Reuters Editors

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More questions than answers

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Media:Republic logoI was invited to a gathering of activists, academics and media practitioners by the Berkman Centre’s Media:Republic program in LA last weekend. Exhilarating to be in such exalted company but depressing to find them so anxious about the future of political engagement and so negative about big Media’s future.

The context of the meeting was to establish what we don’t understand about the emerging media landscape in order to inform the direction of future research programmes.

So, in the spirit of Donald Rumsfeld, what do we know that we don’t know?

How distributed can the production of meaning be?
An academic question from John Zittrain of Berkman but very much with real world concerns in mind. He’s worried about where the atomisation of media consumption and production will take society. In an elitist world, one in which communication channels (including media) are controlled by the few, then it is relatively easy to see how the politics of consensus and compromise can be pursued. But many felt that the new social technologies were creating new silos, reducing the quality of public discourse, accelerating disengagement from politics and, possibly, creatng the conditions for extremist politics.

How can we get the public to eat their broccoli?
Traditionally, nearly all media has followed a public service remit to some degree and mixed content with public policy relevance with the really popular stuff. So you get a smattering of Darfur in a diet of domestic news, celebrity and sports. But that only works when publishers control the medium.

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