Douglas Rushkoff stressed a very good metaphor:
Imagine you go out for some whitewater rafting. When it get really wild, you’re supposed to paddle faster to keep in control where you’re going. But paddling is not control here, it’s an effect due to the river bed being narrow or broad and such producing more or less wild water. In order to control the system you’d need to dig up the river bed and change it.
Realtime. This is the paradigm of our medial future. Twittering, blogging, status updates, push media, paddling as hard as you can to eel up with what is going on. But realtime usage of the media (which actually is impossible) is not control here, it’s an effect due to the bandwidth, mobility of devices and such producing more or less realtime communication. In order to control the system you’d need to open terminal, look at the software and hardware you use and change it.
It’s about being in control of the frame a medium is flowing in. And to know about it’s mechanisms. About to gain access to the control panel of civilization.
More realtime communication, more paddling is actually what makes the water flow faster and more wild to rely on the water metaphor once more. Everyone tries to act as fast and in realtime as possible, what in return speeds up the whole system again.
This kind of reminds me, when in the 80s and 90s press considered themselves the 4th power of nations (besides jurisdiction, legislature and executive authority).
To make a long story short, they never were, it’s a myth. Media is always and was always tangled in a complex web of influence, lobbyism, opinion, and what we call free journalism. Studies proved that even back then, about 70% of all content being printed in daily news was PR, either copy pasted press releases or information provided with a purpose.
Rarely we see beyond this and ask about the frame media is happening in.
Everyone can write now, everyone can publish his opinion – that’s what the blogosphere always tells us.
That means today we reach medieval standards. The mechanical printing machine invented by Gutenberg around 1440 was already appraised because now everybody could use it to publish his writings.
But even back then, printing was nothing but a logic step in the context of the renaissance, an era of bourgeoisie powers uprising against old ruling classes. New forces needed and therefore demanded one thing above all, knowledge. Knowledge formerly guarded by the church to reproduce it‘s hegemonic power.
But don’t get this wrong, the renaissance did not happen because some Medici or Fugger desired to democratize the world. They simply needed to back up their own claim to power against the clergy: Hegemony is the power to define any term with which one can articulate criticism against the defining power.
Transferring this power from one class to an other was the bottom line of european politics back then, an educated labour force it‘s basic instrument – wether it was monks or bankers.
What is completely blanked out is, that the new printing machine, Blogs, portals, social networks are not build as a space for people to socialize. They come with a purpose.
I do not agree with Rushkoff, that being able to code is the new literacy of our times, but not knowing or not even to care about the software you use is being as bling and dumb as everybody that did see the first book being printed by Gutenberg and who could not read.
Actually it was a bible