Sink or Spin


There is a recent topic over on the AuroraCitizen site regarding communications.  You can follow it here:

The question put forth is whether social tools such as Facebook and twitter are improving communication.

The author recognizes there are useful and responsible roles for this latest technology, but does not go on to define which roles these are, nor conversely which roles are neither useful or responsible.

The framework is too simplistic.  In an effort to add some substance to the discussion I found myself digging into one of my favorite Marshall McLuhan texts “Culture is our Business”.

Written in the 1970’s the book is more applicable now than ever.

McLuhan also condemned framing a good vs. bad debate:

“These richly significant forms are easily obscured and destroyed by the classifiers and moralizers who want to know wether they are a “good thing” or a “bad thing”.

A sharp contrast to Clr. Gaertner’s belief that she was quoted as saying:

“I think out of respect for everybody on council, everybody on staff, everybody in the community, that we need to decide what can and cannot be allowed in the new social media. “

McLuhan has a lot of valuable insight into the world that we all find ourselves in.  Some of us are swimming, some treading water, some growing gills, while others, like Clr. Gaertner, seem all to happy to tie themselves to anchors of the past and sink.

This year marks a celebration of 100 years of McLuhan’s work, you can visit this site to find out more:

One concept that McLuhan brought forward that adds much value to this conversation is the concept of “Rim – Spin”.  He described it as such:

“Our world is an invisible Rim Spin — all the communication that surrounds us. It is like a cyclone, a vortex that has transformed the old world of visual connections into a new world of audile-tactile resonances: a global theatre of instant awareness.”

McLuhan suggests the instant awareness, a primary component of Social Media, speaks to a re-tribalization of culture:

“The 20th Century, the age of electric information, instant retrieval and total involvement, is a new tribal time.  If Gutenberg technology retrieved the ancient world and dumped it in the lap of the Renaissance, electric technology has retrieved the primal, archaic worlds, past and present, private and corporate, and dumped them on the Western doorstep for processing.”

McLuhan goes on to address the impact of fast moving technologies have culturally on slower ones:

“Business and culture have become interchangeable in the new information environment.  Social navigation and survival depend on recognition of the process, and knowledge of the diversity environmental “rim-spins” and epicycles that we have created by our own innovations.  When a fast cultural spin is put around a slow one, the slower hardware breaks down.  When the teletype letter or the telephone by-passes the old postal service, the older service breaks down.”

Where I would agree with the AuroraCitizen poster’s assessment that “not all that pours forth from this brave new world is necessarily good and that there is great room for improvement.”

Conversely, not all the pours forth from this brave new world is necessarily bad.
There is great room for improvement in how we communicate, and we will get there through a deeper understanding how all our media operate.

There is obvious resistance from this poster when they distinguish between traditional media as being serious and social media as being silly, or a waste of time.

I would say the tables have with respect to that assessment, and there are more than enough metrics to show that the audience has, and continues to, move on to these new media and away from what is considered traditional, and now broken.

Mathew Ingram’s April 13th piece in Gigaim titled “The future of media = many small pieces, loosely joined” extrapolates on the change we are witness to, you can reat it here:

“The ability to transmit junk and waste people’s time.” is not, as this poster suggests, a component only found in emerging media.

“Traditional Media” seems to have a growing segment of this as content shifts towards social streams.

Of the phone calls you receive, how may are telemarketers soliciting business?  
What is the % of television shows that are worth watching?  
If you receive faxes, what is the % of spam?
Same question regarding the “ultimate in e-mail”?

Traditional media is indeed breaking down, and that’s not a bad thing.

Where the cracks show a complete break down is in the poster’s belief of that “purity” is intrinsic to traditional media.

Social media has not, as this poster suggests “polluted” the mediaverse, or journalism for that matter.  

Daniel Flamberg’s May 2010 article “5 Ways Social Media Impacts Journalism” is also worth a read:

Flamberg’s piece references The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Dan Gilmor’s Mediactive is also a fantastic read as to gain more insight on all the elements at play.: 

A comprehensive report and presentation on the subject that incorporates Dan Gilmor’s work is “The Rise Of Social Media And Its Impact On Mainstream Journalism”  and the slides of which can be viewed here:

Opportunities to consume, produce and share media continue to grow.

If there is real desire for these changes to improve our culture of communications then it needs to be matched with a willingness to learn them, not a hurumph and a crossing of the arms in protest.

The choice is yours.

Spin the wheel, or let it spin you.

Watts on your mind?

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