Monday, January 24, 2011

On New New Media

At 22 years young, I always find it incredibly disturbing how technology evolves at such a rapid pace. I always catch myself, as well as my friends, complaining about how old we feel and how seemingly out of touch we are becoming with the latest fad online. While we're comfortable with Facebook, it took us a while to get used to Twitter. Heck, I still remember having a MySpace and even a Friendster account from about seven years ago. While seven years doesn't seem like a long time, it seems as if technology lives in dog years as MySpace has struggled to compete with the hipper Facebook, and Friendster is seemingly obsolete.

I've spent most of my college years studying new and social media. It is something I am very fascinated with, and the rapid pace of evolution with this "new new media" guarantees that there is always something new to learn.

Perhaps the most meaningful contribution of new new media is the fundamental shift of roles. Prof. Levinson wrote about this - how anyone can be a producer - not only a viewer. Perhaps this is where most of the debate lies when it comes to new new media, and this is perhaps the main reason why I am so intrigued by the subject.

Has "new new media" brought about a cultural renaissance, or is it destroying our culture as we know it?

On the one hand, one can argue that one of the largest contributions of new new media is user generated content. As mentioned, anyone can be a producer, and anyone with a dream now has a platform to at least have a shot to reach it. Musicians such as David Choi, Alyssa Bernal, and JR Aquino have found success through YouTube. Sean Kingston, Kate Voegle, and Colbie Caillat found their big break through MySpace. On a grander scale, Justin Bieber has gone from viral video to worldwide superstar and Grammy nominee.

Those are only some of the few artists who have gained notoriety through this new new media.

On the other end of the spectrum, though, for every OK Go, there are about a thousand terrible Beatles covers. Is the glorification and opportunity of the amateur hurting culture? Andrew Keen brings forward the monkey-typewriter theory in his book The Cult of the Amateur - How Today's Internet is Killing our Culture. He writes that if you give an infinite amount of monkeys an infinite amount of typewriters, one of them will produce a masterpiece everything else is just garbage that isn't worth our time (8). He asks, "What happens... when egoism meets bad taste, meets mob rule? The monkeys take over" (9). For him, "amateur hour has arrived, and the audience is now running the show" (34).

Perhaps he takes an incredibly pessimistic view on this, but he does raise a legitimate concern. Levinson brought up how Wikipedia has challenged the encyclopedia. It makes me wonder if information like that should fall in the hands of possibly an eighth grader who is good with the internet. Wikipedia may democratize information, but it does raise doubts that it would allow the same eighth grader to be held with the same merit as a tenured college professor.

I guess the reason why the study of new new media is that it involves a lot of unanswered questions. It is constantly advancing and changing at an incredibly rapid pace and we are right in the heart of it. At the same time, we neither have the foresight nor the hindsight to decide whether new new media is good for our culture or not. It raises a lot of debate, which makes it an even more interesting subject to delve into.

Marty Mercado

1 comment:

  1. You put your finger right on the issue that we are currently debating. But this debate is not entirely new, it's the fundamental conflict between elitism and democracy. And while we tend to favor the democratic, I think we'd prefer the elite approach when it comes to heart surgery, for example.