Mainstream media embrace social media

While there are still journalists out there who ‘don’t get’ social media or try to ignore them as much as possible, it seems that mainstream media are more and more embracing blogs, video sharing, social networks and microblogging. The coverage of the US elections demonstrates this: have a look at ReadWriteWeb and Nieman Journalism Lab and find out about CBS working with YouTube or The Washington Post buying a ‘promoted trend’ on Twitter. Storify, even though it’s such a new tool, is being used by a whole bunch of mainstream media to curate social media feeds on election day.

This involvement of mainstream media also puts certain things into perspective, like the often repeated notion that ‘(long form) blogs are sooo 2005′. I guess it’s true people switch to other platforms and styles such as Twitter and Plurk, Tumblr and Posterous, but the ‘classical’ blogs are still very relevant. In financial journalism it seems that the growing importance of Twitter is stimulating rather than holding back a rich ecosystem of blogs.

Even though I’m totally convinced of the importance of blogs, I have to admit I was surprised, finding this advertisement for the Europe blog of The Wall Street Journal, not far from Antwerp, Belgium:

Advertisement for the Europe blog of the WSJ

This particular billboard does not look very glamorous, but anyway: here we have it, a mainstream media company, promoting blogs by very classical means and this even in small towns and villages.

It all takes time, maybe too much time. Does this recognition of social media mean that mainstream media are fundamentally changing into more social (transparent, collaborative) organizations? I guess it depends, fundamental change is not an inevitable consequence of  launching blogs Рbut more about that in a later post.

Learning about globalization, terror, and media by reading near-future sci-fi

How will the future look like, for media and for society in general? It’s impossible to predict, but what we can do is work with plausible scenarios. One of my sources of inspiration is literature, more specifically near-future science fiction¬†which seems to extrapolate trends we already see happening today. These are books I’ve read recently or which I’m reading now:

Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge. There is lots of augmented reality in the book, and the world has to deal with major security issues. Among the many fascinating characters: an anthropomorphic virtual rabbit. What about media? There are still paparazzi (maybe more than ever) and Vinge dedicates the novel to the internet-based cognitive tools that are changing our lives such as Wikipedia and Google. There are still physical books, but in danger of extinction. Laptops are still being used – by those who are resistant to change. I think it’s possible to use this book as a starting point for a meditation on the radicalization of instant messaging, online networks and gaming and online cognitive tools, discussing the challenges and opportunities of these developments.

Halting State by Charles Stross is a thriller set in the software houses that write multiplayer games. Once again it’s about security issues but also about finance as the software house is a public company. If you don’t have first-hand experience with Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) or Alternate Reality Games (ARG), chances are that this book will make you want to try it out.

Super Sad True Love Story by Shteyngart, Gary. What I like particularly in this book is the fact that the state of the economy plays an important role here. Things look bleak with China (and even Europe) in a very strong position while the US suffers a terrible crisis with massive social implications. Streaming media are a big hit – but do not necessarily contribute to the quality of public debate. Wearable devices double as tools for the security services. Physical books are still around, but they are considered weird.

For the Win by Cory Doctorow also deals extensively massively multiplayer online role-playing games. It’s about globalization, economics, virtual goods and labor. Independent news media production (in China!) is another important element here.

The Dervish House by Ian McDonald is set in 2027 Istanbul. Once again trade, security, economics, globalization and (nano)technology are prominent elements in the story. There are not only paparazzi in the future, but also investigative journalists using stealthy, secretive surveillers – as does the state.

Online social networks, effortless and pervasive instant messaging, the menace of mass destruction or of Big Brother, the transformation of reality in a mixture of the physical world (manipulated on nano level), virtual reality, gaming and augmented reality, the globalization and its geo-political and social consequences are themes in which you can immerse yourself by reading those books.

My project: organizing some meetings about these books, discussing what they tell us about different possible futures. My personal interest would be the future of the media, but others would be more than welcome to look at these and other books from other angles.

We would meet (of course) in a virtual world, most probably in the virtual town of Chilbo in Second Life. If you have suggestions for other books (or games, or videos… ) about the near-future, please let me know.