Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Blogs vs. Wikis

Blogs, wikis, blogs, wikis, blogs, wikis... Everywhere I look, it's blogs and wikis. But, what are they, and why are they ubiquitous?

Meriam-Webster's Online Dictionary defines them as such

blog: noun: a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer; also : the contents of such a site.

wiki: noun: a Web site that allows visitors to make changes, contributions, or corrections

Pretty straightforward stuff. I would boil it down to the fact that blogs are maintained by a small number of people (fewer than 10, in most cases), while wikis are maintained by much larger groups (from the double-digits to billions, in the case of Wikipedia). They both allow for collaboration. Wikis - throughout all content, and blogs - by way of comments and blogrolls.

Blogs are at the forefront of media convergence. Virtually every traditional newspaper and magazine that has an online presence (which is convergence in and of itself) has one or more bloggers working for them. The New York Times has close to 50 blogs that cover topics ranging from technology to politics to college sports.

With all new forms of media, comes scrutiny. Blogs have been criticized for misreporting news items, and it is often overlooked that they are a source of opinion and not unbiased news.

Wikis on the other hand, and most notably, Wikipedia, have come under scrutiny for inaccuracies and a "Wild West" feel, based on the fact that virtually anyone can contribute to its content. Some of which has been abated by the implementation of moderators, as noted in the CNN article by John D. Sutter.

Another criticism of wikis has come from fact that semi-sensitive information may be shared. As illustrated in Noam Cohen's New York Times article, "Wikipedia has been engulfed in a furious debate involving psychologists who are angry that the 10 original Rorschach plates are reproduced online, along with common responses for each. For them, the Wikipedia page is the equivalent of posting an answer sheet to next year’s SAT."

The fact of the matter is, with new forms of media, there are going to be some bumps in the road. Content mediation and censorship, not the least of these concerns. However, with the broad reach, ease-of-use, and low cost of wikis and blogs, it appears they are here to stay.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Old Media vs. New Media

When we consider what is "New" and what is "Old" in regards to media, we have to criteria besides when the media was "born," so to say.

As the YouTube video we watched in class illustrates, all forms of media were "New" at one time, even the book. So, when we talk about "New" vs. "Old" media, we can't just look at a calendar and draw a line where "Old" ends and "New" begins. What we need to take note of is: How is the media distributed? and, What is the user experience?

As far as distribution, virtually all New Media is accessed over the internet. Whether through a phone line, cable, satellite, or wireless, the internet, or in a more broad sense, the network, is an integral part of New Media. The fact that blogs, wikis, social networks, etc. are interactive is what makes them "New". These formats allow users from all over the world to contribute and provide input on a level that has never before been seen in the history of humankind.

The "Old" way of consuming media was as such: You bought a book and you read it. Maybe you lent it to a friend, but that was the extent of the "user-interactivity". Nowadays, you can still buy that same book, but now, you can read blogs about it and add your own comments. You can start a Wikipedia page for the book (if one doesn't already exist) and have millions of people around the world contributing to the page. You can join a forum for people who particularly enjoyed the book, and you can share your thoughts and feelings about it with people across all cultures.

Never has the user experience been so all-encompassing and fulfilling as it is today. The beauty of the internet is that it provides a platform for all pursuits, from the most mass-appealing to the most obscure and specialized. This is what makes New Media truly New.

My Term Project

My topic is titled, "Free Content: What is the Cost?"

I plan to explore the phenomenon of companies offering free content on the internet, and how they try to make money off of it. Also, I will explore the cost to the user, for example, in terms of less privacy (Google tracking), and more ads and clutter. I will try to touch on as many industries as possible, and hypothesize where I think this trend will lead.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What is New Media?

It is easy to say that New Media is Web 2.0, or that it comprises blog, wikis, Facebook, etc.

But, if you're not familiar with these terms, you should first crawl out from under the rock you've been living under for the past 10 years. After that, you should understand that all the terms stated above refer to a level of interactivity and intercommunication unprecedented in the span of human existence. Never before has collaboration and feedback from such a large community been so quickly and easily attained. Not too mention the access we gain when journalists "tweet" from press conferences in real-time, or as in the article by James Dao, a soldier relays his experiences from the front-line for all civilians to see. That is what we truly mean by "New Media".

Of course, without the Internet, none of this would be possible. The Internet is, concisely put, the greatest collection of human knowledge and experience the world has ever known. Without the inter-connectivity of the online community, there would not be any New Media.

One interesting thing about the New Media "Revolution" is how much it has affected Old Media. In some ways it has enhanced it. For example, a person can now watch a television show and then go online to a message board or a blog and share thoughts and opinions about it with people that they would otherwise have no contact with.

That isn't to say that there haven't been negative impacts on Old Media. The newspaper and magazine, in their paper form, are virtually obsolete. Virtually every newspaper and magazine is available online these days (sometimes totally free), which decreases demand for physical copies. Also, as Melissa Gerry says in her article about Celebrity Blogs, the old horses, like Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood, are being outdone by the Gawkers, TMZs, and Perez Hiltons of the online world.

In summation, New Media is all of these things and more. In fact, it is likely that New Media involves something that hasn't even been conjured up yet. The possibilities are truly endless.