Friday, August 13, 2010

Bury Brigades as the Future of Media?

Broadcast transmission towerI'm currently reading Cognitive Surplus, by Clay Shirky. It builds upon his earlier Here Comes Everybody, detailing how the Internet fundamentally changes the media landscape to an extent not seen since Gutenberg. Before the Internet, when the cost of distribution was non-trivial, you ended up with publishers, producers, TV networks, and a whole host of powerful institutions built upon managing the production. When the cost of distributing media drops to essentially nothing, when everybody who wants to can become a publisher without having to ask permission or convince anybody of the value of their work, it completely disrupts the models which evolved in the prior era. A lot more material will be produced. Much of it will be trash, as we've moved the filtering function away from an editor before publication and onto the audience after publication.

Something will evolve to fill an institutional role in the New Media. The current period of creative chaos is unlikely to continue forever. A portion of the population is willing to wade through the trash in order to surface the truly great, but only a small portion. The rest of us need some filtering, or curation as the cool kids seem to call it.

Warning: Speculation Ahead

Are Digg Bury Brigades early precursors to a form of New Media institution? Organized groups, loosely connected by shared interests but not centrally funded or managed, they influence the spread of material online and therefore gain some control over media distribution. Bury Brigades are negative filters, suppressing material they don't agree with rather than surfacing material they want to promote. There will be equally a role for positive filters, entities which seek out and promote material. Motivation for groups to organize as positive filters is less clear, as simple altruism and a desire for recognition only go so far.