Global Voices, Media Development, Social Stratification

RE: Economics of Social Media on el oso, el moreno and el abogado

I usually cringe when I see a post with "Social Media" in the title, but this was great.

- The monetization of social authentic media is the digital equivalent of media consolidation. Yahoogle (Goohoo?) don't deny it - "Um, yeah... we're kinda just all about the money." Online media is still the domain of those who would build the web and its media structure vertically instead of horizontally.

Horizontal Development: Building outwards, developing capacity in a sustainable way in order to create services and tools that are the most useful to the broadest number of people possible - especially those on the margins or outside of the technological spectrum.

Vertical Development: Building all these nifty web services (Flickr, Youtube, etc.) that all end up serving the same hipster clientele who clusterspooge on it until the next big thing comes along.

Walk into a cafe with free wifi, or look at a random cross-section of members on Flickr or Youtube, or even your an average Twitter buddy list. Odds are, you'll find upper-middle-class whites making up the lion's share of all these groups - a continuation of the class and economic segregation (not just in the US) that dates back well past either of our memories. Sure, you'll find the occasional powerful photo from a Peruvian photo journalist or a quick videophone post of riots in Kampala, but they're the exception to the rule - and they've been around in National Geographic for much longer.

- Global Voices transcends much of this, IMNSHO, by its very raison d'être. But for all intents and purposes (and this is not a reflection on the authors themselves nor on Global Voices, but on the realities of such massive online media projects), the editors still fit nicely into that aformentioned pie chart, representing upper-middle-class population in their respective countries. This persistent social stratification is probably one of the most pressing - and disturbing - problems I've seen carried over to online media. Real True Verdadero Authentic Media is unedited, unfiltered, raw and messy... it's not always something that people want to read, and it isn't necessarily the best way to go about attracting sponsors and grants. The Holy Grail is always to get 'boots on the ground' providing outreach, advocacy, media and technology literacy and training, as well as building partnerships and coalitions in order to reach the broadest media producer base possible. All that, of course, takes money... but 100$ can stretch much further in Managua or Hanoi than most people seem to think. And Fidel Castro did something similar, on a very large scale, and with volunteers - 45 years ago. ;)

- A digital home (your blog, etc), like a real home, is only worth the time you spend in it. If you spend all your time crashing at your friend's pad with his big HDTV and free beer (Flickr, Youtube, Twitter, etc.), your own home starts to look a little unappealing. Before you know it, you move in with your buddy - along with about 8 million other friends. Personally, I've grown reluctant unwilling to outsource my digital identity to Yahoo and Google. This past week I've eaten my own dog food and closed nearly all of my "Web Two-Point-Oh" accounts - flickr, twitter, myspace, facebook - the whole lot. Though I now feel incredibly liberated about the whole deal, I'm the first to admit that it's a very disorienting / unsettling feeling initially... scary, even, since my lifeblood is the web, and I make a living off of providing web services and 'selling' my digital identity. All the traffic, crosslinks, search hits, and crossposting changes will definitely be noticeable. You could say I'll be "staying at my digital home" more often - all the more reason to deck it out with that new HDTV and minibar.

- Second Life is owned and managed by Linden Labs - a company. Ergo, Second Life is not a community, but a customer base, rendering it useless to me. The irony of this trend of privatization of communities leaves me numb; the fact that no one seems to care leaves me fuming.

- You said:

The internet is, frankly, much cooler than TV, radio, and print and has much more room for advancement.

That's true, but it seems that the panel you wrote that about sees the Internet as somewhere with much more room for advertisement, instead.

- Thanks, but my arguments aren't nearly persuasive enough. ;) Do companies deserve making profit? Of course, perhaps, and no way - depending on who you ask. Lots of profit, some profit, and no profit, none and all of the above. These companies were built on open-source tools. Where would Google be without Linux? It wouldn't exist. Apache? MySQL? PHP? Twitter without Rails? These tools were all developed outside of the boundaries of the market, and that's what makes them so special. These ginormous companies take more from (and owe more to) the open source community in a day than they've given back over their lifetimes - a few 'crumbs gathered under thy table' notwithstanding. Like you pointed out, our challenge now is to build tools that are Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger than what they've already got there. Or cheaper and easier to use, whatever. The idea is to fight laziness and apathy and get people involved in building their own digital homes and identities.

RE: Economics of Social Media on el oso, el moreno and el abogado

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