Friday, June 19, 2009

More mush, fewer facts

Jeff Jarvis reminds us today that UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently described the internet era as “more tumultuous than any previous economic or social revolution.”

Perhaps that isn't even worth correcting, but I believe it's dangerously ignorant. Too much of the debate about trends in media and communication nowadays is animated by similarly myopic and ignorant arguments. (I'd include Clay Shirky's claims about coverage of the 1968 Chicago riots, discussed here yesterday, in that group).

I mentioned this in a comment on Jeff's blog earlier today.

In just 35 years between 1844 and 1879, the world first experienced dependable electric lights, the telegraph, the telephone, a transatlantic telegraph cable, publication of the Communist manifesto, motion pictures, locomotives, the discovery of penicillin …and dozens more. Add a couple more years and we can throw in the Model T, locomotives, and AM radio.

I’m sure he’s right that better communication will [bring] changes in foreign policy. Good thing, too.

But the most tumultuous period ever? Such ignorance undermines the credibility of everybody who makes claims like that, certainly including the hugely unpopular PM Brown.

1 comment:

  1. One of the first things I recall in learning comm theory in my graduate seminar is how the impact of the great changes leading to mass society of the late 19th and 20th century were also overblown, with people making kneejerk reactions to limit media, control it, etc.

    As much as I hate cliches, in one of my papers I commented how the more thinks seem to change, the more they seem to really stay the same. Only the names, titles and the technologies involved are different.

    Overblown then, overblown now perhaps. We're all really not going to know what's happening until decades from now. But that counters the nature of journalists who want everything "now."