaments of the surveillance state have been apparent for a long time, but the explosive advances in computer and communication technologies provide a powerful and ever-expanding toolbox of surveillance.
From the workplace to the streets to the home, people are being subjected to ever more sophisticated, ever more specific, ever more invasive, scrutiny. Although many of these technologies were initially developed through the military-industrial complexes, force-fed by the national security states during the eras of world war and cold war, they are now very much central elements of contemporary capitalism, in two main ways.
First, corporations are enhancing their surveillance capacities to increase competitiveness, both in terms of the productive process and marketing distribution.Second, surveillance is increasingly relied upon by capital in general to reduce risks and provide a more stable environment for doing business, both domestically and globally. Indeed, the privatization of surveillance has proceeded to the extent that it is perhaps more appropriate to talk about the surveillance society rather than the surveillance state.
In effect, many of the aspects traditionally associated with the state's political rule — authoritative allocation of roles and regulation of behavior, for example — are being quietly transferred to the private sector. To look first at surveillance for competitiveness: fewer workers in more automated work environments are also more closely watched workers. 'Smart-cards' permit controlled entry to work places and also allow supervisors to keep electronic track of where employees are at all times. Electronically encoded identification of tools and parts not only permit better inventory control but also block employee pilfering.
Increasing use of computers as an integral part of the productive process not only enhances efficiency but also provides a cumulative and precise record of the productivity of the employees operating them, as well as of the workers that the computers are tracking. None of this need be confined to individual workplaces: global corporations carry out global surveillance of operations and employees; managers are in constant electronic touch through E-Mail, teleconferencing, etc., and their performances closely monitored and evaluated.
When we turn to the marketing and distribution side, the scope of surveillance is equally impressive. Mass marketing — which still of course continues — is a very blunt instrument, a bit like the bombs dropped from air planes in World War 11: a visual or radar sighting of the target area was made from thousands of feet in the air, the doors were opened, the bombs dumped, and the crew hoped for the best. Today's niche marketing is more like the military's contemporary smart weapons: the targeting is precise and the delivery is monitored and guided all the way to impact.
The key to the new smart marketing is information. Consumers are identified not as mass, undifferentiated markets, but as subgroups with very specific information about purchasing patterns and purchasing power. Data banks on consumer preferences, with information gathered from myriad sources, can be cross-referenced and specific potential customers for specific products can be identified and targeted. Mass media move from broadcasting to 'narrowcasting': 500 channel television via direct broadcast satellites permits a proliferation of specialized programming with specific audiences whose particular buying preferences will be sensitively accommodated by the advertisers on those channels.
Most of the data gathering goes on quite unnoticed by the targets, or is seen to be facilitating consumption. For instance, electronic checkouts at video rental shops speed up the process for customers. Few realize that information on each rental becomes part of a data profile of each customer's preferences in films. Supply and distribution have been similarly revolutionized by the new technologies. Bar codes on products can provide instant readout of sales and inventories all the way to the factory door; readjustments and resupplies can be underway within seconds of consumer decisions recorded at checkout counters.
Surveillance as 'risk aversion' moves the private sector closer to the traditional concerns of the state. Credit-worthiness is a crucial entrée into the consumer society. Anyone judged a credit risk cannot hold a credit card, or borrow money for a house or car, and may even be barred from renting accommodation or transportation. Once named a credit risk, on the basis of data matching from private data banks, a process which allows little recourse for the targeted person to crosscheck the validity of the sources of the negative information, an individual may find it very difficult to get off this electronic blacklist, leading to a downward spiral in personal economic circumstances.
Insurance companies, basing decisions on data banks to which they have privileged, sometimes exclusive, access, can deny people access to insurance policies, or arbitrarily set rates at prohibitively high levels. In the case of automobile drivers in most jurisdictions, this may amount to effectively preventing someone from driving — and in many cases, from making a living.
Even more ominous is the increasing use of screening for employment: drug testing, evidence of previous legal offenses, medical problems, even lack of credit-worthiness, may be reason for denying employment or sacking an existing employee, often without appeal. Information upon which such significant decisions are made are based upon immediate access to vast data banks, many of them privately held and controlled.
Even in the case of public data banks, funded by taxpayer dollars, the subjects of the information may have little or no access to data on themselves, either because they are prohibited by law, or because only corporations with a high commercial stake can afford to pay for the added value of ordering the design of the data in forms accessible for their particular purposes. Again, in the case of public data banks, citizens often feel that these are actually helpful to them in their daily lives.
For example, 'smart' health cards that encode personal medical information (blood type, allergies, medications, etc.) offer holders security that they will be properly handled in medical emergencies. Less obvious is that such cards may contain credit information about health insurance coverage that could lead to being turned away at hospital doors, or worse, medical information (a history of drug addiction, for instance, or having been tested positive for certain conditions such as HIV) that may have devastating consequences for the holder in various situations. DNA banks might seem to offer protection for peaceful citizens against criminals, but what of the (admittedly very small) chance of an innocent person's DNA sequencing matching that of an offender?
The Cold War national security state pioneered the process of security screening of broad categories of people: state employees; workers in defense and other industries of national significance; immigrants and citizenship applicants. The criteria were political: membership in the Communist party or in some other left-wing groups; association with known Communists, or past membership in alleged Communist 'front' organizations.
The political prejudices of conservative politicians and police were given free rein under the purportedly impartial cover of security screening — as if this were like objective screening for a disease. It did not stop there. Homosexuality was targeted as an alleged character weakness that left persons vulnerable to blackmail and thus security risks. Rabid homophobia was never far from the surface, and has in the case of the American and British military outlasted the Cold War that provided the ostensible rationale.
There were many things going on in this process, many different fish being fried. But what was in common was the growth of data banks on citizens, first in the primitive and clumsy form of card indices and paper files, and then later in electronic form, in cyberspace. This was (and is, it still very much exists) a shadow world: it exists in the thick shadows of state secrecy, and its information shadows, or parallels, the real world.
Owen Lattimore, the Asian scholar who was bizarrely persecuted by the Washington witch-hunters in the 1950s as a Soviet spy, said it best in his autobiography when he referred to the dossiers compiled on him by the FBI and congressional committees as the profile of a "man who might have exited." There was a real Lattimore and then there was the Lattimore of the files who might have existed. And only the latter one mattered in the eyes of the powerful.
Today, in the time of the Information Revolution, we are all, in a sense, Owen Lattimore. The private and public data banks that form the high-security skyscrapers of cyberspace contain the shadow selves of almost every citizen and consumer. These data profiles, or shadow selves, in important ways overshadow our real selves.
People who have protested bad credit ratings, for instance, have found that even simple cases of mistaken identity have been almost impossible to rectify. Just as the guardians of state security always argued that doubt must be resolved in favor of the state, never the individual, the powerful motive of risk aversion on the part of capital means that doubt is resolved in favor of the corporation.
Corporations do not care if mistakes are made, or injustices perpetrated against individuals (except in the rare cases where sufficient bad publicity is generated that their public image suffers), because it does not pay to be attentive to such possibilities. They are in the business of avoiding risks on behalf of their shareholders; data profiles indicate risk categories and actions are taken to avoid anyone whose profile places them in the category. The result is a kind of social triage. Some are effectively excluded from full citizenship not in the state but in civil society.
Our cyberspace selves tend to overshadow our real selves for both good and bad reasons. Data banks mirror the real world but, necessarily, imperfectly. Just as a perfect scientific/mathematical model of the material universe — one that established a one-to-one relationship with reality — would be an absurdity, a theory as vast and complex as the actual universe, so too data profiles are always simplifications of reality.
