Can anyone predict the evolution of the media? Things are changing at an incredible rate. If you want to get a scope for the sheer scale of change, take a look at Did You Know 4.0. What was straightforward before has now ventured into unknown territory. Is it possible to guess what might happen in the future?
If we want to understand what is happening now, according to Marshall McLuhan:
“The medium is the message”
What does this mean? Mark Federman explains in “What is the Meaning of The Medium is the Message?”. Essentially, when a ‘medium’ is defined as an extension of ourselves (i.e. how a mobile phone is an extension of our ability to communicate) and a ‘message’ is defined as a change in behaviour due to the introduction of a new innovation (i.e. how a new music festival’s message is not the type of music, but the way it changes tourism levels), we can discern the meaning of something by assessing the changes created by it. Confused? Basically, when we notice a change in behaviour (message), this indicates that there is a new medium at play.
To rationalise the overwhelming amount of content relevant to the issues surrounding convergent media, we can break them down into three main groups:
Technology has come a long way, that much is obvious. An important change in recent times is the switch from analog technologies to digital ones, such as our approach to listening to music, now dominated by mp3 players rather than vinyl. However, it is not as simple as a technology either living or dying, as outlined by Henry Jenkins in: “Worship at the altar of convergence“. If we follow the progress of the original vinyl, we can observe its transition from this:
…as the primary method of listening to music…
…a way of inventing new music. As we can see, the status of vinyl within society has mutated. As discussed by Jenkins, there will never be an ultimate “black box” that contains all our media desires. Technology has been and will continue to be deconstructed and reconstructed into new forms across multiple media platforms. It’s just a matter of waiting to see what happens next.
Sir Francis Bacon is credited with saying: “knowledge is power”. And this statement is readily applied to the media content industries. In previous times, these industries controlled when and what their audiences could access. Ideally, media content would travel directly to the audience, through a designated media platform, who would then absorb the information.
With the enormous changes happening in regards to media convergence, content industries no longer know through what medium their media will be received.
Will it be through a television?
In such uncertain times, many content industries have lost control of how and when people access their media, and for what price. Jenkins recounts the New Orleans Media Experience, and the sheer chaos within the content industries over how to regain or at least exert some control.
The affect of media convergence upon audiences has been enormous. In simple terms, audiences are no longer the passive receivers of content, they are active participants: tweeting, facebooking, uploading to YouTube, and of course, blogging. An interesting fact about the current media landscape is that while media content has increased dramatically, as a result of the almost zero cost of creating content, it has also decreased the quality and reliability. These days, it is not just trained journalists that can report on current affairs.
So what does all this mean???
Apparently no one really knows. Media convergence has infinite possibilities, and there doesn’t appear to be a way to predict its evolution. It seems we will have to wait and see…
Federman, M. (2004) What is the Meaning of the Medium is the Message? http://individual.utoronto.ca/markfederman/MeaningTheMediumistheMessage.pdf
Jenkins, H. (2006). “Worship at the altar of convergence”: A new paradigm for understanding media change. In H. Jenkins, Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide (pp 1 – 24). New York: New York University Press. http:www.nyupress.org/webchapters/0814742815intro.pdf