Teaching Examples

No more monoliths: How we get news today
February 8, 2007, 1:34 pm
Filed under: future, journalism, news

Steve Outing talked to a variety of people about the future of news, and the one whose views matched my own was Robin Sloan, manager of new media strategy at Current TV:

“I think ‘news’ just becomes a less distinct category. You don’t sit down with a newspaper, or even a news website, or even a super wireless e-paper device, for 10 minutes in the morning to very formally ‘get your news.’ Rather, you get all sorts of news and information — from the personal to the professional to the political — throughout the day, in little bits and bursts, via many different media. With any luck, in 5-10 years the word ‘news’ will be sort of confusing: Don’t you just mean ‘life’?”

This is the way I already get my news today. Largely because I’m in front of a computer at least six hours a day — that’s just the most convenient thing for me.

But also because my cell phone has a fully functional Web browser and I have an unlimited data package. When I’m in the doctor’s waiting room, I read my RSS feeds — on my phone. When I think of seeing a movie while riding in a friend’s car or eating lunch, I check the local movie showtimes (via Google) — on my phone.

Robin went on to say:

“A key point is that news will continue to be delivered on many media — websites, blogs, TV, phones, pamphlet-y things, those little java jackets they have at coffee shops, whatever. It’s not about everything going digital and never seeing a molecule of real matter again. But it IS about the death of the monolithic news experience.”

That has happened already — at least for me.

What’s more, I think it has always been that way for my current students, most of whom were born within two years of 1987. When they were 10 years old, the Web was already commonplace.

I teach a class about the history of communication technologies. The first great technology of communication is writing — yes, just writing, which humans came up with about 5,000 years ago. Because not every society had writing, anthropologists and others have been able to study tribes and other groups who have a purely oral culture — a culture without written history, stories or religion.

The many scholars who have written about this difference make a huge point of one thing in particular: We who have been born into a writing culture, a society inundated in written signs and texts and knowledge, can hardly even imagine what that other kind of life is like.

A lot of people today, including many who are making million-dollar decisions for media corporations, are having the same difficulty. They cannot imagine, cannot accurately understand, what the digital culture is. They are caught in a middle place, in the culture that developed after the invention of world’s first mass production machine — the printing press. That culture is being replaced by the next one. Now.

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2 Comments so far
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By the time I was old enough to care about the world around me and want to know what was happening, (about 10) I had already learned to navigate the Web. Newspapers seemed unwieldy compared to a few mouse clicks. (Back then the thought process was more like ::grunt:: “How do you fold this thing?!” I just set up a feed reader for my Dad; he hasn’t moved in a couple of hours. 🙂

Comment by Megan Taylor

“Set up a feed reader for [your] dad …” Hee hee! I can just imagine. Please remind him to get up and stretch once every hour.

Comment by Mindy McAdams

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