The key points are who asks the questions and sets the parameters of the data search, for what purposes. The answer of course is that those with wealth and power get to shape the questions and thus the kind of simplifications that emerge. Corporate data banks, and the public data banks to which corporations buy privileged access, are there to answer corporate questions.
The simplified, perhaps simplistic, data profiles are patterned to answer corporate needs. Real world selves are inveterately messy, maddeningly complex, irritatingly inconsistent,full of contradictions-in a word, difficult. That is what it means to be human, after all, and why we so often throw up our hands in personal relationships, write poems and novels and plays to contemplate the inexplicable, toil over biographies, and vainly try as social scientists to explain individual behavior through meta-theories of the collective.
But our cyberspace shadow selves a r e not messy, not complex, not inconsistent, not contradictory: they are simple, easy constructs that can be quickly and cheaply drawn from the database and cost-efficiently used by the customers who pay for them. These cartoons crowd out the messy reality because the world of economic transactions is structured in such a way that only certain kinds of information can be fed into it. If you don't fit the program, you will have to be cut down to size, or stretched, or whatever it takes.
It's the Mad Hatter's Tea Party: if the mouse can't be stuffed into the teapot he will just have be excluded — a risk. But this is, after all, the Library of Babel. The biblical Tower of Babel was an audacious attempt to build a direct link between earth and heaven. A jealous God cursed the architects and builders with a multiplicity of languages so that no-one could communicate with any others. The Tower fell and the languages were dispersed across the earth.
So the extravagant happiness of the revolutionaries armed with the General Theory of the Library soon gives way to doubts, heresies, strife and despair as it becomes apparent that 'everything' includes nonsense, mistakes, even deceptions. One book consists of nothing but "the letters MCV perversely repeated from the first line to the last." The era of info hype passes into the era of info-babble.'Purifiers' are despatched through the endless halls to seek out and destroy false texts. There are struggles and librarians are murdered; others commit suicide.
Seen in a skeptical light, cyberspace is not such an enthralling field of possibilities after all. It is a threatening terrain with dark towers of data brooding on the horizon, old-fashioned exploitations and conflicts transposed into new and disturbing forms, haunted by strange shadow distortions of our material selves that menace us in our daily lives. It is an alienated world where the products of our own invention and imagination come back to torment us.
This picture too is just a possible world, drawing on elements already present and extrapolating a plausible, if unpleasant, future. Like all possible worlds it will probably not come about exactly as pictured; it may indeed look quite different. Futurology is a treacherous endeavor, especially when premised upon the whims of that most illusive of masters/mistresses, technological innovation. But the bottom line of my argument is that any speculation that fails to take into account the thread of continuity in terms of power and wealth will be seriously off the mark.
The networked computer may change us in ways that can be both foreseen and yet unforeseen. It is unlikely to effect, by itself, a fundamental transformation in the political economic structure of the very system that gave rise to it, that marketed it, and enthusiastically incorporated it into its organizational strategy for competitive success. If real change is to come about, it will have to be because people make it happen, by learning to use the new technologies against their owners, not because a technological 'deus ex machina' does it for them.
What then of the left-wing cyber enthusiasts and their prophecies of cyberspace as a democratic frontier? One must immediately qualify any response by granting that in authoritarian regimes, the new communication technologies can be liberating and empowering. The capacity of any repressive regime to shut out the outside world, to hold its subjects captive in mind as well as body has been rapidly eroded.
The fax machine and E-Mail have indeed become revolutionary weapons in the hands of dissidents, and satellite television, for all that it symbolizes cultural imperialism and the penetration of traditional cultures by Western capitalist values, also destabilizes brutal regimes and police states. But when we turn to the so-called 'advanced' liberal democracies, the democratizing potential seems far less substantial.
Take the fashionable chatter about 'virtual communities' in cyberspace as new nodes of social resistance. Some have even spoken of Internet affinity groups as 'electronic cafes' like the European caMs of the early twentieth century where radical and revolutionary ideas and movements were spawned. But these 'virtual communities' are entirely lacking in the social and cultural context that could give rise to actual revolutionary movements. They are literally disembodied, disconnected from the social roots of their participants, floating in cyberspace without the identities that enable and drive people to carry out actual struggles against real enemies.
People who communicate with one another only in cyberspace often mediate these communications through masks, false identities that they consciously adopt as playful/deceptive shields to protect their real identities. Some would have us believe that this represents a new evolving consciousness that transcends class, ethnicity, gender and national borders.
It sounds more like escapist game-playing: Nintendo players of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your identities! In any event, it is already a notorious fact that it is the Right, not the Left, that has made the most of the political opportunities of cyberspace, in many cases the ugliest elements of the Right, offering racism as political pornography on the Internet.
Another take on this is to argue that cyberspace eliminates from communication the hierarchical cues that infect face-to-face communication. Women need not be silenced by domineering male voices, discussion can be color-blind, etc. It is true that studies of the impact of E-Mail communication in multinational corporations suggest a slight weakening of hierarchical order, a certain limited democratization. Unfortunately, there is a downside to this democratization. Unable to effect genteel putdowns by the body language of status and privilege, or unable to catch the cues that would signal retreat and submission, participants resort to verbal violence: the phenomenon of 'flaming' one's opponents.
The democratic frontier turns out to be a Hobbesian frontier, the verbal war of all against all. The moral lesson? The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars. ... An aggressive, competitive society is not transformed when beamed into cyberspace; rather cyberspace takes on some of the colouration of that society.
Does the Information Revolution offer an alternative? Yes, and no. It does offer an alternative capitalist future, but it is unlikely, under present circumstances, to offer an alternative to capitalism. On the other hand, the profound impact of this revolution cannot be ignored by those seeking real alternatives.
Cyberspace is a new reality, a specter haunting the world. As some of the old terrains of struggle shrink, cyberspace expands as a new terrain to be studied, and to be acted upon. It is emphatically not itself an answer to problems that we ourselves must solve, with or without the aid of technology.
At the end — or is it the beginning (the Library is "unlimited and cyclical)-we are left with the great conundrum of the Library: by containing everything it contains nothing. Indeed, even if humanity were to extinguish itself "the Library will endure: illuminated, solitary, infinite, perfectly motionless, useless, incorruptible, secret".
In the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the ultimate cornputel; 'Deep Thought,' after cogitating for seven and a half million years, finally delivers the answer to the 'great Question of Life, the Universe and Everything'. The answer: 'forty-two'. When complaints are raised about how disappointing this is, Deep Thought suggests that the problem is in the question. But the question is ... everything. '"Exactly!" said Deep Thought. "So once you do know what the question actually is, you'll know what the answer means.'
How Media Users Are Fragmented In today's Technological Society
The proliferation of brands and channels and fragmented media is forcing companies to rethink their marketing strategies. Proliferation is happening all around us everyday and I am watching the growing fragmentation of customer micro-segments. Social media has allowed the mushrooming of micro-communities everywhere. Intensifying competition and corporate desperation for growth together with the supply and demand chain innovations have encouraged today’s companies to target ever more demanding customers within ever smaller segments.
The product, pricing and service options available to customers of consumer industries have grown significantly, from packaged goods to financial services, with the exception of a few (home furnishings is one of the few exceptions). All of these factors have dramatically driven up the complexity and cost of marketing while boards and CEOs are pushing their CMOs to improve the return on marketing expenditures. No wonder many CMOs I talked to said that a major restructuring of marketing models is imminent.
