Checking in on the media shift

By Anne Collier

We’re experiencing a profound media shift that’s shifting other things too. The signs are all around – struggling newspapers and other publishing companies, the way children gather information and learn, the burgeoning calls for school reform, the shift from consumers to users behind all of the above. We’re usually too busy to think much about long, drawn-out sea changes. But founder of Craig Newmark predicts that “by the end of this decade, power and influence will shift largely to those people with the best reputations and trust networks, from people with money and nominal power…. This shift is already happening, gradually creating a new power and influence equilibrium with new checks and balances,” he wrote in a San Francisco Chronicle blog. Old media powerhouses aren’t the only ones struggling with the “new power equilibrium” that Newmark’s talking about and that his Craigslist enterprise is illustrating. Google, Facebook, and other “non-traditional” companies seem to struggle over juggling the corporate organization of the old days, the power of technologists’ creativity, and this growing user power. What they too are learning, it seems to me, is that:

Media companies can’t be trains driven by (software) engineers. They’re increasingly user-driven. The way things are shifting, they can’t afford to let their technologists call the shots. They provide the service, the product’s skeleton or framework, but users fill in the rest. It’s a partnership now. Users confer viability on the product or service, with the company hopefully helping to maintain the quality and safety of their experience. The well-being (aka online safety and privacy) of their users should be part of “product design” – not just good marketing, brand protection, and lobbying, as in things to be handled after the product or new feature is designed and launched into the marketplace. It doesn’t take an MBA to see this, in fact I wonder if an MBA degree actually helps. Someone outside of both media and youth advocacy who prefaced all this is Margaret Wheatley in her book Leadership and the New Science, described in a thoughtful review by Beth Garlington Scofield at LiNE Zine, which says that we can no longer live and work in “organizations designed from Newtonian images of the universe … separating things into parts … [believing] influence occurs as a direct result of force exerted from one person to another…. The more open a system is to new information, both from within and out, the more creative its adaptations…. We must move from the command and control models, to a living system perspective [emphasis mine].”

Related links

* “The new media monsters we’ve created for our kids”
* “PBS Frontline’s ‘Digital Nation’: Presenting our generation with a crucial choice”
* “Major study on youth & media: Let’s take a closer look”
* “School & social media: Uber big picture”
* “‘Soft power’ works better: Parenting social Web users”

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