Reversing Mass Media

Dave Winer (via Chris Carfi): “It was a mistake to believe that creativity was something you could delegate, no matter how much better they were than you, because it’s an important human activity, like breathing, eating, walking, laughing, loving.”

Actually, I would say that you shouldn’t delegate it all the time. I agree with Dave that everybody needs to be creative. But not every bit of culture we consume needs to be homemade. After all, consuming other people’s creative output can be rewarding and satisfying for both creator and audience.

What we are reversing is the compressed, high pressure capitalization of creativity that occurred when mainstream culture was forced through small pipes and industrialized distribution channels.

Part of that was and is a natural reaction to the economies of media and mass production of the 20th century, including the iconification of major artists: Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, and Michael Jackson. Mass media economic drivers ultimately changed American values and aspirations to celebrate mega-stars as if they were worthy of our attention just because of their fame: Paris Hilton, Anna Nicole, K-Fed. Fame actually became a proxy for quality and the media industries made the most of that, reaching perhaps a pinnacle with NSync.

In reaction, we are seeing the rise of a distributed cultural base, more highly niched, more responsive to our individual humanity, and, while less rewarding financially for the media icons of our day, much more rewarding to the larger population of artists who find outlets on blogs, YouTube, myspace, and elsewhere.

My favorite new media stars (in no particular order):

I read a lot more blogs and subscribe to various YouTube channels… but these folks float to the top as people worthy of my attention because of who they are, not how well produced they are. Their work shows character, heart, passion. And when I have a choice between those three elements and the production values one expects in something from a major label or major studio, the choice is easy.

Finally, I would be remiss not to connect this to the audience-as-participant movement that we find at unconferences and Burning Man. The reversal of mass media is not just in media. It is also happening in live events, where full participation in the program involves getting up and contributing in some way, and not just consuming the show as a passive audience member. It’s not about talking heads in front of the room. It’s about turning everyone in the room into an artist, a contributor, a collaborator.

No longer is buying a ticket sufficient. Be present. Contribute. Be a part of creating the moment. Things are more fun that way.

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