Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

decentralize media, but how?

In reference to my post a few days ago on "politics, media... and war", Grant said:

This is kinda where I'm at, with one important question - how does decentralised media get to the broader audience, or the "mob" as Diego refers to them? That's where it gets kinda tricky IMO.
One clarification: when I said "the mob" I wasn't talking about "the broader audience", which usually has implications of social layers, class if you will. Put it another way, I wasn't talking about intellectuals and non-intellectuals, involved or not involved, concerned or apathic, etc. Not that Grant said this, but I think it's within a hair of going in that direction.

In the post I said:

Individuals want depth and objectivity, and if necessary complexity. The mob prefers shallow, subjective, easy-to-understand soundbites.
I didn't say it explicitly, but the mob is composed of exactly those individuals. The mob is dynamic; we are all part of it at some point. We can't really escape it in a sense. There are mobs of various sizes, world-sized, country-sized, city-sized, and smaller too. But it's the ones of large size (those that comprise the elusive "markets") that influence media into pushing A or B or C until we can't take it anymore because "the public likes it". The mob has a mind of its own, composed of invidual trails, actions and interactions. The mob cannot be "reached" by media in the way we understand it, media can only reach the individuals in ways that make each individual push the mob in a particular direction. "Making the mob move" is what can create a super-hit in movies or music, but it's an indirect process that implies creating something that affects individuals in a way in which their subsequent actions will say something both individually and aligned with the mob. In a sense this mob-concept I'm referring to has more to do with "public opinion" than with "audiences". Mobs are dynamic opinion groups, decentralized, and self-organizing, although they can and do react strongly to centralized influences when the conditions are right.

Enough on the mob-concept for the moment. I'm beginning to realize that maybe it's less obvious and more abstract than I thought. I'm sure I'll come back to it at some other point. I think I didn't do a good job of explaining what I mean.

Regarding Grant's specific question ("how does decentralised media get to the broader audience"). If by "broader audience" we mean a particular category of people that rely on mass media and nothing else (which is, note, different from my mob-concept), then it's unlikely that it will happen. But if by "broader audience" we mean mob-concept-units, then my take is that it will happen as media merges, and the web, tv, etc, can be seen through one channel. Google on your TV. Your TV on your PC. The web on your fridge, and so on. So then channel-surfing is web-surfing as well, and game-surfing, and any other kind of info-navigation you could think of. Once that exists people will be exposed to new ideas, since subscribing to an RSS feed will be like switching to channel 34. (the first kind of people I mentioned in this paragraph wouldn't, though, because they rely on particular media channels and they wouldn't watch, say, anything other than NBC even if they were offered the choice, and that is usually mixed with the idea of the "broader audience" IMO). I am a bit optimistic in that I think that given choice people will embrace it, comparatively reducing the power of big media outlets.

If that ever happens though, we'll have to deal with "community loopback" effects in which people only listen to specific information streams from like-minded people, and all society ends up as islands of disconnected ideas and opinion. The myth of the Tower of Babel, Reloaded.

I'm rereading what I just wrote and I'm wondering if it's at all understandable. So many ideas at once. That's another advantage of weblogs: the whole point is that I can try again tomorrow. :)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on June 22, 2003 at 9:52 PM


A couple of interesting articles on IBM/SCO/Linux-UNIX. The first one looks at how competitors (IBM's competitors, that is, SCO, barely has any market share, let alone competitors) are trying to leverage it to scare customers away from Big Blue. Also on IBM/SCO is this opinion piece from, interesting mostly in that it raises some interesting questions.

Finally, another Economist article talks about the current IBM strategy, and how it's leveraging its vast R&D to deliver integrated solutions. I saw this first-hand a few years ago when I worked for IBM Research, and even then (when the strategy had been in place for only a couple of years) it was quite impressive to see how current advanced technology, ongoing research and "old" (ie. mature) technologies were combined to deliver new solutions. The only problem one could see with this strategy is that it requires ever-increasing employees, since it's human intensive (at least for the moment), something that Bill Gates famously abhorrs, but as long as IBM maintains its lead in this area this "problem" should remain contained. Besides, with IBM Research being one of the leading nanotech-research facilities in the world, it wouldn't be surprising if they ended up owning a very large, very lucrative market in, say, 10 years' time. And then, who'd care about the consultants?

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on June 22, 2003 at 3:12 PM

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