In the past, people who held power kept it through the use of superior technology. It started when nomadic tribes came together under the control of a small few who owned farms. Then power was taken by those who had the best weapons, and kept by the people who controlled the flow of information. Unknowingly, innovation in the control and storage of information has ultimately led to a great destabilising in the hierarchy of power. With writing came the printing press. With electricity came telegrams and telephones, and later on radio and television. With the internet came citizen journalism.
The resurgence in right-wing politics in Western government and the ever increasing instability in the Middle East has created a sense of unease and insecurity throughout the world. This rising fear has forced two different reactions from society as a whole; an emotional and an intellectual. Emotionally, many have reacted to things seemingly innocuous, such as somebody having a different opinion to theirs, or immediately reacting to an article they read the headline of but weren’t bothered investigating further. But that’s a blog post for another time. The more internet savvy produsers engage in what is now known as citizen journalism. This form of independent research and reporting can throw things into the spotlight that otherwise would not have been seen by the greater outside world, such as drone footage of conflict in Syria or Turkey. There are more accurate battlefield maps of which forces are where and controlling what on Reddit than are published by any military organisation or news outlet in the world. All of this is the work of citizen journalists.
With the whole world sitting in our pocket, and all social media hell bent on getting their users to document and share their lives with the internet, the rise of citizen journalism was inevitable. The impact of this new phenomenon is more prevalent on Twitter than anywhere else. Live coverage of natural disasters, political events, Adele concerts and how many steps little baby Brian took today are all processed through the rapids of the Twitter feed, which is why professional journalists love promoting their Twitter handle every time they show up on the news. This newfound freedom has left many politicians afraid that they can no longer beguile and misdirect the same people who elected them into power, which has lead to many discussions on the regulations and segregations on who has the right to what online. But despite the realised fears of power hungry politicians the world over, no law they impose can truly restrict the flow of information. No looming threat of a publicised internet history or wiretapping by government intelligence operations can stop the onward march of the citizen journalist.
Everybody enjoys a good paradox. They exercise our brains, provide challenging philosophical discussion, and serve as a backup weapon in the war against artificial intelligence. When Marshall McLuhan wrote “The medium is the message” he had the whole world of communications scratching its head. Surely the messenger cannot also be the message? Well, according to Leonidas, the medium through which we communicate our ideas is equally, if not more important, than the ideas themselves.
McLuhan argued that anything we consider an extension of ourselves is both a medium through which we communicate as well as an idea we are communicating. A great example of this is the rising popularity of merchandise, such as coffee mugs and t-shirts, which bear a sarcastic phrase or a well-known text abbreviation, like “wtf.”
What McLuhan might have been trying to get across in his book that was supposed to be entitled “The Medium Is The Message” is that how we express ourselves is more important than what we want to say. Our sense of fashion, the colour we paint our house, how our cutlery is designed, can all send a stronger message about who we are as people than what we as individuals say. Alternatively, the messages in our media could be a preemption of a phenomenon known as the Ganzfeld effect, namely, our brain’s programming to find patterns within our surroundings, even when there is no information for our brains to process. Could it be that using a medium as a message is simply our base instinct to create and recognise patterns urging us to dig deeper and deeper into our constructed society?
Of all the things I’ve learned in my convergent media studies class, nothing has been repeated so prolifically as #FEFO: Fail Early, Fail Often. Failing to create a digital artefact is as guaranteed as the eventuality of someone being offended on Tumblr, or so I’m led to believe. With that in mind, it seems the best way to ensure I get the pain of failure out of the way is to act counter-intuitively to the average student and deliberately create something guaranteed to fail. In doing this, I will either fail as expected and build upon that to create something that hopefully won’t fail (but probably will) or create something so spectacular it becomes the hottest thing on Broadway, a la Gene Wilder. As of yet, I haven’t actually thought of anything terrible enough to fit that brief, but I did come up with some actually okay ideas:
- A cooking show for destitute students living on campus
- A podcast that mocks literally anything. Seriously, hardcore political types, the way a duck walks, my inability to do math. Nothing is sacred to me.
- Broadchurch memes. Because somebody has to appreciate David Tennant being grumpy and Scottish
- Exploiting technical loopholes in the legal system to do reckless and cool looking things. This is a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ type of idea.
I suppose the only thing that I can think of that’s guaranteed to fail is just five minutes of white noise posted weekly. But even that might gain traction if some annoying twelve year old finds it. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.