The Megamind on TV
“Former MIT president Jerome Wiesner tells a story about (Vladimir) Zworykin’s visiting him one Saturday at the White House when Wiesner was JFK’s science advisor (and close friend). He asked Zworykin if he had ever met the president. As Zworykin had not, Wiesner took him across the hall to meet JFK. Wiesner introduced his visitor to the president as ‘the man who got you elected.’ Startled, JFK asked, ‘How is that?’ Wiesner explained, “This is the man who invented television.’ JFK replied how that was a terrific and important thing to have done. Zworykin wryly commented, ‘Have you seen television recently?’”
The quote belongs to Nicolas Negroponte’s Being Digital; sadly the same conversation could have happened yesterday. TV hasn’t improved that much in the forty years that followed. Back in 1995 Negroponte predicted that “being digital will change the nature of mass media from a process of pushing bits at people to one of allowing people (or their computers) to pull at them,” declaring an upcoming revolution that will evolve our “concept of media” from the filters that reduce content to “a collection of top stories or best-sellers” to a model of “narrowcasting” in which “the information industry will become more of a boutique business.” Sounds familiar?
Eleven years ago Negroponte forecasted his own version of what is known today as The Long Tail, in which society, empowered by the digital ecosystem, creates a marketplace that balances the overwhelming power of the “hit culture.”
In 2006 people are not only driving the development of a vast marketplace for products, services, and content, but are also collaborating (most of the time anonymously) to develop and remix information, much like Pierre Levy’s concept of the Social Megamind (see more details in an earlier post).
In the age of collective intelligence and digital collaboration it is almost impossible to keep this trend limited to the web. According to a Royal Magazine article, Current TV is reinventing how (television) content is developed by creating a system of participation that is opening the door for what the station calls “viewer created content.” Anyone can submit her own show to Current TV’s website where a community of viewers decides whether or not the material should be broadcasted. The system creates content that ends up being the final product of a collective effort, boosting creativity and leveraging cross-media synergies in a way that really adds value to public life by making a dramatic change in the tired TV landscape.
Tune in and judge for yourself.