In this crazy business environment, marketing is ready to be reinvented. No one is sure to who is taking the lead to drive this change. Collectively ad agencies, media owners and clients have no clues about what's next (Media players are the worst). The revolutionary and disruptive impact of emerging technologies is creating new behaviors that drive marketers crazy. From TV prime time to YouTube and from advertising to advocates. Where is marketing going next?
The internet, cognitronics (building an interface between the brain and the computer) genotyping (classifying population segments based on genetics) and biointeractive materials (high technology sensors for living systems) are just some of the developments, which will be next to create a profound impact on marketing. They demand our long-held assumptions be challenged and re-examined as the quiet revolution turning into a tsunami.
The sad thing is that many marketers and their ad agencies still consider their discipline as just a series of tools, processes and techniques and the output is some striking visuals and a set of messages. They are so behind-the-curve. They need to know that we now live in a Google-Youtube-iPod-iPhone-MySpace-eBay-Flickers-Twitter-Walmart world.
Here’s what I think will be the key trends that further pushes marketing to the edge (not in any particular order):
Virtual Corporate Personality - For years, large corporations have been trying to act as big corporations and becoming more and more “faceless”. The need for organization to have a “humanized” face (or interface) and touch is becoming important. This is not just about executives’ blogging, it is about putting a face and brings this face into the virtual world. I have been thinking a lot of about this and I have some interesting ideas.
Private Search Network - The personal media revolution results in exponential increase in the amount of consumer generated content. This leads users to search beyond the algorithm for new ways of searching what they need beyond just text and images. A method for this is collaborated social search, where people are sorting content on the web, creating their own groupings and sharing that with others. As a result of that you get Private Search Network which you need to be a member or be invited to get access. Marketers may have to pay to get access to these groups.
Widget Everywhere Marketing - Widgets will becoming a new marketing tool as it is an effective way to add value and be able to link it to some marketing messages or simply create a service. As more and more new technologies will allow open participation for anyone who wants to create a widget. (Facebook is taking that approach and many will do the same)
Automated Tagging – One day almost everything will be tagged and tagging will become more sophisticated. It will extend into products and services and even customer testimonials. Or even product origins or usage , etc. The task of tagging will be automated and that will create a new level of challenge and opportunities for any search engine. I have seen a few interesting business plans from VC's of this idea last few weeks.
Social Media Optimization - SMO is slowly evolving into a movement in the online world. Primarily being driven initially by those search marketing folks, I think SMO will continue to get broader use from marketers interested in building traffic as well as buzz. Optimization and follow by measurement will be next.
Merging Media Environments
One of the most significant changes to occur in the United States in the last half of the 20 century was the enormous growth of media industries. With more delivery channels, a greater volume of media product, the development of new production technologies, and the tendency for large conglomerates to own different types of media companies, the environment for media writers is richer than ever.
Writers may take on a wide variety of projects from radio advertising to television news to dramas for video release. As newer media force older media to adapt contents and functions in order to survive, writers adapt along with them. A rush of mergers integrated media and entertainment organizations in the last decades of the 20 century into giant industries.
These mergers linked writers and producers even as audiences seemed to fragment. It became common for one organization to own radio and television stations. A large organization, such as Disney, has production companies, publishing companies, television networks, cable channels, movie studios, theme parks and other businesses.
Promotions and transfers of individual employees within this "group" create a sense of convergence. The scripts or copy media writers develop may be intended for different audiences and have different formats, purposes, and obligations as they move from job to job within one organization.
Perhaps one of the clearest places to see the convergence of media writing skills is in development of scripts intended to become multimedia products such as CD-ROM games and educational programs, corporate training video discs, interactive movies and Web pages.
A multimedia writer must be able to combine the strong aural sense of the radio copywriter, the concentrated visual sense of a television producer, the information gathering skills of a news reporter, the dramatic judgment of a movie director, and the ability to predict and arouse audience interest when developing multimedia products.
Electronic media have several attributes in common. Radio, television, film (which has become electronic), and multimedia all present a diversity of program material appealing to a diversity of audiences. They can provide wide dissemination of information and culture to huge audiences through a variety of delivery systems and technologies. Some delivery systems are direct, immediate, and fleeting, such as broadcast, cable, cell phone services, and online systems or websites, such as Hulu.
In these delivery systems, audiences depend on programmers to schedule or maintain the channel, which frequently changes. Other delivery systems, such as tape, disc, and CD, are more permanent. Audiences may borrow or purchase tapes, disc and CDs similar to the way they acquire books, and like books; audiences consume these materials at their leisure on their own timetable. Radio, television, and multimedia all share the functions of informing, persuading, and/or entertaining audiences.
One truth of mass media is that they are always changing. An examination of broadcast media trends in the last decades of the twentieth century gives some support to the argument that mass audiences for mass media are quickly evaporating. Narrowcasting, or the strategy of isolating audience segments and tailoring messages to this segment, became the mode of operation.
Radio served niche audiences through music format programming, while cable helped to established specified programming geared toward distinct audience interests. For example, the cable channel Animal Planet programmed shows specifically for pet owners and people with an active interest in animals. Home and Garden Network produces and programs "how-to" shows dealing with home improvement, crafts and gardening.
The sci-fi Channel targets science fiction enthusiasts, while Nickelodeon targets children, BET (Black Entertainment Television) targets people of color, Lifetime targets women, and Spike targets men.
In this respect television is following the pattern of development set by magazines early in the twentieth century, when the special interest magazine replaced general interest magazines on the newsstands, and the pattern of format programming set by radio in the 1950s, when specific music format replaced general interest.
This becomes important to writers as electronic media attempt to develop a smaller but more loyal audience base. It's important to keep in mind what your mission is and which audience you message will target.
Merging Media Functions: Informing, Persuading, Entertaining
Communication theorists identified four functions of electronic media programs: to inform, to entertain, to persuade, and to transmit the culture from one generation to the next. While one function may predominate in a program, these functions are not usually segregated. For example, the primary function of a television commercial for a fast food product is to persuade an audience to buy that product.
This may not happen unless the commercial first engages (entertains) the audience and informs the audience about the product. Messages are not isolated from the culture that produces them. By drawing message elements from the culture and fixing these in a medium that can be replayed, electronic media help to relay or transmit the culture from one generation to the next. A young person watching “Nick at Nite” can see programming her parents watched as children.
Types of Media Product
Electronic media products come in many different structures and genres: commercials, documentaries, news, features, interview and talk programs, music video, public information programs, westerns, science fiction, soap operas, romance, how-to, sports and games; the list goes on and on.
Whatever the primary function, all media programs have structures. Some may appear more appropriate to one function than another. For example, audiences are more used to seeing dramatic structures used in conjunction with entertainment. However, drama can be a powerful tool that is both informative and persuasive.
Writers strike through the politics of words, shaping them to best serve the primary function of their script or copy. Writers need to understand script and copy structure and the association of structure to function, genre, and production. Writers need to understand basic ideas, techniques and practices that can layer and drive script structure with the muscle of emotion and the flesh of spectacle.
Types of Electronic Media
Freelance Writing: Freelance is a term first used to designate mercenaries, warriors who hired themselves and their lances to anyone who would employ them.
