lovehate: Social Media's Roots Are Showing

Whether you call it "New Media", or "Digital Media", or "Social Media", the time is rapidly arriving where the qualifiers have become redundant.

I wish I could say that we could define the divide between "new" and "traditional" media as subjective or objective with the subjective being personal bloggers and podcasters, but it's a sad fact that most network television, radio, or last-gen media is completely subjective as well.

We cannot qualify by level of research or journalistic integrity because all generations of media waft back and forth through actually researching what they're talking about or caring about facts.

As the potential for to reach worldwide to millions of people has outstretched the potential of last-gen broadcasters, it's not fair to distinguish the two by using the term "broadcast". Who is to say that a live streamed web event is not broadcasting?

We cannot call it "personal" media, because some websites have essentially become their own networks with dozens of employees and paid "on air/web" talent.

I even tried to apply a tested and true model for me with regards to artistic pursuits which generally falls to whether the creator is creating for the purpose of the work itself, or instead is doing it for some other purpose which subverts a purer intention. Could we use "art" and "craft" to divide such media? Perhaps, but it would be essentially useless as we could never be accurate without asking every content creator and be assured they weren't lying.

We could use "amateur" and "professional", but the word "amateur" has historical been been seen as a "less than" proposition. [And even more recently by Steve Jobs who indicated consumers wanted to be able to sift through the amateur dreck.]

Would that I could simply say that "digital" media only represented content created by people on computers, but even that distinction falls apart as all television becomes digital, all television cameras and microphones go to hard drives, and all print media is predominantly generated digitally before it hits a press.

With all of these inadequate qualifiers to describe media and indicate something that's becoming progressively meaningless, we seem to have accepted the word "medium" should indicate the tool and not the content. For decades, when someone spoke of "the media", they referred to mass media outlets that would broadcast across a nation, or, more specifically, a group of reporters who may show up to an event. It seemed that the one irreducible primary was the reporter, the writer, or the television anchor.

Isn't the writer a medium as much as the newspaper, or the anchor as much as the television? And so isn't the blogger, podcaster, vidcaster as solitary a medium as the anchor. In fact, the experience of a solitary blogger or podcaster sequestered behind a basement PC is probably a whole lot less "social" than a production team in a newsroom.

So while some may argue that the worldwide web is a medium for social change that allows individuals to communicate with people quicker and further away than ever before, it could be called a social medium. But the instrument of content is still the person who, while a medium, is no more or less social than Walter Cronkite.

And if the content creator might be a less social medium than ever, have we really become all about the tools and less about the idea? Isn't the irreducible primary still fingers on a keyboard, a voice and a microphone, or a finger choosing how to frame reality?

Don't even get me started on Social Networking.