When Waves Collide

Last month on my blog, I linked to Jack Shafer’s article in Slate, declaring Advantage: Michael Crichton:

In 1993, novelist Michael Crichton riled the news business with a Wired magazine essay titled “Mediasaurus,” in which he prophesied the death of the mass media–specifically the New York Times and the commercial networks. “Vanished, without a trace,” he wrote.

The mediasaurs had about a decade to live, he wrote, before technological advances–“artificial intelligence agents roaming the databases, downloading stuff I am interested in, and assembling for me a front page”–swept them under. Shedding no tears, Crichton wrote that the shoddy mass media deserved its deadly fate.

“[T]he American media produce a product of very poor quality,” he lectured. “Its information is not reliable, it has too much chrome and glitz, its doors rattle, it breaks down almost immediately, and it’s sold without warranty. It’s flashy but it’s basically junk.”

* * *

As we pass his prediction’s 15-year anniversary, I’ve got to declare advantage Crichton. Rot afflicts the newspaper industry, which is shedding staff, circulation, and revenues. It’s gotten so bad in newspaperville that some people want Google to buy the Times and run it as a charity! Evening news viewership continues to evaporate, and while the mass media aren’t going extinct tomorrow, Crichton’s original observations about the media future now ring more true than false. Ask any journalist.

Ever since dreaming up the “Silicon Graffiti” video series last year, I had wanted to do a segment on Alvin & Heidi Toffler’s “Third Wave” thesis; particularly since I had taped their segment on C-Span’s Booknotes program in 1995. As I attempt to illustrate in the above video, the clashing of a Second Wave, industrial-era institution like Big Media with the Blogosphere, a purely Third Wave phenomenon, is one of the reasons, in addition to an overwhelming and rarely acknowledged bias, why Old Media are slowly going the way the dinosaurs (and this is but one of many death rattles).

Fortunately, as I noted in an earlier video segment, they’ve already built their own Jurassic Park!

(Originally posted at Ed Driscoll.com. And speaking of earlier segments, click here for older editions of our videos.)

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