The freelance media writer works at home on a commission basis or is subcontracted for jobs. The Benefits of freelancing are the freedom to establish your own client base and work at home in pajamas. The Pitfalls of freelancing are the uneven cash flow and the tendency of many clients to hear the first part of “freelance.” This can be especially problematic for young people fresh out of college, who haven’t yet developed a strong portfolio or industry reputation.
In-House Writing for Local Radio or television stations: Local radio or television stations often have Creative Services Departments for station identification, promotions, and local advertising and hire writers as part of the station’s staffing of these departments. At very small stations, writers may need to be
Involved with production as well as writing of these spots and promotions. Local radio and television stations will also have News Departments, which have reporter and anchors to research, write and report local news. The benefits of this type of working environment are that usually a writer has fixed hours and a professional environment.
One of the downsides may be writing for only one medium-the radio or television medium where you are employed. However, if you are involved in station promotions, you may be asked to write across media. For example, you might be asked to create a newspaper ad that promotes your station or creating radio advertising to promote a television station. Local stations may also ask writing staff or creative services staff to maintain and update the station’s website.
Writing for Corporate In-house: All types of organizations -- such as educational institutions, large businesses, and large non-profits -- hire writers to craft messages for the audiences they hope to influence.
The in-house writing staff of the public relations, advertising, or information department of a large corporation want to maintain the good-will of employees, consumers, stockholders, as well as the general public. These are highly coveted, well-paying jobs that require creativity, strong interpersonal communication skills, and extremely good writing skills.
Advertising managers oversee advertising and promotion staffs for the company. Marketing managers develop the firm’s marketing strategy. Public Relations Managers direct publicity programs and oversee relations with the press. Small companies or films may have individuals that combine advertising, marketing, and public relations skills under one department.
Writing for Networks and Cable: Like the local stations, networks and cable stations may have News Departments and Creative Service Departments. The major networks all have news organizations. Though beleaguered with financial cutbacks, network and cable news operations provide a continuing stream of news and information to a huge viewing audience with a variety of news and information programming.
News offerings may include prime time news, such as “CBS News with Katie Coerce,” entertainment news such as NBC’s “Access Hollywood,” news magazines such as the CBS program “60 Minutes” and ABC’s '20/20,' news interview programs such as NBC’s “Meet the Press, early morning programs, such as ABC’s 'Good Morning America.” Creative Service Departments are responsible for the on-air design and visual identity of the network or channel, along with the creation and execution of all branding and promotional materials.
Writers of Entertainment programming for networks and cable may be involved with developing soaps, sit-coms, episodic dramas, game shows, mini-series, reality shows, and other network or cable-produced product. These programs be written and produced independently and bought/purchased by the network or writers may be on staff.
Writing for Advertising Agencies: Multifaceted agencies include account executives, creative directors, art directors as well as writers. A client, such as a business, retailer, or manufacturer, hires the agency, which works on a combination of fee-based and commission based compensation. The creative team at an ad agency consists of art directors and copywriters, who often work closely to develop the concept for an advertising campaign.
The production department or creative services department produces the actual advertisements. Account executives are the sales arm of the advertising agency, responsible for meeting with the client and coordinating the creative, media, and production staff behind the advertising campaign.
Working for an advertising agency requires diversity, adaptability, and familiarity with print, Internet advertising, and electronic media. Specialties may include focus on types of persuasive messages such as political advertising. Interactive Ad Agencies may specialize in Web Design, Search Engine Marketing, and E-Commerce consulting.
As demand for media product mushrooms and the media themselves change, writers must be flexible-able to write across media- and adaptable able to apply seasoned skills to new situations, adjusting to the changes in media that are inevitable.
To Entertain: When we think of entertainment, we often think of narrative films, television dramas, episodic television programs, or television situation comedies. There are many types of programs whose principal function is to entertain. Game shows, music videos and music programming on radio, talk and variety programs all primarily function to entertain.
To Inform: We think of news, educational, and instructional programs as primarily having the function of informing audiences.
To Persuade: We think of advertising, public service, political, evangelical, editorial and promotional material as having the primary function of persuading audiences.
However, it is important to realize that these functions are not discrete.
Media often entertain to inform, inform to persuade, and persuade when they entertain. For example, media personality Dr. Ruth Westheimer began her career as a sex therapist on a radio talk show in 1980 on WYNY FM in New York. On her show, Sexually Speaking, "Dr. Ruth," intended to inform listeners about important health matters related to their sex lives.
However, she quickly gained a reputation for being candid and entertaining and for her tag phrase, "Get some." She made several comedic appearances on Late Night with David Letterman in the early 1980. She then became a spokesperson for Clairol Herbal Essences and body wash, with the goal of persuading people to buy Clairol products.
Media messages may function in ways writers don’t intend them to function. Because a writer intends to write a terrifying horror script, doesn’t mean that audiences won’t laugh at the
Movie when it’s finally produced.
The Process of Media Communication
Who (source) says what (message) to whom (audience) through which medium (radio, television, film, internet) with what effect (audience response)?
This question forms the basic model of the communication process and is the common ground writers in journalism, advertising, and entertainment stand upon. The model below shows the basic ingredients of the communication process and explains why communication sometimes fails.
An information source on who, presumably, a person who creates a message.
The message or “says what," which is sent by the information source and received by the destination.
A transmitter, which in the case of video would include many components — cameras, microphones, editing, in addition to the distribution network (cable, satellite, broadcast, internet).
The signal, the message converted into digital files and electronic signals.
A carrier or channel, for the signal.
Noise, which can be channel or signal noise and/or semantic noise. Another type of noise is semantic noise or the inability of the audience to understand a message that is otherwise clear. Or semantic noise could occur with the sources of the message, writers and producers who did not fully understand the possible meanings of the words, sounds, and images they used.
A receiver: For a video message this might be a computer or television set.
A destination: The audience member or person who consumes and processes the message.
Though we often think of the media writer as the source, very often it is the job of the media writer to develop someone else’s message. The writer comes between the client (the real source) and the performance of the script. There may be many people who are involved in bringing a message to the public. In these cases, the writer becomes one voice for the “who” in the collaborative media communication process.
The “who” of a media message may be: The independent media writer writing a screenplay alone, a client for whom the media writer works, a news source giving information to a reporter, people working in collaboration to produce a media product.
When a news reporter interviews an actress and uses her direct “soundbite” within an edited news package, both the source and the reporter become the “who” of that media message.
“Says What” is the actual message the media will deliver. The copy, scripts, and screenplays media writers create are the foundation on which these messages are built. The formats writers use depend on the type of message they are creating and the type of media that will be involved in production.
“To Whom” refers to the audience. Usually media writers target specific audiences based on demographics (selected population characteristics such as age, gender, race) or psychographics (those traits relating to personality, values, attitudes, interests, or lifestyle choices).
“In which medium” -- The format you use for your script and the way you shape your language depends on the medium through which the script or copy will be delivered.
“With what effect?” A writer or producer’s intentions are not always outcomes.
Effects of media messages are cognitive; they change what an audience member knows or believes.
Effects of media messages are emotional; they may change how an audience member feels.
Effects of media messages are behavioral; they can change what an audience member does.
The goal of the media writer is to construct blueprints for production in which the message is clear and ultimately delivers the intended meanings not only to those who will produce the script but to those audiences who are the final destination.
