How network effects disrupt the liberal elite world of mass media

Here’s a fast and tight 25 minutes of thinking that everyone confronting the disintegration of mass media should view. It’s Mark Pesce speaking at the Personal Democracy Forum just last month (June 24).

I’ve certainly felt an increasing pull of networked social structures in the 21st century. There’s something new happening today, something unprecedented. Pesce puts words to that feeling and it sounds largely right. Plus it dovetails nicely with Clay Shirky’s ideas in Here Comes Everybody, a seminal work for broadcasters getting shoved around in this new media world.

My concern, however, is that other factors will derail these social network developments. For example, even given all the cell phones in the world, there are still tremendously autocratic / dictatorial leaders that the masses, supposedly connected, have not yet overthrown. Even in our own country, one of the most connected, we’ve been unable to defeat or marginalize a President that has acted repeatedly against our own national best interests.

Pesce’s ideas also seem to ignore the upheaval I’m betting we’ll see with the end of cheap oil, partially due to depletion and partially due to global warming controls. Seems to me a fundamental upheaval like that would disrupt the social order that’s supposed to be disrupted by the network effect. And what about global warming effects — with predicted mass extinction events (starting with ocean acidification) that will have unknown effects on the rest of our ecosystem?

In any case, it’s a fascinating talk. Well worth the time of mass media folks trying to understand why they’re no longer the center of the universe.

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