Caterina Fake describes the internet well when she says that it is ‘built on a culture of generosity.’ The internet allows us all to generate our own content and share it with whomever happens to stumble upon our sites for free. It has become an interesting space where a user can derive joy from a lush market of many great “products” that can replace the everyday physical goods– newspapers, television, books, and communication tools. The best part is many of these goods are free; the only currency in this economy is the attention paid to the goods. It’s nice to be involved in a world that is not always about money, even if this world is only virtual. How often do complete strangers share things with other people for free in real life, and what better way is there to form a pool of all knowledge possible in the universe that you can filter through with just a click?
I thought that I would disagree with Jaron Lanier after having read Caterina Fake’s defense of participatory media first. However, while digesting Lanier’s arguments, I’ve come to think that they are sound as well. Lanier says that one problem with digital collectivism is, “When you have everyone collaborate on everything, you generate a dull, average outcome in all things. You don’t get innovation.” While as an engineer, I agree with this in the context of Apple’s, or Adobe’s design of top notch products and algorithms, I have to say there is one fundamental flaw. While Lanier’s arguments are largely true for groups of people with the intent of designing a product or service, users of the internet often do not fit in this category. Users of participatory media are not trying to design ergonomic blog posts or user-friendly Flickr albums. Top-notch innovation is not necessarily critical in a space so vast that any one user will only see, use, and fit in one very small niche.
As Axel Bruns would agree, we are moving from production to produsage, industry to internet, and consumption to usage. Traditionally, information models took place on a product-push basis while today’s world is more on an information-pull basis. Whatever seemed to be true for production and industry may not manifest in the internet and produsage phenomenon today.
I had never really gotten over the fact that an industrial giant like the General Electric Company owned 80% of the U.S.’s oldest television network, NBC Universal. It wasn’t until my engineering co-op with GE Aviation, when I could easily find Tina Fey in the global address book and message her on Sametime (GE’s internal instant messaging system) if I wanted to, that I realized GE’s acquisition of NBC was real.
GE has traditionally been a manufacturer of consumer appliances and industrial products. But today, they are a multinational conglomerate that sells financial services, healthcare devices, wind turbines, and aircraft and marine engines, in addition to maintaining their consumer/industrial businesses. GE usually generates half of its revenue from GE Capital’s financial services, but because of the recent financial crisis and rising uncertainties in GE Capital’s performance, GE currently holds a “AA+” (down from its longterm “AAA”) credit rating from S&P.
GE’s business model has been to maintain diversification, which helps protect the company against poor performance in any one business. Their size also allows them to buy and sell business units at opportune times to maximize profits. Their recent strategy has been to expand to newly emerging markets, which has proven to be very successful. GE also strives to be a leader in environmentally-friendly solutions through its Ecomagination program.
The main advantage GE has with NBC under its wing is that it can advertise its own products on one of the biggest media networks that has many followers. I remember the time when some of my co-workers and superiors were involved in a new engine commercial for NBC Universal. NBC Universal has seen better days before GE took over. This is probably why in December of last year, GE announced it was going to sell 51% of NBC Universal to Comcast.
I’m a mechanical engineering student at Cornell University, graduating in May 2010. Well, that is assuming I pass COMM3200, which is my last required liberal studies class. I’ve always enjoyed COMM/INFO classes because they provide a nice contrast to my technical coursework. COMM classes keep me updated on society’s newest trends and teach many things about communication, a skill engineering nerds are commonly (and mistakenly) thought to lack. In particular I enjoyed COMM3450, Intro to HCI – a class I’d highly recommend if you’re still playing around with your schedule.
Currently I’m very excited about several things. My next assignment for CS2110 involves programming and simulating an entire economy. Such an open-ended question gives me a lot of room for thinking, imagining, and organizing, which are all things I enjoy doing. I am also learning to play the guitar thanks to someone who has been sitting through (and will continue to sit through) me playing the same song 25 times. I am also pretty happy about finally having time to build my own website through Google sites as an online portfolio of my poetry and other written pieces. But I’m most excited today about watching Groundhog Day, which has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes!
I find that studying the impact of new media is interesting and very relevant, as it is inevitable that the Internet will become the number one source for news, entertainment, and social interactivity for many. However, it is important to keep in mind that while we may live in a culture where new media is common and widespread, there are many third world countries that have not been exposed to the Internet. In particular, it will be interesting to discuss potential ways of getting the rest of the world to hop on the new media train, and what roles engineers can have in this.