Some Points Worth Noting
Creating a communications brief for “external” communication
The external communications brief
1. Who is the client, what is the brand?
2. What is the task we need to address and how do we know if we have achieved it?
3. What do we want to say — single minded proposition?
4. Who do we want to talk to — target audience?
5. How do we reach them — media channels (including social media & word of mouth)?
6. How do measure the effectiveness of the communication? 7. How much money is available — budget?
A thought on social media & storytelling
“The Rise of the Story ” Richard Stacy
• Stories have always been a useful medium of communication — but the rise of social media has just made them essential. If you haven’t got a good one, you could be in trouble.
• The philosophy of marketing is restrictive — one-word ‘brand equities’, single key visuals , etc. At its heart is the idea of the proposition — a tightly defined statement of what the brand stands for. This was the cornerstone of a marketing or communications strategy in the mass media age.
• A story can drive conversation in the way a proposition cannot. People can pick up a story and tell it in their own words, they can pluck bits out of it and pass it on. It has mobility — the key attribute in the world of liberated media.
• A single story can live and move in blog posts, tweets, Facebook pages or conversations — anywhere and everywhere.
Social media & storytelling
• Stories have a further advantage in that they have an application beyond how you project your organization outwards, they can be a strategic management tool in their own right.
• Once you have an effective corporate story, this in itself is a strategy and when your strategy is a story it is easy for it to spread through the organization.
• One of the biggest management and communications challenges any business faces is ‘aligning’ employees behind a corporate strategy — but once that strategy is encoded as a story, that process is much simpler.
Short Notes On The definition Of social Media
Social Media is the democratization of content and the understanding of the role people play
In the process of not only reading and disseminating information, but also in sharing and creating content.
• Communication in the form of conversation, not monologue.
• Participants in social media are people, not organizations.
• Honesty and transparency are core values.
• It's all about pull, not push.
“Digital media has created a great deal of complexity, but it has put a potentially powerful array of new tools into the hands of communicators.
We are in the business of building and selecting channels of communication, but now we can build networks of relationships with the stakeholders we care about”
- Jon Iwata, SVP of Marketing & Communications, IBM.
Fragmentation In The Age of Globalism
John H. Ogwyn wrote the following article(From a religious perspective):
As the world becomes more and more interconnected, nations are fracturing along old ethnic and religious lines. Pension funds in Canada can be affected by economic developments in Russia or Thailand. Is there an alternative to mankind's fragile nation-states? What does the Bible say?
In recent years, our world has been moving inexorably toward becoming a "global village." Rapid travel and instantaneous communication have tied the entire globe together to a degree unimaginable just a generation ago. Satellite and computer technologies have broken down the restrictions of national borders in the flow of information and ideas. Multinational corporations and conglomerates now dominate virtually every field from finance to manufacturing—further integrating the world economy.
Make no mistake about it; today's world economy is more interconnected than ever before. Japanese companies are not simply Japanese companies, American companies are not simply American companies and French companies… well, you get the point! In many cases something that is 'American made,' contains components that were manufactured in a number of other countries. Japanese auto manufacturers have plants in the United States and American companies have plants in Mexico and Latin America. Even when people think they are buying a familiar national brand, often the manufacturer or the brand name is actually owned by a multinational conglomerate
Our global economy is characterized not only by free trade in goods and services, however. Of even greater effect is the free movement of capital all around the world. Global financial markets exert tremendous influence on worldwide economic conditions. Interest and exchange rates, as well as stock prices in various countries, are very much interrelated. There has been rapid growth of the global financial markets because financial capital is free to be moved wherever in the world it will be best rewarded. Because of this, we now find that pension funds in Canada can be directly affected by events in the economies of Russia or Thailand.
Yet, paradoxically, as the world becomes more and more interconnected, nations are increasingly subdividing and fragmenting along old ethnic and religious lines. Europe, Asia and Africa have, during the last decade, all been rent with warfare and violence directly related to such ancient divisions. Government and financial leaders have pointed to such conflicts as an illustration of the need for a viable alternative to the present, unsteady system of independent nation-states.
Billionaire financier George Soros in 1998 wrote a book titled The Crisis of Global Capitalism, in which he discussed some of these very topics. He observed that financial markets are inherently unstable and what solution did Mr. Soros propose? "To stabilize and regulate a truly global economy, we need some global system of political decision-making. In short we need a global society to support our global economy… the sovereignty of states must be subordinated to international law and international institutions" (excerpted in Newsweek, Dec. 7, 1998, p. 84).
Leaders in government, as well as in finance and industry, are worried. They see a world increasingly interconnected in the economic sphere, and thus threatened with worldwide economic dislocations as a result of strife and conflict in far-flung areas of the globe. Such instability could threaten the entire economic edifice that mankind is building up.
The Cold War Is Over—Where Is Peace?
The English-speaking nations spent more than half of the twentieth century, beginning in 1914, locked in wars either "hot" or "cold." Finally, in 1989, it all seemed to be over. The Iron Curtain was no more. People danced in the streets throughout Eastern Europe. There was a sense of euphoria in the air. Two years later, in December 1991, the Soviet Union itself ceased to exist. In its place were a non-communist Russia and more than a dozen other independent republics. The Cold War was over and the West had won! After four decades of living under the nuclear shadow of "mutually assured destruction," peace had finally been achieved. Or had it?
The bipolar world dominated by two superpowers is no more. What remains, however, is a far more fragile and complex arrangement. Nowhere is this fragility more evident than in the Balkans, dubbed in the 19 century "the powder keg of Europe."
Additionally, there has been major bloodletting involving the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq and various tribal factions in both East and West Africa. East Timor has broken away from Indonesia, the Philippines is faced with its own breakaway movement and even tropical paradises such as Fiji have been torn by coups rooted in ethnic rivalries. Ancient conflicts have also re-erupted between Hindus and Muslims in India, not to mention between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East. Of course problems in the Middle East always raise the specter of disruptions in the flow of oil—and therefore of major disruption in economies around the world.
All of this fragmentation is occurring at a time when big business is becoming ever bigger. Merger mania has gripped the international business community. Banks, insurance companies and manufacturing concerns are continually merging and becoming part of ever-larger conglomerates, while trade barriers between nations are increasingly being eliminated.
In the aftermath of the cold war, the economies of the former Soviet bloc were tied to those of western nations. Many thought that this economic interdependence would guarantee peace, eliminating the potential for war. The result has been far different from was imagined in those heady days of 1989. It is certainly true that economies all over the world are increasingly chained together. But there has been a dawning awareness, sharpened by the Asian meltdown of 1997, that no chain is any stronger than its weakest link. Increased linkage in such a fragile, fractious global environment has made affluent western nations more vulnerable than ever before.
These are the circumstances that provided the backdrop for the so-called Millennium Summit, held at United Nations headquarters in New York, from September 5-9, 2000. This was the largest gathering of world leaders ever and took place at the 55th annual meeting of the UN General Assembly. Throughout its history, the United Nations has proven itself inept and ineffectual in resolving problems on the world scene. With a General Assembly that is little more than a debating society for third world countries, and a Security Council that can be easily paralyzed by big power vetoes, the UN has very little that is positive to show for its decades of existence.
Events that have required military actions have generally had to rely on American troops if effective action was to be taken; though at certain times this has been under ostensible UN auspices. It was in this context that French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine made an announcement to the General Assembly in his speech during the Summit on September 7. "The European Union has decided to equip itself to be a major political actor and play its full role on the international stage" (Agence France-Press, Sept. 12, 2000). The EU, he announced, intended to create and equip a military force of 60,000 for use in international missions by 2003.
Many leaders realize that a world increasingly integrated economically still lacks the political and military means to prevent the disruption of that integration. Even more, the world lacks anything to provide an overarching sense of identity for its people that would provide loyalty to global institutions. Without a sense of common identity, fragmentation along old fault lines can only worsen.
