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Monday, February 21, 2005


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Nancy M.

That was interesting.... Something else that occurs to me is that children have fewer and fewer reasons to ever learn to wait, to find other alternatives to instant gratification. It's not restricted to children, either. I think it's reflected in many ways in our society.

Endless personal choice also tends to mean that one is less willing to compromise that choice to accommodate other people. Why listen to someone else's pick in music or watch something someone else has chosen...it might be new, unfamiliar, less comforting and...not chosen by YOU. Doesn't that non-compromising attitude seep into other aspects of life? And we wonder why our society seems to be increasingly selfish...

And, as a corollary to some of the issues raised in that story, kids don't often get exposed to reasons for making a sustained effort to accomplish anything. Why take the time to read a book, when a TV show can feed a limited version of the information to you in a pleasurable way? The author notes this in relation to the 'dumbing down' of art...but not to how children are indoctrinated into our society.

Jock Gill

As sent by Dewayne-Net

'Egocasting' or a Declaration of Freedom?

I found the term "Egocast" applied to podcasting and personal media devices in today's NY Times to be the understandable product of an old tradition that dates at least from the mechanical printing press in the West. From its beginnings over 500 years ago, technology mediated communications have been essentially limited to those with the capital to acquire the expensive tools and pay for the costly distribution of the product. In this hub and spoke model, rooted in the limits of the technologies, the elite few produced and the rest of us consumed in what amounted to a one to many world.

All of this changed ten years ago when the internet stopped being a government funded experiment and became a generally available commodity tool for distributing bits. This transition remains a largely unrecognized “inflection point” from which there is no going back. For the first time, technology mediated communications tools were not only affordable by the many, but are still becoming ever less expensive and thus ever more broadly used. Critically, the same is also true for the means of distribution of the digital product. Today we know that over 60% of internet backbone traffic is peer to peer distibution by individuals. Web browsing and email combined are less than 1/3rd of the total of the bits being transported.

Now we can all be creators, producers and distributors of product. A new world is emerging: the many to many world powered by the “edges” of the connected world.

Now, we have a choice. As my brother Nick puts it, if the eyes are the window of the soul, are we obligated to allow everything, from any source, in any media, to fly in?

The reality is that we who live, for better or worse, in the Paleolithic and unregulated market economies driven by consumption, celebrity and entertainment, live in an overwhelming, aggressive and omnipresent "stimulus sphere" [Stimusphere]. For over 500 years, we have had essentially no control, and were not meant to have, of this stimusphere. The basic purpose of the stimusphere, as we all know, is generally not benign, but rather to manipulate us, like so many Pavlovian dogs, into doing things that may not be in our own best interest.

In today’s 10 year old many to many world, it is, in fact, a rational act of sanity, of re-asserting control over our personal environment, and a declaration of freedom, to reaffirm our right and power to determine the when, where, and how of what enters through the windows of our souls.

Were you born to be just a one dimensional target of other people’s messages? Are you obligated to open your windows to whatever they choose to broadcast at your targeted soul?

The challenge to the old, one to many media, then, is to create content compelling enough that we choose to let it in the window. The question is whether or not they can invent a business model that starts in the one to many paradigm but whose destination is the new world of many to many.

The Rise of the Egocast
[NY Times of February 20, 2005]

The latest issue of New Atlantis magazine contains an article, "The Age of Egocasting," by Christine Rosen, a senior editor, that explores the growing trend - through digital devices like TiVo and the iPod - toward customized entertainment.

In a February 2004 interview with Wired News, Michael Bull, who teaches at the University of Sussex and writes extensively about portable music devices, argued, "People like to be in control. They are controlling their space, their time and their interaction.... That can't be understated - it gives them a lot of pleasure." Those people with white wires dangling from their ears might be enjoying their unique life soundtrack, but they are also practicing "absent presence" in public spaces, paying little or no attention to the world immediately around them.

When cable television channels began to proliferate in the 1980's, a new type of broadcasting, called "narrowcasting," emerged - with networks like MTV, CNN and Court TV catering to specific interests. With the advent of TiVo and iPod, however, we have moved beyond narrowcasting into "egocasting" - a world where we exercise an unparalleled degree of control over what we watch and what we hear. We can consciously avoid ideas, sounds and images that we don't agree with or don't enjoy. As sociologists Walker and Bellamy have noted, "media audiences are seen as frequently selecting material that confirms their beliefs, values and attitudes, while rejecting media content that conflicts with these cognitions."

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