Wednesday, May 16, 2007

myspace mccluhan

I'm kind of surprised that nobody has yet written a popular analysis of what different social networking sites say about our relationship to different creative media. So I'm going to attempt an off-the-cuff index, right now (in order of the complexity of involved technology):

text: people apparently find it the most natural to either produce public journals, or convey in a viral fashion tiny bits of social information. Not much fiction, not much strict journalism, but a whole lot in-between.

photos: once again, not a terribly surprising outcome: most of the action is in the form of complusive indexing, sharing, and commenting. One interesting note is that the division between pro and amateur is blurring, as home operators get flashier websites and pros start making "high-caste" flickr groups. You don't see Michael Gondry posting on YouTube.

visual art: other than websites themselves, the bulk of popular graphic design appears to be in the Clever T-Shirt area. Go fig.

audio: the "podcast revolution" hasn't exactly exploded-- i think everyone underestimated how difficult it is to write, perform, and edit an entertaining and cohesive audio narrative. In addition to the more prosaic mp3 blog concept, a more interesting phenomenon is the almost immediate and universal adoption of MySpace by performers, remixers, and fans. There were many previous attempts to make a social networking site specifically for performers and bands, but what this ignored is that there's no reason to have a presence if you can't contact the people who buy your records.

and, video: was anyone else surprised that there is more collective national skill in editing video than audio or writing? YouTube does have a soft core of crappy-resolution digicam videos, but the outer shell is finely-crafted amateur commercials, shorts, and music videos. I guess it shouldn't be that shocking-- my generation's favorite childhood toy might have been the parent's video camera. How many tons of magnetic tape have been used to immotalize 1980's puppet shows and child-auteur plays?

The only quick conclusion I can draw from all of this is that media are not interchangable, and that some are more naturally social. Text is probably at the bottom of the barbaric yawp list right now, actually, superceded by the flickr photoset-- probably from the temptation of the biggest vacation slideshow ever made. There's also the wonderful fiction of objectivity created by an image. So you heard it here, folks-- if you have something to say to 10 million strangers, say it with a picture. Or even better, a moving picture. It'll last longer.

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