Redefining Media and the Community Impact

Umair Haque has an interesting post at his Havas Media Lab that questions the traditional definition of media in an interconnected world.

We’re used to thinking of media in terms of yesterday’s categories – largely focused on either inert information or passive entertainment.

But do they apply anymore?

Why is expanding the definition of media important? Because it’s only by fully understanding new categories of media that we can begin reinventing media strategies and business models.

Rather than wonder about business strategy, I’d like to look at the impact of new forms of media on another of Haque’s favorite topics: community.

In the past, if you wanted to voice your opinions to large audience, you needed column inches in a newspaper or a time slot on a radio or television station. These operations require extensive resources, thereby limiting the total number of people with access.

This limiting effect has built on itself over time, resulting in our present situation, where a handful of conglomerates control the dissemination of news, entertainment, and advertising to entire cultures. Those in power attempt to extract the greatest amount of “value” from the market, resulting in public airwaves are anything but.

Of course, this comes at a cost to the communities that are witnessing local broadcast stations disappear. It’s rare to turn on the television or radio and be presented with information relevant to daily life. Instead, programming is produced in a select few locations, often thousands of miles away, and broadcast to millions of people, all for the sake of efficiency.

However, the web and social media have had a democratizing effect that truly empowers the people. Instead of pushing a message to a “target audience,” the focus has been on building tools and systems that allow people to communicate. Now, anyone with can instantly publish an article or record a podcast, and be heard across the globe.

These new forms of media allow people to discover each other, often leading to organic, grass-roots communities formed around a common purpose or desire. Sometimes these communities are defined by geography, whereas others exist completely in virtual space.

The important point, though, is the ability for these communities to form where previously there was little to none. If I understand Haque’s thinking correctly, the fostering of community will lead naturally to the biggest economic gains.


Lonna Hanson
June 23, 2008 at 6:20 PM

Good thoughts. I am thinking on much simpler terms, but I think of the educational list serves that I am on, most importantly the Madison Central staff one. Wow, it makes getting knowledge out to a large group of people be an instantaneous thing. I used to go down to the bulletin board in the teacher’s lounge and read through many notes that were thumbtacked up. I am pretty thorough, but countless times I would miss an important note. I am much more informed through electronic ways of transferring information.

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