I was in my high school library doing research for a grade 11 modern history assignment on the Vietnam War. It was 1996. I wanted to know if any Vietnam vets had published photos of the conflict to the world wide web. I had to get special permission from the librarian and my history teacher to access the Internet because it was expensive. I can remember searching Yahoo! and finding a pic of some soldiers in a jungle. It took about five minutes to load about a third of the graphic and then I gave up and went back to the usual history books on the shelves.
Can you remember the last time you went to the library? Do you remember feeling instantly out of date, at least until you got near a computer?
It’s amazing how much the world has changed in 12 years since I first surfed the web. Back in 1996 my first impression of the Internet was that it was going to change the world because suddenly the people had the power and I figured it wouldn’t be long before media corporations were sidelined. At university two years later I can remember one of my left-leaning media lecturers getting so excited about the prospect of ‘citizen journalism’ he managed to spill a full glass of water all over the nearest Noam Chomsky book.
I’ve been doing a lot of social media marketing presentations lately and one of the quotes we used to explain how the Internet has changed the way people communicate comes from my old boss, Rupert Murdoch:
“Technology is shifting power away from the editors, the publishers, the establishment, the media elite. Now it’s the people who are taking control…”
A good friend of mine has a fairly powerful job at a News Corp publication and she had dinner with Rupey the other day when he was in town. The topic of discussion centred around the theory that it won’t be long before people stop wanting to read the news on dead trees. Credit to Mr Murdoch for seeing the light and buying MySpace (I don’t like MySpace, but at least he’s getting his head around the situation and making some dough), but I get the feeling no-one in traditional media circles has any clue as to just exactly what is about to hit them.
My job is to tout social media as the saviour of the world and I obviously carry some vocational bias, but when masked terrorists started shooting innocent hostages in Mumbai last week, it wasn’t Fox News, The New York Post or News.com.au that people turned to for information, it was a little site called Twitter, a photo sharing tool called Flickr and a blog run by a community of concerned individuals from around the world.
Citizen journalism came of age last week. So did social media.