Friday, July 6, 2012

Global media technology pointless - without truly global CONTENT

Brian McNair ( Cultural Chaos : journalism, news and power in a globalised world), Routledge 2006, has a powerful new theory to explain what is happening to traditional media and traditional "sources" in the 21st century ,under the impact of new media technology.

But is new globalizing technology enough, in and of itself, to dramatically change the way we find out about what is new - and from whom ?

A forest fire burns a hectare of woods in southernmost Argentina, one of 10,000 forest fires that break out every day, year around, in the world.

Thanks to new media technology, an Argentine blogger in a small village in this remote province of the country posts a story and her photos and videos, online, for the whole world to see.

Potentially. Or maybe not - should we care - can we care - can we handle one million new breaking stories a day,every day, and still find time for work, sleep and family ?

Definitely not.

But lets do back almost 60 years, to the old days of pre-Brian McNair media technology.

Our stodgy old local daily, after a delay of about a day, splashes a headline on top of Page One and you definitely do read it.

Its from a place even more remote than the forested tip of southern Argentina - some uninhabited tiny atoll somewhere in the vastness of the mid Pacific.

But the content grabs you right where it really hurts, in your heart:
"Deadly H-Bomb Test Fallout will soon Poison the Food of Every Child in the World"
The headline could have been a little different, maybe from a time period 10 years later:
" BOAC 707 jet carried Highly Infectious Plague to World Capitols, before Alerted Authorities sealed off Hong Kong from rest of World "
Starting in the years after 1945, our world changed fundamentally, as it became apparent that events in one remote corner of the world could almost instantly destroy our own little corner of the world.

ICBMs and H-Bombs did that for traditional warfare, while the mass use of jet travel did the same for traditional plagues.

Destruction may not have changed in its absolute quantity but in terms of its effective quantity, it definitely had.

 For while modern (media) technology allows us to reduce the impact of hurricanes thanks to prompt warnings, modern (transportation) technology has increased the virulence of war and plague - leaving us no time to seek shelter or prepare quarantines.

Stories of Nuclear War and jet-borne plagues are still with us and are still excellent examples of news stories that are global in their content, because they discuss events that are truly global in impact.

I - naturally - wish to add a third : the biggest single news story of this century. We call it global warming or global climate change, but that is the tip of the iceberg  in thinking of it as a newspeg, for the following unique reason.

A plague that originates only in Hong Kong but affects us all is a smaller story than a story that affects us all (in terms of living or dying) but is caused by the individual decisions of all 6.7 billion of us.

We have had stories before that affected all the world ---- what is truly new is that this story's newsmaker is ALSO all of us.

We need a new post-McNair theory to handle this one....

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