New media networks are undermining traditional media formats yes, but…

Nice piece from Noel Whelan on media change in Ireland (and further afield)… What makes it interesting is the debate (originally between Conor Brady and John Bowman) about which medium was the main ‘significator’ of change in Ireland, newspapers or television.

Whelan is in the Bowman (ie TV) camp:

The Irish Times and other newspapers may have been creating ripples among their own readership segments, but television was the big change agent. There were also, as Brady points out, “clear-minded analysts” who sought to bring “political science to bear on issues that had been smothered in rhetoric” – but it was television that made stars of the best of this generation of political scientists. Television gave them a means for communicating their insight in a way newspapers could never have done.

I don’t question the critical importance of the Irish Times. But in terms of societal impact, this is form pitched against content. Television v print in Ireland, as elsewhere, was a non contest.

The power and centrality of RTE (not to mention the BBC) is jealously sniped at by print journalists, even to this day…

All of this, according to Whelan’s argument, is being replicated (only moreso) in the transition onward towards a new media paradigm:

Social media, blogs and micro-blogs now provide a variety of means through which those wanting to make news or offer views can get the attention of broadcast media or communicate their message directly.

If change in media continues or intensifies on current trajectories, then all newspapers will struggle to exert even a fraction of the influence they currently hold. That is in addition to the commercial pressures they face in order to survive. Broadcast news is likely to be better at adapting, but it, too, will have to adjust to a less significant role.

The question of whether it was television or newspapers what done it matters when considering social and political change in Ireland since the 1960s, but is unlikely to matter much in the coming age of new media.

All of which, naturally enough of course, I agree with… Except in this case, I suspect it goes a lot further and deeper.. not least because newspapers and broadcasters are not by any law of politics or physics preventing from competing in this brave, new, disaggregating world…

There is no predicting the future… As noted on Friday in the latest #DigitalLunch most newspapers have to make a profit otherwise they would not continue to exist.

This is both their advatage, and their burden. Despite the petty corruptions noted by Leveson, along the way the they do a lot of social good, not least paying mortgages and put food on the table for a lot of folk. Blogs, on the whole, do not.

But underneath, the predominant form of human interaction is changing, because the technology by which we communicate has has changed. And changed utterly.

That is not a challenge for media companies alone. New media networks are undermining traditional media formats yes, but more profoundly it is transforming all manner of traditional (ie, hierarchical) institutions: political and commercial.

For instance, It is no longer possible to subdue the imagination of a nation by capturing the TYV station

No one I know articulates this more crisply and more thoroughly than Adriana Lukas… If you watch nothing else this week watch her presentation in Trieste last week:

It is human culture (not just journalism, or politics) that’s being rewired. And, according to Lukas, this is more about how human commerce is changing in its entirety than just money, power and their distribution.

John Waters has made more than his fair share of stupid remarks about the Internet. Yet in his op ed last Friday he got one thing dead right. The Internet IS debasing our public discourse, only it is doing so in way that escapes his own particular analysis.

Waters fights faux offence in the kinds of looked for (and found) idiocy on Twitter with his own mock offence. The Irish Times’ reward is a cool 560 comments (and counting):

Personally, I would prefer if, instead of pursuing individual tweeters, the police arrested Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter, and closed his network down. Actually, i wish they wud burn the Twitter founder in oil & leave his carcass out for the buzzards. Seriously.

Seriously (no really, this time) Socrates was forced to drink hemlock for doubting (and encouraging doubts in others) the legitimacy of elective democracy. Yet it has been a feature of the democratic era that the expansion of knowledge (and its own legitimacy) has thrived on such public expression of doubt.

As James Surowieki has noted, “the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise”. Political leaders like Seán Lemass never really ‘got’ TV. His successors had no choice but to trim their sails to the new winds.

These winds may take just as long to work out, but I suspect may have more profound effects on the exercise of political power.

When, as John Pollock notes, you can set up your own satellite truck in the back end of a revolution, taking hold of the minds of the people is no longer as simple as taking over the national TV station.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty