Individualism and the New Media Movement

by Laryssa on 01/30/2009 · 2 comments |  Subscribe

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“I’m my own program editor, and I choose what’s on my news channel.” – Phil Leverrier

Lately, I’ve been asking my friend Phil to read my blog posts.  When I worked as a radio show host and Director of Public Relations at WLOY, Loyola College radio, Phil was my general manager.  I trust his opinions about new media, and I’m always curious to hear what he has to say.  When he read my last entry about media bias and predictability, he admitted that he’s bothered more by the idea of televised news than by the biased commentators who host it.

Phil prefers to read newspapers or find his news online because then he can choose exactly what information he wants to digest.  With televised news, he doesn’t have a choice.  The news bombards him with a steady stream of visual and audible elements.

As I write this, I am sitting in the waiting room of a Volkswagen service center, trying to concentrate despite the fact that a television in the corner of the room is blasting CNN.  If I were to go anywhere else in this building, I would probably still hear the steady stream of CNN commentary.  It’s obnoxious and obtrusive.

waitingroomThe woman sitting next to me is reading “Domino,” a Conde Nast publication that will no longer be in print (she is actually reading the issue that is pictured in this article).  She actually right nowcopying something from the magazine into a notebook.

(Pictured at left: In the Waiting Room)

On the table in the center of the waiting room is a mess of magazines: “Links,” a Volkswagen merchandise catalogue, “The Economist,” and “Watermarks” (a magazine for members of the National Aquarium).  Which magazine would you want to read?

Luckily, this car dealership also has free wireless Internet, which explains how I’m able to write this.  In order to amuse myself for the next two hours, I’m going to catch up on Google Reader, Twitter, my Facebook news feed, and I’m going to listen to my iTunes library loud enough so that I can’t hear CNN.

expressyourselfIn short, I’m exercising my right to be myself.

(Pictured at right: Express yourself on the expressway, by jurvetson)

Google Reader: My Google Reader subscriptions (26) include everything from fashion gossip/beauty blogs (Go Fug Yourself, All Lacquered Up) and business/marketing blogs (Seth Godin’s Blog, Ogilvy’s PR Blog) to design/new media blogs (Photoshop Disasters, Business Week’s Fine on Media) and local-interest blogs (DCist, Second Helpings).  Currenly, I have 618 unread items, which is still a lot, given the fact that this is a news digest.  I try not to add a subscription unless I really love the blog.

Google Reader ensures that I always have access to the content I like best; I don’t have to worry too much about irrelevant information.  I usually find myself at a mess of new websites linked in my subscribed posts.  DCist directs me to ABC news, Washington Post, Chicagoist, the DC Examiner, Reuters, and Fox news.  I choose where to click, and I read what I like.

Twitter: On my Twitter homepage, I follow 182 users.  These are people who I think offer interesting content, links, information, and humor.  I just refreshed the page, and I found links to Flickr, Valleywag and Jalopnik (Gawker network), and Silicon Alley Insider.  I don’t necessarily like these websites or want to access their content, but the chances that I’ll be interested are high.

I also post a lot of questions to get feedback for my articles and on my ideas.  This morning, I asked my Twitter followers: Compared to other media, do you think that online media gives you more or less power to choose what information you consume? Why?  Says Twitter user @JaySlacks says, “I think it gives more power. But it can be overwhelming.”

Facebook: I have written a few things about national vs. local news.  I wonder how many people read local news.  Anyway, Facebook is pretty much as local and personal as you can get.  On the Facebook home page, I have access to the “News Feed,” a running list of my friend’s status updates, photo uploads, public notes, event invitations, posted items, and relationship statuses.

I would never know these things about my friends if I didn’t have Facebook, and they didn’t make their information public.  I can choose how my own news updates are displayed, and I can even change the language.  I can also alter my security settings to make sure people do or don’t know about my recent photo uploads.

Now, I am surrounded by three other people in the waiting room.  One is reading a stack of papers, another is checking his iPhone, and the third is talking on his cell phone.  No one is watching CNN.

Andrew 01/30/2009 at 11:58 pm

In this day and age the fact that “news” is still posted online without the ability for users to comment is ridiculous (I much prefer a blog format like yours). There is way too much information-sharing for the media to pompously sit up on its high horse and not allow the opinions of others. Some news stations do allow users to write in online, but for obvious reasons such comments are heavily moderated and thus hardly genuine.

Personally, I like to get my news from a general online forum. It’s awesome because the first post is a link to the story, and then I get to see a couple of sarcastic/funny reactions, maybe some intelligent input, and then I can enter the discussion if I want. I can’t watch the news anymore, because they don’t care what I want to see or what I think.

Terry 02/03/2009 at 10:57 pm

What’s the cost of this individualization?

Is there a downside to the ability we all have to avoid the heavily edited nightly news, and to a lesser degree, the frontpage of major daily newspapers?

I’m afraid the “high horse” Andrew refers to is commonly confused for expertise, and the “opinions of others” he refers to puts a lot of faith in the others, whose opinions can sometimes be bad, or other times dangerous.

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