The Medium Isn’t the Message
March 26, 2007
Media no longer matter. The production and consumption of information isn’t tied to a particular medium. We don’t write for the newspaper and read from the newspaper. We produce information in text and images and sounds and videos and sms messages which can then be consumed on blogs and e-mail and newspapers and letters and television. Consumers (who are also increasingly producers) pick their channel of choice (which itself may vary moment to moment).
I touched in passing yesterday on the recent discussion about the death of the newspaper. Much of the discussion on this has treated the newspaper’s death as a given and even the dissenters from that opinion have treated the paper part as dying.
I argue that the reverse of this latter view. The news as we have known it will die, but paper will be alive and well. Paper is just one format. Formats are channels for moving information. Those who like the feel of a paper in the morning can continue to receive that.
But the centralized notion of news is dead. Previously, each medium combined a source and a channel for distribution. Now, there are many sources each of which with many channels cutting out of them (which, as often as not, feed into other sources).
No producer of information can act as a gatekeeper any longer. They are left to interact with a far more dynamic informational sphere as both consumer and producer. Obviously there is need of tools for making sense of this. I would say that the most exciting need in this area is for a filtration system as dynamic and rich as this modern ecosystem.
McLuhan‘s old formulation has been taken apart by decentralization of both production and consumption. The gatekeepers are dead, producers and consumers are forming their own markets and connections, and the possibilities for helping people make sense of this appear to be wide open.