Ignore the Broadcasters! A Key Difference Between Twitter and TV

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Mathew Ingram had a great post yesterday on "the rise of the new information gatekeepers" in which he looked at how technology companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple increasingly control access to news and culture.

This morning, Steve Lawson, a bassist from Birmingham in the UK sent out a string of tweets that I think highlight a key difference between the old information ecosystem and the new one. Everyone can use the new system's infrastructure, regardless of their 'official' capacity. Here's what Lawson had to say:

The info gatekeepers thing is interesting, but the parameters are WAY more porous than before. TV/Magazines weren't "gameable". The web is. Cable access channels aside (Wayne's World!), you can't 'use' broadcast TV for your own ends & ignore the broadcasters. Here, there's choice. ...so while twitter controls trending algorithms, promoted tweets etc, we can still build sub-networks on the same infrastructure. So I can use twitter/G+/FB to spread indie music, without the need of their 'support' as such. We can reshare it, and build our own network. Same for news, activism, art, culture...there's still a curated 'bought' mainstream. But the alternative is on the same platform. That's new.

And propaganda thrust into a community looks way more dodgy than propaganda in a paid ad on TV. We're more sensitive to it here. The big worry? the implications of ad-funding as THE model. If all our actions are made possible by that, we're complicit or parasitic... We either 'pay our way' by buying the shit that gets advertised, or we are happy to let someone else's untrammeled consumption pay for us.

What I think this analysis shows is that a simple recognition that there information gatekeeping remains does not mean that the new way of doing things is equivalent to the old way of doing things. The details of the system matter.

There's also something of a nerdy alternative media rallying cry in there: Ignore the broadcasters! Build the sub-network!

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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