Of all the interesting ideas i have come across recently, the idea that excites me most is social media. In a previous missive I have talked about the corporate media and the means of production, the idea that media is something that is produced by corporations and handed down to us, the consumers, in a top down relationship. Social media gives us the opportunity to create media and distribute it, and to organise structures of meaning bottom up. It is exciting because it represents a democratisation of the media. Any media studies student would tell you that the media plays an incredibly important role in society. It shapes our identities, and is the creator and disseminator of social discourse. Some would say that the media is in charge of reality itself – certainly, postmodern theory states that reality can only be defined in terms of the media. One theorist, Jean Baudrillard, even went as far as to state that the 1991 Gulf War was a war that existed on TV only, and not in the real world, although some people have taken to reading Baudrillard more as speculative fiction than philosophy. In any case, when the media is democratised, we the consumer will have control over social discourse, and we will be able to create meaning and shape identity.
So far, at least, social media has something that has only existed on the web. I would argue that it is time for social media to escape those limitations. Some time ago I sent an email to Facebook with an idea I had had for them. My idea was that Facebook set up an in-site TV channel, to turn Facebook from being a web community into being a media. The TV channel could report news from Facebook users in real life troublespots around the world, or could help create a generation of Facebook celebrities, people who no doubt would eventually be accorded celebrity status by the traditional media. This is one idea about social media that develops the idea’s potential. However there are many ideas that could be had to develop social media.
Social media should not just be found on laptops and PCs. It should be everywhere: mobile phones, cash machines, taxis, nightclubs, and phone boxes. Social media should take a step away from the computer and become in our lives, in the fabric of our lives, the medium we move through. We should use the social media to tell us where to go drinking, what gigs to go to, what plays to watch, and what books to borrow from the library. In order to do that at the moment we would have to spend all our time in front of the computer, something we can’t do, so social media must grow wings and spread to other places. Social media should be found in shopping centres and coffee houses, so that you are never far from it. I am not talking about having social media terminals in the coffee houses, which would be a passive experience, but the very experience of the coffee house should be the social media. The social media should be found in the coffee we choose to drink, and transact to buy, and the music being listened to in the coffee house. We need PDA like devices to be invented to compute the social media, to tell us where to walk, what to buy, to give us music to listen to or video news updates, or to conduct straw polls amongst other people walking down the same street as us. Going to the supermarket should be the media. Not a media experience, but the media itself. Traffic jams should be social media experiences. The media should be the medium through which we all move. The social media will make celebrities out of us. Big Brother will no longer be watched on Channel 4, but lived by those who wish to, in the playground of society itself.
In short, social media has incredible potential. Traditional media will be obsolete someday soon, when televisions and newspapers will be seen as twentieth century inventions.