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The World is Changing

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

The world is changing. Actually the world has always changed – it is said that the only constant is change – but it’s the rate of change which has become more significant recently. One of the greatest areas of recent change is in the media: for example we constantly hear about how the conventional media are dying because of the internet.

That is true to an extent. There’s no reason why conventional media (newspapers, magazines, music publishers, movie studios, etc) should die because the new distribution systems offered by the internet should make their work easier, not more difficult. But it’s the same old story: the traditional business people who control the conventional media know they have got a good system going (good in terms of maximum profit for minimum effort) and they don’t want that to change. Why would they?

When we look back in history at groups like the Luddites their actions now seem ridiculous. But many of the big news companies and movie studios are no better today and the final outcome is no less certain.

A few recent news items have emphasised these ongoing changes. The two major TV news networks here in New Zealand have both laid off senior investigative journalists. It has become obvious recently that there’s very little real investigation going on anyway, but this will just make things worse.

Radio is almost as bad. Even National Radio (in New Zealand) – the only station I know of aimed at people with intelligence and maturity greater than a 10 year old – lost one of its best interviewers recently.

Newspapers and magazines are a bit more varied. There is still some moderately good material in them but there’s a lot of inaccurate, over-simplified, and biased material too.

Of course I’m not saying that the “new media” sources such as blogs, podcasts, and web based news sites are any better. Blogs are notorious for being biased (believe it or not I make a greater effort than most to look at all sides of an argument and to base my thoughts on facts rather than pure opinion) so things are possibly even worse from that perspective.

But the big advantage of the internet is the pure amount of material and how easily accessible it is. It is possible to look at practically any subject to almost any degree of detail you want. It’s also possible to look at all sides of most subjects. Unfortunately it’s really up to the person to do that and it is just away too easy to look at a subject very superficially or (even worse) look at it in detail but from only one biased perspective.

So critics of the internet who say that it provides simplified, lightweight treatment of news or only provides a biased and unrealistic perspective aren’t really right. It is possible for anyone to get deep and balanced information on any subject but it’s up to the individual to do that. Anyone who wants only minimal detail or who only wants to be informed (or misinformed) from just one perspective can get that easily by choosing which blogs to read, which web sites to visit, and which news sources to use.

Another trend which has become very obvious is the process of leaking information on the internet. Wikileaks is the most obvious example but now that organisation is splitting and Openleaks has been formed. And I saw today a leaks site in Indonesia, IndoLeaks, also exists although it couldn’t be contacted when I tried.

It looks like leaks sites are proliferating now and surely that is a good thing. As I have said in previous podcasts, I think distribution of information is important, and information that the power elite want to hide is far more important than the stuff they want to tell us about. Conventional media can’t perform this role as easily or as completely as informal or unofficial web based systems can, so that’s another big change thanks to the internet.

I recently saw a survey showing that few younger people get their news through newspapers, TV, or radio any more. Some will say they don’t get news at all: I recently asked some teenagers about their attitude to Wikileaks and they had never heard of it! Whether that change in sources is good or bad isn’t the point though: the important point is that it’s happening.

I still get some news from radio and if there’s a newspaper handy I will flick through it but I don’t trust TV news any more and I am suspicious of most other sources. I prefer to use the internet but I always make sure I get opinions from all sides and check against multiple sources. it’s actually not that hard to do but so many people don’t (or refuse to) do it.

The big message of this blog entry is this: people who are getting biased, irrelevant or shallow information from the internet are getting that because they either aren’t making the effort to look at enough sources or consciously want to look at only one perspective (this might be because of a political or religious bias for example). No matter how good the source of information is someone will find a way to misuse it!

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