From the Editor’s Desk 79:
Media changes,
Responsibility Remains

optima

I want to take a moment to reiterate and explain our “We publish all comersphilosophy. At the Clarion Content we believe in media as a platform.1 Early in the Internet Age, society thought the web would democratize media. The Internet with no barrier to entry, information superhighway open to all, would make it possible for everyone and anyone to be in the media.

In America we have been mostly disabused of that notion. At first (and still), it was not possible for everyone to get internet fast enough to be media. If the word baud and this string of numbers has meaning for you 2600, 14.4, 56… than you know how long this information flow problem has been going on. Today the Internet’s pipes in America are still owned by a very few monopolistic corporations who collude with the State to keep it that way.2

This has very real impacts in terms of which communities have access to the internet and how fast or unlimited their access is. In our own home town, if you have never seen the computer bank at the Main Durham Public Library downtown, cruise by one day, it is an eye-opener about who might not have the internet access at home that so many take for granted.

Speed and access are two of the core reasons why everyone does not have an equal opportunity to function as media.3

There is a third reason, one that I want to discuss a more deeply, one that plays into our publish all-comers philosophy.4

Aggregation. Society has either learned or intuited the power of crowdsourcing the internet. Much like the lifeline on the Regis Phillbin gameshow, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” where the contestant would ask the audience their opinion, society has discerned that on the internet this principle works at a larger scale. Perhaps it is because Google’s algorithms are forever demonstrating it for us through search. But rather than dive into the origins of aggregation and crowdsourcing, I would rather talk about the implications for media.

It appears to me that aggregators of news and compilers of search have become increasingly successful hubs of media. I think of Google the News.5 But I also believe, though I barely speak their language, that Reddit falls under this aggregator rubric. Reddit users collate, edit, source, and sort the news for other Reddit users.

Almost all social media does this on some level. If you have experienced Snapchat, they pick a particular memes (some newsy) and collate feeds of video that users can access by topic/place/event. Instagram has been successful with hashtags,6 which are themselves an indexing device.

As I understand it Facebook’s curated feeds are a move in this direction, to collate, source, customize the news.

Obviously, this can go too far and leave one in an Orwellian echo chamber.

This is where media as a platform must step up. As no less a media luminary than Ben Franklin advocated, media has a duty to publish all comers. At the Clarion Content, we have garnered an audience. Ergo we have gained a responsibility to the community.7 We delight in this responsibility. We are proud to encourage submissions from as wide an array of writers, thinkers, creators, and citizens as we can.

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Send us an email ‘clarioncontent at gmail dot com’ or stop by our offices at Mercury Studio & American Underground for a chat.

 

Notes

1 In a world of constructs Media exists as an entity, alongside, and at-times, underneath, the State and the Multinational-Corporation. Media is a check on other entities, but it is equally important as an open-source of information and news distribution.

2 Google Fiber is a new player, opening new vectors to access, alongside the cellphone/wireless carriers.

3 The barrier to entry goes as far back as literacy, and forward through stone tablets, papyrus, scribes, illumination, the cost of type setting a printing press.

4 On the Clarion Content publication is not editorial endorsement.

5 I also love Memorandum’s River as an aggregator of political news and Tumblr as an aggregator of crowdsourced photos.

6 Hashtags, obviously, could be the subject of their own article. Instagram is killing the aggregating of pictures via hashtags. So many memes are possible, essentially all memes that can be conceived of as having a visual component. Locally our friends at PictureDURM are archiving an era of a city in this way. But everyone, from every profession, hobby, or interest can use the hashtagging function to collate things for likewise interested people. This creates never before seen or possible distance communities that have long term implications as yet unknown for humanity. (Knowledge distribution networks.)

Hashtags also have an extremely powerful function of leveling (when the algorithms are not totally manipulated by the social media interface). Anyone who has followed an unfolding event: an election, a sporting event, a demonstration, riot, or police action on Twitter can testify to the existence of this leveling function. Twitter may have top tweets and be moving away from the egalitarian playing field that marked its early days, but by using an interface like Tweet Deck and creating a feed for a particular hashtag, one can at least partially subvert the gnomes tampering with the information flow. When one is able to achieve free flowing or even relatively free flowing live information from an event as it is unfolding, where the only barrier to entry to being media is the possession of a cellphone with a signal, then the democratization of media has undergone a sea change. Cellphones are so ubiquitous that free flowing tweets from a live event far supersede traditional media coverage. The number of eyeballs in media is suddenly expanded by thousands fold, as is the number of cameras, perspectives, insights, opportunities for humor, et cetera ad infinitum.

Traditional media thus far have been terrible at grasping this. Simply putting your own reporters on Twitter is nowhere near enough. The continued presence on traditional media of talking heads to interpret and debate the news for us is elitist. The public has increasing discerned this elitism and turned away. The traditional media has responded by picking even more scathing and extreme commentators who highlight division, seek the grotesque, trying to out vile each other in vain demagoguery. This has left traditional media fighting for the bottom of the barrel trolls, while the main portion of society seeks different sources. See the steady declining ratings of local and network news in context alongside the rise of quality sources of media like Vice and Quartz.

7 We could discuss the bounds and limits of that obligation; is the community Durham? Our readers? America? The World?

Aaron Mandel

Aaron Mandel is a writer and an accomplished public speaker. He is the publisher of the Clarion Content. For more than a decade, the Clarion Content has covered Durham’s arts, politics, music, and cultural milieu. From breaking news stories to the hottest local acts, the Clarion Content is on the scene. The Clarion Content published more than twenty distinguished guest columnists and garnered nearly a million views. Mandel is a volunteer for the Durham Mighty Pen Literacy Project and serves as the President of the Board of Sustain-A-Bull Durham, a local small business collective with more than 200 members. He writes regularly on the Clarion Content and has been quietly writing fiction since the 4th grade. Mandel has been published in the Raleigh News and Observer. He has also produced numerous art shows, including, “Durham under Development”. He was a featured speaker at “The State of Publishing” conference. He has presented to Durham Chamber of Commerce, “Chamber U” on the “New Media”. He has also served as the play-by-play announcer for the D.B.L., a Durham youth basketball league. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Religious Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington. An avid policy debater at Indiana and a Nation Debate Tournament qualifier, Mandel was also a member of the New Jersey State Champion two-person Policy Debate Team. He has lived in North Carolina, New Jersey, California, Texas, Illinois, Colorado, Indiana, and Baja California, Mexico.

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