The New Media Frontier
- Thursday, October 23, 2008
Unlike old media which were passive and required great effort to start a conversation, new media are preserved discourse that invite further conversation. In this way they are “preserved” discourse more like a Platonic dialogue than an Aristotelian thesis. Plato wrote in dialogues to provoke further dialogue. Aristotle wrote in arguments to transmit what he thought was knowledge to students. Since every web browser contains the ability to blog about any item viewed on the Web, Internet-based digital media in particular carry a Platonic invitation to challenge on every screen.
It is so easy to respond to the new media, to create, to modify, and to transform, that passivity is discouraged.
A good example is the web log or blog. Blogging is permanent but only to a point. The best blogs are sometimes worth keeping, but only if one kept the best of all the other blogs to which they respond. A blog is a living book.
New technology soon will allow for living film, art, and music. If a viewer does not like the ending of a new media “movie,” he will be able to change it and post his new edit as a competitor. This discourse was impossible in the old theater system.
Particularly in the humanities and the arts, the new media will revolutionize those disciplines. They will be able to escape their science envy, the endless production of useless journal articles, in order to create human things.
Other areas that have flourished through the old media will not be harmed by the changes. They will continue to utilize the more hierarchical structures of old media appropriate to them. This includes fields such as the hard sciences and formal theology. These disciplines will be improved by new media by being exposed to lay criticism that can prevent “group think” from developing.
We can anticipate a decrease in respect for arguments based solely on positions of cultural authority but a simultaneous premium on trustworthy information sources. A professor can be criticized by a learned amateur and cannot escape that scrutiny by hiding behind his credentials in the new media world. People are going to be able to evaluate arguments by direct comparison. On the other hand, if the professor knows her stuff, she will soon be able to demonstrate it and has nothing to fear from comparison. Once she becomes a trusted information source, she will be a powerful player in the new media revolution.
Individuals will be their own brand instead of merely living off the reputations of the institutions that may pay their salaries.
The New Media Represent a Neo-Platonic Revolution
What will be the result of this revolution on education? We can anticipate educators shifting even more quickly from providing information (now easily available to anyone who wants it) to facilitating human development.
The kind of education that Plato encourages in his dialogues will flourish in this environment. Asking good questions will be paramount in the age of ever more sophisticated search engines. Learning to flourish as a human being will still require a teacher meeting with students. Humans have skin on and so will always learn how to be good humans best from other humans “live.”
While there will always be an elite (at the very least based on intelligence), the new media do present opportunities for the rest of us to share some of their power. At least for the immediate future, many more people have access to means of global communication than ever before in history. As long as liberty prevails, a chance for more entrepreneurial activity in information distribution will exist.
The changing technology will also create new elites. This is true because some old institutions (such as universities) will not adapt quickly enough to the new way of doing things. Any institution that depends on a monopoly of information is doomed.
The new media will give power to people who lead with their whole souls within a community context. There will be no way to assert authority that is not historic or earned by excellence. The leader will have to be a servant of the servants of God. Churches and other institutions with power will not be able to bury or hide problems.
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