We all know that 21st century technology has transformed the mass media environment that surrounds us in dramatic ways. Certainly some of its effects have been unabashedly beneficial and enriching — virtually eliminating the cost barriers to publishing, creating an opportunity for myriad new sources to distribute content, allowing us to address a more diverse range of needs and interests, and generating innovative and powerful new tools to present material and engage people in it.
The whole concept of “mass media” itself has become more complicated and perhaps less apt, as the constantly accelerating capabilities of digital technology have enabled modern messengers to divide broad audiences into sharply defined and stratified market niches almost at will.
In business marketing — and more and more across all aspects of commercial and civic life — we have evolved an astounding ability to capture intelligence about individuals’ prior or existing circumstances or interests. This may entail knowing the occupations and ages of a household, the brands of clothing they wear, their interactions with friends, their incomes, or their political party registration and voting patterns. With this knowledge, we are collectively honing our skills at targeting each person or group of people with a custom set of products, services and other communication messages.
In many instances, this ability to closely match marketing or messaging to your past or current profile of behavior, consumption or beliefs may be valuable to you. It can be a great shortcut so you are not bombarded with items that are irrelevant to your life. It can allow vendors and service providers to quickly offer you the most attractive array of choices given your tastes.
But in this intensifying frenzy of ultra-customization and micro-targeting of audiences, there are arguably some situations where we actually create problems or prevent people from getting what they need or want or what would be most valuable to them.
We may not always want our options limited to what we’ve used in the past, who we’ve gotten them from before, or even the way we’ve thought before.
This is the central subject of this blog — those situations where we want to be able to escape or avoid creating an echo chamber.
We propose — with your help — to explore these situations. We intend to articulate what they are, and what problems they pose. We seek to explore what is known and how we might learn more. We aim to investigate ways to help marketers and consumers, messengers and audiences escape the chamber — and to effectively use our revolutionary new technologies when our goal is not to enclose people in their habits, but to enlarge their experiences and knowledge.
Along the way we expect to cover a wide range of topics. A common thread is considering how new technologies and the particular ways they are applied in our modern media world do affect the views we form and the choices we make every day — and in some cases, how innovative new perspectives and approaches might serve all of us better.
Among our central interests will be how this dynamic plays out in the arena of politics and our democracy. But we will also include the broader and equally pervasive impact of digital media on consumer marketing, patterns of social interaction and other aspects of our lives.
This will include posing questions, citing interesting facts and noting the views of others as well as offering up our own stories, observations and analyses for your consumption. But the most important part of this is your insights, reactions and additional questions.
Please join us, and invite others to come here as well. I hope you’ll find the conversation we are beginning within these pages to be an important and helpful dialogue that could use more attention and thought from everyone who cares about where our society and economy is heading.
In case you were wondering, the reference in the title of this post is to the Lunar New Year that has just begun… But it’s just a convenient excuse to kick off this new blog today. As they say, watch this space. I’ll have our first real offering for you shortly. Come back soon and often, and let me know what you’d like covered and what concerns you.