Teaching Examples


The living Web
March 31, 2006, 2:02 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Newsweek made a good effort at capturing the online zeitgeist in this past week’s cover story, but here are some things they didn’t include:

Many people have neither the time nor sufficient interest to use the “cheap geeky software tools known as the Web’s ‘connective tissue.'” The question is, does that make those who do use them the uber-geeks (marginal) … or the new information elite (central)?

If MySpace is in fact a “community” and not an “audience,” what kind of community is it? Not to sound like an old uber-geek, but I think it’s really much different from the text-only WeLL of yore, which I would call a community. I don’t deny that MySpace is a very social space. But so is a crowded bar.

(I really liked the line describing MySpace as “a site that easily allowed users to create their own little online treehouses.” That’s good!)

I’m not at all bashing the phenom — I love my Flickr and my del.icio.us to pieces — but this current boom is not the be-all and end-all of the online universe. It’s just another phase in the evolution of online media, and of course it’s interesting to watch and experience it.

The article mentions but does not dwell on the viral aspects of all this sharing going on. That’s the key. It’s not exactly that you WANT to “share” your stuff; you catch the bug because you are enjoying what others have come in and shared before you got there. You want to join in and quit sitting on the sidelines. The price of admission is sharing your stuff.

If you don’t share your stuff, then you’re just in the audience — not in the game.

In case you’re wondering about business models, Bradley Horowitz, head of technology development at Yahoo! Search, explained why Yahoo paid an estimated $35 million for Flickr:

“With less than 10 people on the payroll, they had millions of users generating content, millions of users organizing that content for them, tens of thousands of users distributing that across the Internet, and thousands of people not on the payroll actually building the thing.”

It’s similar to the reason why The New York Times bought About.com a year ago — but the difference is crucial. At About.com, unpaid “guides” collect, organize, and even generate content for (yes) an audience. But at Flickr, there are no guides, no gatekeepers — except the moderators (admins) of groups (and you don’t have to participate in those).

Does any of this have anything to do with journalism? Some would say yes, and much has been said and done already about citizen journalism. But journalism (and the practice of journalism) cannot be isolated from the people. If “the Web is where we live” now (as the Newsweek article concludes), then we can’t be having enclaves of journalism that are separate from everything else there.

Viral doesn’t work if you aren’t breathing the same air.

Suffice to say those in the journalism field should not, must not ignore the online zeitgeist. As for answers or solutions, those are still being worked out.

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I deleted a comment here because it had nothing to do with my post. To contact me by e-mail, just look at my home page.

Comment by Mindy McAdams




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