Thursday, January 04, 2007

Time Person of the Year...

Time Magazine named its 2006 Person of the Year... "You". Really, they are referring to Web 2.0 as being the most significant story of the year, and "you" is meant to describe internet users who generate content to websites such as MySpace, YouTube, Wikipedia, etc. - bloggers, podcasters, and anyone uploading family photos to the web included.

If you're a somewhat regular reader of this blog then you probably already know that I'm a big proponent of the cultural importance of Web 2.0. So without getting too much further into reasons for Time's choice (read the article), here are some random observations on the piece.

1) The best observation was made by Josh Tyrangiel. Andy Warhol once famously declared that in the future everyone in the world will be famous for 15 minutes. In the MySpace era, "everyone is famous to 15 people".

2) Brian Williams, anchor of NBC Nightly News, writes that with the internet "we've made the media more democratic, but at what cost to our democracy?", going on to say that with certain online content filters it is now common for Americans to consume only the news that they want to see and hear, but in a democracy there is news that citizens need to hear as well. That statement itself is, rather obviously, spot on, but is he implying that the traditional TV networks and newspapers were adequately addressing that need previously? That is debatable to say the least. One lesson of Web 2.0 is that oridnary, and often highly informed, citizens are immensely capable of, if not better at, being the "gatekeepers" of the news.

3) I was blown away by Ann Coulter's comments on MSNBC the night the Time Person of the Year was announced. The conservative commentator said that there was nothing new about sites like YouTube, and that the importance of internet video would have been better addressed ten years ago. Ten years ago! First of all, what internet was she looking at ten years ago? Second, Coulter has demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of what is going on in cyberspace. If she had actually read the Time article, presumably she would have understood that the significance of YouTube (to name only one of dozens of sites the article referenced) was not that it delivered web video, but that user-generated content on Web 2.0 sites was dramatically changing not only cyberculture, but fundamental underpinnings of the way society itself is structured. This shift in power is far more important than people's simple ability to watch videos.

All of that said, as much as I'd like to think otherwise, Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad still had more of an impact on the world this year than a lowly blogger such as myself.


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