The future of media futurology and the provocateur pundits

I highly recommend Mark Morford’s column from the San Francisco Chronicle’s website. It’s an analysis of some of the latest contributions to the debate about the future of media, and articulates many of the doubts I’ve had when reading them. 

As a summation, the following extract does a pretty good job of weighing up the sum total of the conclusions drawn by various self-styled media futurologists.

“The grand upshot? They don’t really have any idea. But they have some curious, slippery, hopeful, but ultimately disappointing theories. Theories that, to my mind, consistently miss the mark, in at least one or two vital ways.”

The whole article is worth a read, despite containing the sentence “Here’s the thing”, and puts down an important marker. Too often simply making some general observations and referencing the latest ‘new media’ zeitgeist fuel passes as serious analysis, and the weight of constant cross referencing across the ether turns general observation into irrefutable fact.

So, at the risk of doing exactly what I’ve just laid into, here’s my general observation. It is both possible and necessary to defend and promote the values of good journalism against the view that doing so is elitist and/or outdated. The democratisation of communication is important, and in my view welcome, but simply communicating is not journalism. Sometimes we need one more than the other, so the argument should not be about what is ‘better’ but what is appropriate. 

If we understand this it will help us to look at the message rather than the medium. I know I’ve banged on about this but it’s important. Just as the substance of what Mark says is more interesting than the fact that I found the article on a Tweet from someone I started following as a result of exchanging opinions on the comments thread of a website. The demonstration of the viral power of social media is not lost on me, but it’s the substance of the comment that makes it worthy of comment.

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