Contenders for World Power
A number of years ago, Poland's Catholic primate, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski of Warsaw, defined three geopolitical contenders for power on the world scene. "Three Internationales," he called them (see Malachi Martin, The Keys of This Blood, p. 21). He categorized them as the Golden Internationale, the Red Internationale, and the Black Internationale. The Golden Internationale was the Cardinal's name for the financial powers, the transnationalist capitalist leaders of the West. The Red Internationale referred to the socialist leaders of the East. The Black Internationale was a reference to the Roman Catholic Church with its black-robed priests and nuns.
The first two, he stressed, offered a completely materialistic view of the world.
Both Western capitalists and Eastern socialists view history from a secular perspective. In their raw form, both systems are exclusively materialistic and concerned with the here and now. The Vatican, which has played a dominant geopolitical role in centuries past and aspires to do so once again, takes a different view.
Western capitalism lures the world to her bed by promising the twin pleasures of freedom and prosperity. However, some see that the West has confused freedom with moral anarchy. These capitalists worship bottom-line profits and individuality over virtue and community. Large corporations are notorious for their willingness to lay off tens of thousands of employees if the move is expected to boost their stock prices immediately and reward top management with handsome bonuses. As corporations have increasingly become multinational, any allegiance to employees, a local community, or even to a nation has become minimal or non-existent.
As for the Red Internationale—the socialists—history has shown that a centrally planned economy has not been able to compete with an entrepreneurial one. Despite promises of constructing a workers' paradise, the communists ultimately had to rely on barbed wire fences and armed guards to keep their people from leaving "paradise."
The Red utopian promises have failed and left millions of once true believers disillusioned in their wake. However, among intellectuals who still subscribe to the possibility of a man-made utopia, and among have-nots witnessing an ever-widening gap with the haves in bottom-line capitalistic countries, forms of Marxism still retain drawing power.
People the world over are increasingly aware of the failures of exclusively materialistic philosophies. In their current forms, neither capitalism nor socialism can offer any transcendent goal or purpose. Nor can either produce a just and equitable society where prosperity is sustainable indefinitely. As a result, the age-old ethnic and religious rivalries threaten to fragment an interdependent world.
Unless human emotions and actions can be channeled differently, they will fracture the whole global economic house. An identity that transcends the current divisions and rivalries is clearly needed. For all of the internationalists' desire to supersede the independent nation-state, they have been unable to devise an alternative that would claim the loyalty and stir the emotions of the average man in the street. People do not develop intense emotional loyalty to faceless bureaucrats. How, then, is the looming crisis of fragmentation in an age of globalism to be resolved?
After a period of relative dormancy, the third geopolitical force mentioned by Cardinal Wyszynski, Roman Catholicism, is increasingly flexing its muscle. The Vatican offers a different worldview than either capitalism or communism. And in addition to a worldview, it offers a source of emotional unity; fostered by ritual and pageantry that unites different peoples with different languages and cultures.
In 1981, a private meeting took place in the Vatican between the pope and American CIA Director William Casey. Mr. Casey was a deeply devout Roman Catholic who attended mass almost every day. Director Casey and President Ronald Reagan had come to believe that, "There was a potential third superpower in the world—the 109-acre Vatican city-state—and that its monarch, Pope John Paul II, had at his command a remarkable arsenal that might tip the balance of the Cold War. In a meeting that would not be revealed to the world for another decade, Casey… helped seal an alliance between the [pope] and the Reagan Administration" (Reader's Digest, Oct. 1996, p. 213, excerpted from Bernstein and Politics, His Holiness).
Vatican influence was crucial in bringing about the emergence of a non-communist Eastern Europe in 1989 and, along with that, the collapse of the postwar, bipolar world order. Today, Vatican influence is increasingly being felt in the Middle East as well—and is destined to grow markedly.
History Recorded in Advance
Where will the influence of this third force lead? The answer has been recorded in advance, believe it or not! It is found in what to most people would seem an unlikely source—the Holy Bible. In Isaiah 46:10, God tells us that He declares "the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.'" Bible prophecy, which constitutes more than one quarter of all Scripture, is simply history recorded in advance! What does it reveal about the turbulent times in which we live and the days ahead of us?
In the book of Revelation, God reveals that in the end-time, a system He calls "Babylon" will arise in Europe and dominate the whole earth. Revelation 18:9-18 and Ezekiel 27 describe a great worldwide trading bloc that will completely dominate the global economy. Babylon involves far more than mere economics, however. It is also apolitical system called the "Beast" (Revelation 17:9-13), possessing great military power and strength (Revelation 13:4). But, as we will see, religion is the "tie that binds" this whole system.
The original Babylon, or Babel, was founded by Nimrod in the land of Shinar, in what is now Iraq (Genesis 10:8-11). Here the people—all of one language—came together to build the famous Tower of Babel to keep from being fragmented and scattered. The tower was to reach into heaven—a prideful venture that directly challenged God (Genesis 11:1-4). The Almighty intervened and divided the various nationalities by giving them different languages (vv. 5-9). This halted construction of the tower.
This parallels our modern time remarkably. In fact, the economic and political integration of European nations with their different languages has frequently been compared with the ancient Babel project. As an example, the European Commission sponsored a widely distributed poster of the Tower of Babel and the words, "Europe—Many Tongues, One Voice."
In addition to trying to build a political empire, Nimrod also promulgated an idolatrous system of worship known as the Babylonian Mysteries, through which he sought to unify his subjects. It may surprise you to learn that this essentially pagan religion, though changed in form, has persisted to our day. Called by God "Mystery, Babylon the Great" (Revelation 17:5), it is described as a great "mother" church which will play a major role in end-time events.
Jesus Christ warned His disciples in Matthew 24 that there would be false prophets who, while claiming to represent Him, would lead people astray with a false message (vv. 5, 24). This false system will NOT promote Buddha or Mohammed, but rather will use the name of Jesus Christ while substituting a different message than the one that He taught. Through His Apostles, Christ warned of a time when a great charismatic religious leader—"THE false prophet"—would work apparent miracles and "lying wonders," which would deceive the vast majority of people on earth, even in this modern, secular age (2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:13; 19:20).
This false religious leader, who is soon to emerge on the world scene, will head the great Babylonian Mystery system just mentioned. He will ally himself and the religious empire that he heads with a yet-future politico-military leader to arise in Europe. This will constitute the seventh and final resurrection of the old Holy Roman Empire. For a detailed explanation of this subject combining the Bible with the record of secular history, please request our free booklet, The Beast of Revelation.
You see it is religion—a false Christianity—that will ultimately be used as the "glue" to bind a fragmenting world together. This is the only way unity and common identity on a global scale can be achieved. The bad news about an unholy alliance of false religion with economic, military, and political interests is not the end of the story, however. God revealed through the pen of the prophet Daniel the good news beyond the bad. "And in the days of these kings [the final ten who constitute the revived Holy Roman Empire] the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed" (Daniel 2:44).
According to the inspired word of God, Jesus Christ is going to return to this earth as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:11-16). When He does, He will sweep away the false systems that men have erected and replace them with the glorious Kingdom of God, a government based upon the righteous laws of Almighty God…
Idioms Of Liberation Or Imprisonment
For his sculpture Idiom, Matej Krengathers books from libraries and bookshops in the city where he installs each version, making towering turrets of collected words, and therefore philosophies, vernacular expressions, and cultural histories. Born in Slovakia, Kren has created this piece in cities including Sao Paulo, Prague, and Jerusalem. While Kren's works are formally interesting and nicely respond to safe ideas about culture, geography, and identity, I can't help but see them through a sociopolitical lens as well, the lens of Israel-Hezbollah, Iraq, al-Qaeda, and George Bush.
