Blog Archives

Loss Of Hierarchy In The Media

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf
Clay Shirky has put together an excellent presentation about the way that our media has become the opposite of hierarchycholarchy or heterarchy. Or what I have defined as “mass conversation“. And it occurred to me that five years ago I got all my information from either conversation or mass communication. But now it nearly all comes from mass conversation. Blogrolls, RSS feeds, forums and such. Especially for work.

Strange how only a few years can change so much about how you interact with the world. I thought it was especially interesting in Shirky’s talk about how China has changed its interaction. During the Sichuan earthquake last year, there was a massive explosion of this mass conversation. It was nearly uncontrollable until the government had to clamp down because of so many images, stories, videos blaming corrupt officials for the collapse of the schools. Whereas during the last major earthquake, the government refused to admit that one had occurred for nearly three months!

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The Case For Mass Conversation

Human communication used to be one person talking to one other person and face-to-face – call this conversation. Then it was one person talking to many through writings, books, pamphlets and magazines – call this mass communication. In the electronic age, the telephone and telegraph joined the ranks of the conversations; radio and television were introduced as mass communication. But now with the Internet, we’ve entered an age where many people talk to many other people through email, blogs, twitter, facebook and the like. If this doesn’t yet have a name, I’ll call it “mass conversation” – not to be confused with mass conservation.