The Road Ahead: I Want It Now

The market forces re-shaping our media need not result in the fears James Fallows described in The Atlantic Monthly and quoted in last month’s Autowriters Newsletter. Paraphrased they are:

  1. An age of lies, idiocy and a complete Babel of “truthiness.”
  2. Failure to adequately cover much of what really matters.
  3. A society pulverized into granules and separate information spheres.
  4. A continual-distraction machine weakening our ability to think, concentrate and decide.

Joan Stiles UCSD Cognitive Scientist Lecture on Brain Development

A Wikipedia type rationale for hope is offered by Mashable’s Vadim Larusik who believes “Social media has created a human filter for quality media. It affirms that there’s still a big need for in-depth journalism and news stories. In fact, news stories were tweeted more often than gossip or opinion pieces,” according to data from The Daily.

Reader Jesse Bowers offers a half-time speech rebuttal to lead off our sidebar Talk Back section in this Newsletter. Sort of a “nothing to fear ” or “and we can do it again” rejoinder that, itself, evokes the stock prospectus caution: “past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

A more scientific reason for optimism is found on YouTube in a lecture on the brain’s development by Dr. Joan Stiles, a professor in the cognitive research department on the San Diego campus of the University of California. Titled “Grey Matters, From Molecules to Mind” it is mostly about the physical growth and organization of the emergent brain. However, she offers evidence that the environment interacts with and stimulates the growth and functioning of the brain and, arguably, continues to do so throughout our adult life. Increasing interaction with an unceasing and invasive data flow could expand the brain’s capacity and ability to absorb, retain, access, prioritize and organize data.

For those who can’t wait for evolution, Kathy Colbin’s column in Mediapost offers a rhapsodic view of the near future and media. She writes: “We are rapidly reaching the point where our world is continuously created anew, as we want it, as we imagine it, with few if any cost or complexity barriers. It is arising dynamically, in response to who we are, what we seek, and our changing circumstances. The past moment has faded away, the future moment has not yet arisen, and all we have left is the present, eternally manifesting itself.” She reached that point by contemplating implications in being able to populate one location on the cloud with all of our online identity and making our online experience device independent. “Who cares if it’s iPhone or Android, if all we’re doing is connecting to our universal, disembodied identity in the cloud? Grab a phone, any phone, and you’ve got your personal setup, instantly generated on an as-needed basis.” From there, she goes to the convergence of media on the web, the increased ability to provide users with “what I want: when and how I want it.” An on demand world where not just products but even human organs (recently a kidney) are printed on demand.

More immediately, “At some point nearly all magazines will be printed on demand,” Andrew Bolwell of Hewlett-Packard’s MagCloud service, which prints, distributes and takes orders for magazines, is quoted by Wooden Horse News.