Back in the days of Broadcast media being the only option we had to make sense of our social world, life was much simpler for our ‘ruling powers’.
Forgive my use of this rather florid expression, ‘ruling powers’, I am using a collective image to represent the social/political entities who occupy the position of wielding power, the ability to shape, and determine how we all must live.
Broadcast content was a single-lane of data/information/content which we all received on our television sets and radio receivers; we had the dubious choices of multiple channels, but it was strictly one way traffic.
Human society, and culture is made possible by one set of skills, a primary skill which is truly human and our great accomplishment: Communication.
Everything that is possible, able to be created, manifested rests on communication, so our communication media is of critical significance to our global society.
When the World Wide Web emerged, and was gifted to the people of the world back in 1989, this represented a paradigm shift in the communication dynamic: our capacity to publish content underwent a transformation, from being single-lane broadcast traffic, to the dual-lane dynamic of digital media!
This is the significant feature of the WWW, one that is underplayed, and under expressed; amongst all of the hype, and trivialisation of the internet as a whole, this opening up of another channel of communication, enabling ‘real time’ responses to content, and the creation of content by all of us is a true revolution of the publishing world.
But, mass media, and the ownership of publishing infrastructure was a very powerful, influential position, this industry was able to shape the thinking and emotional allegiances of billions of people, this is the very substance of power itself!
The growth of web media was at first viewed with a benign humour, the publishing of ‘blogs’ and then social media platforms was seen as a clunky, faddish fashion by the media empire owners: they felt secure in their hegemony, their ultimate capacity to continue the ‘mass hypnotism’ of the population.
Then 2016 happened, suddenly the true scale of cultural transformation was manifested, suddenly the exponential effect of over a decade of discussion, analysis, private publication; the mass shift away from free-to-air T.V news, radio programming, and even cable current affairs, and the take up of ‘alternative media’ and the growth of independent personality driven content production had given significant numbers of people access to a powerful new way of influencing each other.
The media barons were all of a sudden irrelevant.
Then Silicon Valley began to gain traction, and the various richly funded social media projects began to siphon all of the audiences, and the eyeballs/ears. Mainstream/legacy media had to do something, their advertising revenue was evaporating!
Enter the collaboration of Google, and Facebook with the legacy media investor groups and boards of directors.
The numbers were still there, they were just accessing a different set of media content: a generous cut of the cake was negotiated, and legacy/mainstream media publishers were able to present their content in this slick, web guise.
Medium started out as being a WordPress blogging portal.
The Tinymce plugin was hacked to provide a consistent publishing experience; what just about anyone could do was presented as a slick, fashionable blogging option.
Funding and collaboration with the Silicon Valley aunties and uncles gave Medium a head start, and so it began to corral the young writer population, those were were seeking to ‘make money online’, the frustrated personalities who sought to build huge audiences and fame.
The culture of publishing on the web is still very young, but Medium has been able to aggressively garner a huge slice of the writer population, those who are confronted with the sheer brick wall of having to build their own reputation, and the irksome details of building their own media platforms.
I don’t begrudge the success of Medium, despite the ironic tone of my writing here, but I am disappointed in the narrowness and ubiquity of what it has become, a left echo-chamber, an aggressively marketed ‘cure all’ for web writers.
For the love of God, build your own domain based platform, and publish to this, don’t feed this Silicon Valley monster, the WWW is still an open source publishing opportunity, and you can make something worthwhile. Don’t allow Medium to become just like the bad old days of publishing, when the plutocrats ruled the airwaves, and the printing presses; don’t be amnesiac concerning publishing hegemony, this is what gave rise to all of the toxic outcomes of that era-too much power being concentrated among too few privileged owners!
Medium is becoming like the bloated empires of the broadcast era, and you are becoming the cannon fodder, the dreams of avarice are guiding your steps.
Let’s not make the same mistakes our fathers and grandfathers made, we have the opportunity of building something fresh, vital and intellectually powerful, but the Silicon Valley set are attempting to head us all off at the pass; there is still time and space to bring web publishing to its fullest expression, don’t become a Medium Borg drone.