On a basic level: how are our books and doctrines--the bible, the Quran, the Torah--locking us in or, conversely, walling us off? (This notion resonates with Huang Yong Ping's Two Typhoons, a pair of World Trade Center-like distended scrolls, one written in Sanskrit, the other in Arabic.) How--like the teardrop-shaped doorway in Idiom--can they free us?
Maybe the metaphor in Cuban artist Kcho'sObras Escogidas(selected works) (above) is a bit more overt: constructed from Spanish-language books, the image of a Cuban escape vessel, a vehicle both literal and literary, is undeniable. I guess I fall on the side of knowledge: this many books, stacked so high, is freeing; a single book, peered at exclusively, is the prison.
Yet, the advent of the new emerging media and technologies, has fragmented the mode of book reading, TV viewing, Radio listening, and so forth into a fragmented and more akin to babel-like discordant and many things that are but a fleeting post, drop or whatever, which is sooner when it's posted, is replaced by many other billions of post per second. If a book at least holds the attention of a reader(s), the new social media and other such Internet entities, break down consciousness, coordination, and uniformity and continuity of yesteryear's ways of communicating, reading and thinking.
The House Internet: The Viral Soup
In The Mix Of The Internet's Viral Soup: A Short History
In order to better understand how the Internet fragments audiences, consciousness and the environment they operate in, we will cull heavily on a piece of research written by James Stayner wherein he states that:
"The news environment in advanced industrial democracies is undergoing a tremendous series of changes driven in a large part by the emergence, spread and evolution of the internet. The once ubiquitous scenario of a string of national, regional and local news outlets with largely captive audiences and secure revenue streams has fundamentally altered. In a period of fifteen years, the net has helped to further deterritorialize news markets, reconfigure media competition, fragment audiences, transform news reception and content production, and has forced a reassessment of journalistic roles.
"It is this rapid period of evolution and its consequences for news and the wider democratic public sphere which forms the main focus of this chapter. Concentrating mainly on the US, it considers the extent to which the old news order has been transformed, and the degree to which new digital news environment has provided a greater diversity of information sources for citizens, enhanced the expression of public opinion and has democratized the news making process.
"In just over a decade the news website has become a familiar feature of the news environment. There is no consensus as to exactly when the first news outlet went online. Some suggest as early as 1990 in the US, when seven newspapers could be accessed over the internet (Gunter, 2003), others put forward the slightly later date of 1992 (Li, 2006). Much of the initial expansion, though, took place after the emergence of the world wide web and the dot-com boom which followed, which saw established news organizations invest millions of dollars in their web operations.
"An indication of the rapid expansion can be seen by a quick reprise of some figures. In 1994, 60 newspapers in the US had websites, by 1998, depending on sources, there were between 1,600 and 2,000 newspapers with their own sites (Greer and Mensing, 2006; Li, 2006) — all of the main news organizations had a website displaying news content by 1995 (Scott, 2005; Sparks, 2000). By 2002 the number of newspapers online had grown further to 3,400 in the US and 2,000 outside the US (Gunter, 2003), although some put the figure higher. Li (2006), for instance, suggests that there as many 4,000 newspapers online in the US not counting other news outlets.
"At the same time as the number of internet news sites expanded so has the audience for online news [see Deuze, 2003]. Table 1 shows the proportion of people who regularly consume news online grew by 29 per cent from1996 to 2006, while those using traditional off-line outlets declined, although it should be noted that for many the internet complements off-line news consumption and is not a substitute for it (Ahlers, 2006).
"Such developments are not limited to the US In the UK, for instance, during the first part of 2002, an average of 10.6 million people per month were accessing news websites, up by 3.5 million on November 2000 [Hargreaves and Thomas, 2002]. In 2005, other research showed that 61 per cent of British net users relied on it for news (Dutton et al., 2005).
Web 1.0 to 2.0
"Over this time period the internet has also evolved. Currently, news outlets are adapting to what has been called web 2.0. There is no agreed definition of this term, popularized by O’Reilly Media, however, in the context of this chapter, it is taken as short-hand for a variety of changes relating to the look of content, speed of access, mobility, and content reception and production. Web content has evolved from largely text and graphics to include video and audio streaming. This is a result of a boost in network capacity due to the emergence and spread of broadband, meaning larger amounts of data can now be transferred at ever faster speeds.
"Further, wireless technology [Wi-Fi] has resulted in an increase in mobility. While web 1.0 was mainly computer based and static, the public can now surf the web through mobile devices. Finally, not only can content can be viewed on a variety of platforms, but internet users can also upload and disseminate text, audio, video and digital photographs over the web. User-generated content sites such as Facebook, YouTube and MySpace have become one of the most visible characteristics of web 2.0 (Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2007).
"It is important to explore what these developments mean for the news. The most visible impact of web 2.0 has been in the appearance of online news. News websites are no longer solely text and photograph based, video streaming has become a wide spread feature. For example, a survey of over 80 newspaper websites in the US in 1997, found that only 7 per cent of websites had video content and 16 per cent audio content, by 2003 44 per cent of sites had both (Greer and Mensing, 2006).
"By 2005, online video had become a common feature on US news websites [Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2006]. Visitors to most of the leading news sites can view a whole bulletin or particular extracts, for instance, those browsing the main networks’ websites can watch breaking news and segments from the evening news bulletins, in 2007, 37 per cent of internet users said they watched news videos online (Madden, 2007).
"The way news is accessed is also changing. News can be down-loaded as a podcast from news websites and watched at the audience’s convenience. A survey in the US found that 12 per cent of internet users had down-loaded podcasts form various news websites in 2006, compared to 7 per cent in 2005 (Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2007). Although the numbers regularly downloading news output are small, it does surge during large news events.
"In the US, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, there were more than 10 million video clip downloads from the MSNBC website and 9 million from CNN [Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2006]. In a similar way wireless technology is transforming news viewing, news bulletins can be sent to personal digital assistants or cell phones. In 2007, a survey found that 30 million internet users in the US accessed the web from a mobile device (ComScore, 2007), with phone users regularly upgrading their cell phones these figures are certain to rise.
These changes mean that the time-linear-appointment-to-view news bulletin is being replaced by a more bespoke service where the audience has the ultimate say about when and how information is consumed. Audience members can assemble their own mix of stories to suit their interest. This has empowered audiences to filter what they see/read to an unprecedented extent, facilitating the emergence of what Nicholas Negroponte has termed the Daily Me. The Daily Me being ‘a communications package that is personally designed with each component fully chosen in advance’ (Sunstein, 2001: 7).
While new providers, like online news aggregators, might have pioneered personal newscasts, it is not just these new players that provide such facilities. A survey of over 80 newspaper websites in the US found that the number of sites which allowed audiences customize their news consumption rose from 10 per cent in 1997 to 24 per cent in 2003 (Greer and Mensing, 2006) — a figure which is likely to have grown further.
While most of the major news sites have had well established interactive facilities, such as message boards and email, the ability of audiences to contribute to news content has generally been more limited. However, web 2.0 has transformed this situation. User-generated content has become a common feature of mainstream news outlets.
