FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Friday, September 30, 2005

New Media and the Nature of Authority

The other day we noted how the recent Gulf hurricanes have helped push blogging further into the mainstream. Indeed, the blogging revolution has moved from the realm of hype to a very real challenge to mainstream media... noted by none other than the executives of the major TV network news services.

Blogger Terry Heaton reported on a recent meeting of media executives and bloggers (the fact that such a meeting took place at all is significant), and came away with the notion that the news execs not only acknowledge blogging, but understand that distributed media is changing the very way that we think about news and information.

One concept that Heaton picked up on is that not only are bloggers influencing the MSM in a deep way, but that their relentless questioning is whittling away at the "illusion of omniscience" that states that everything has an absolute truth. To anyone who controls traditional levers of power -- political, journalistic, academic, scientific, religious -- this is a deeply threatening concept.

Just as profound, he observed:

Jay Rosen said something terribly important that (imo) went over the heads of most people in the room. He said the nature of authority is changing in our culture, and that this directly impacts all media. He used the example of a person who goes to the doctor and gets a prescription for an ailment. The doctor explains how the medication will work. The patient then proceeds to the drugstore and receives the medicine, along with (perhaps) an explanation from the pharmacist about how the medicine will work. But then the patient goes home and gets on the Internet to research the thoughts of others who've used the medicine to discover what THEY think about how it works, and this impacts the doctor's authority. The doctor is still the doctor, but gone is the automatic acceptance of his or her words as gospel. This is new in our world, and I couldn't agree more. It's the major challenge of all institutional authority, and it's one of the truly fascinating things about a culture drifting into postmodernism. [Bolding for emphasis added]