Audiences are encouraged, and sometimes paid, to submit video footage and other material to news sites. Inspired by the success of user-directed-news-sites, like ohmynewsinternational, wikinews and dig.com, that allow users to post stories, some news outlets let their readers to write their own stories, particularly on local issues (Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2007). The professional staff reporter has been joined by the freelancers, compilers, amateur enthusiasts, and members of the public, the so called ‘witness-reporters’ or ‘citizen journalist’. Increasingly, as Dahlgren and
Gurevitch (2005) observe, a larger amount of the information in the online news environment does not originate from professional journalists but from these amateurs.
In sum, online news has gone from shovel-ware to increasingly sophisticated interactive output. In the world of web 2.0, news can be accessed by a variety of portable devices. Through these different platforms audiences cannot only view the stories they want at their convenience but also post content, even break news. These changes in news consumption and production, however, need to be seen as part of a wider series of developments in the news industry.
Audience Input And Its Limitations: Media And Social Networks Produce News With Online Reader Participation
Stayner further instructs us about the Audience, their input and how they are limited in so doing.
"One of key criticism of off-line newspapers and news bulletins has been that audience direct input has been too restricted [Richardson and Franklin, 2004]. The emergence of news websites and the development of web 2.0, it is argued, has changed this situation (Twist, 2006). The space for audience debate is no longer limited and the voice of the audience is less reliant on the editor and journalist for exposure.
"However, while there clearly are more opportunities for audiences to communicate their views and contribute to the news, some argue that the reality is somewhat different to the hype [see Deuze, 2003; Singer, 2005]. News outlets still exercise control of messages posted on their sites, removing comments deemed inappropriate from message boards and blogs.
"In terms of audience-journalist interaction, a study of the extent to which online audiences engaged with news websites found that only 15 per cent used chat rooms and 13 per cent emailed journalists [Lowery and Anderson, 2005; see also van der Wurff, 2005].
"Similarly, a survey by Nielsen/NetRatings found that only a minority of visitors to leading newspapers websites in the US looked at journalists’ blogs. In December 2006, of a unique audience of 30 million, 13 per cent visited the blog pages of an online newspaper (Nielsen/NetRatings, 2007).
"It is not just the public that shy away from interaction, Lowery and Anderson  found that only a minority of journalists pursued contact through news blogs. Another survey discovered that most journalists in the US saw responding to email as part of their job but just over half did so, and did so only occasionally (Pavlik, 2004).
"Indeed, Chung in her study of interactivity found that although most sites producers recognized the ‘importance of incorporating... interactivity’ they were cautious about it, especially those from the established news organizations [2007: 48]. These respondents often pointed to the increase in workload in maintaining such interactive features (Chung, 2007).
"The emergence of the internet has meant that there are now more news outlets available for citizens to choose from than ever before. While most American internet users still visit the websites of the main news outlets, a substantial proportion regularly visit non-U.S. news sites or niche sites such as news blogs, indeed, news aggregators often take them to such sites (Thurman, 2007).
"The growth of such outlets has been beneficial for minorities of various kinds who have felt that the main off-line US news providers cater for majority tastes or use the majority language and fail to accommodate them. For example, certain diasporas are able to access news outlets with which they have a cultural and/or linguistic affinity, in a way that is much easier than before. A similar point could be made for those with particular political/ideological views. The radical media have always been part of society (Downing, 2001), but they have never been more accessible as via the net.
"This section has also shown that internet news sites provide more opportunities for citizens to exercise their voice and contribute to the news. Citizens are able to supply material and shape news content with greater ease than before. Open-source news, for example, means readers can direct content, posting their own stories. Citizens are no longer confined to being spectators, monitoring news from the sidelines, but are able contribute to its focus and production, becoming citizen journalists.
"Despite the potential of new developments to enable a more informed and active citizenry, it is important to remain critically aware of the challenges still faced. There may be more choice but large media chains still exercise power in the online news environment. They still own the bulk of the established brand outlets on which a large proportion of internet users tend to rely. Research has shown that the diversity of views on these branded sites maybe largely illusory with most of the news coming from Associated Press and Reuters (Paterson, 2006).
"These profit hungry corporations are also interested in charging citizens for additional news services at the same time as engaging in cost cutting which may well undermine the quality of output on which citizens have to depend. In addition, research has also revealed that citizens’ online behavior is increasingly subject to surveillance by news corporations interested in building up information on their tastes and habits (MacGregor, 2007).
Despite the potential, new opportunities to interact and produce content may be exaggerated. Interactive developments have been given lukewarm response by the public and journalists (Lowery and Anderson, 2005). News editors have continued to exercise control over much of what is contributed. In addition, the issue of unequal access to the internet has remained. Internet users tend to be wealthier, educated and young, and this is also true in relation to the adoption of new communication technologies such as cell phones (Chadwick, 2006; ComScore, 2007).
"These groups are more liable to post content, according to a recent Pew survey of bloggers in the US, 54 per cent were under the age of 30, 37 per cent had a college degree, and 38 per cent were knowledge-based professional workers [Lenhart and Fox, 2006]. These groups are also more likely to use the internet to access news and information.
"For example, another Pew survey conducted during the 2006 mid-term elections, found that 44 per cent of those who went online to gain campaign information earned over $75,000, 49 per cent had a college degree, and 71 per cent were under the age of 49 [Rainie and Horrigan, 2007].
"The current transformation of the news environment provides both new opportunities and challenges for democratic communication. Long term, whether these changes enable a more informed and active citizenry or facilitate increasingly interest driven news consumption remains to be seen, but what is certain is news will never be the same.
The Advent Of Google .. Today...
Is Google Making Us Stupid?
Nicholas Carr wrote the following article titled:
What the Internet is doing to our brains
"Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave?” So the supercomputer HAL pleads with the implacable astronaut Dave Bowman in a famous and weirdly poignant scene toward the end of Stalney Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bowman, having nearly been sent to a deep-space death by the malfunctioning machine, is calmly, coldly disconnecting the memory circuits that control its artificial brain. “Dave, my mind is going,” HAL says, forlornly. “I can feel it. I can feel it.”
I can feel it, too. Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy.
My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.
I think I know what’s going on. For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the Internet. The Web has been a godsend to me as a writer. Research that once required days in the stacks or periodical rooms of libraries can now be done in minutes.
A few Google searches, some quick clicks on hyperlinks, and I’ve got the telltale fact or pithy quote I was after. Even when I’m not working, I’m as likely as not to be foraging in the Web’s info-thickets ’reading and writing' e-mails, scanning headlines and blog posts, watching videos and listening to podcasts, or just tripping from link to link to link. (Unlike footnotes, to which they’re sometimes likened, hyperlinks don’t merely point to related works; they propel you toward them.)
For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded. “The perfect recall of silicon memory,” Wired’s Clive Thompson has written, “can be an enormous boon to thinking.” But that boon comes at a price.
As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.
I’m not the only one. When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances—literary types, most of them—many say they’re having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing. Some of the bloggers I follow have also begun mentioning the phenomenon. Scott Karp, who writes a blog about online media, recently confessed that he has stopped reading books altogether. “I was a lit major in college, and used to be [a] voracious book reader,” he wrote. “What happened?” He speculates on the answer: “What if I do all my reading on the web not so much because the way I read has changed, i.e., I’m just seeking convenience, but because the way I THINK has changed?”
Bruce Friedman, who blogs regularly about the use of computers in medicine, also has described how the Internet has altered his mental habits.