December 21, 2011

Blogs and social network sites: media without intermediation

Philosophy

blogs and social network sites media without intermediation - The Alessandro Benetton blog

Blogs and social network sites have been increasingly gaining ground over the last few years (by the way: our Facebook page has recently reached one million fans!). I have often wondered what the reason could be for this success. On the one hand, perhaps, there is the opportunity to bring some immediacy to the world of mediation, by adding your own face to a world of masks. Individuals needs to assert their own uniqueness: “Self expression is the new entertainment”, said Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, with that striking succinctness typical of Anglo-Saxons. In other words, people like to express themselves and, perhaps, read the opinions of others.

There is also another reason, the one that guided me in my decision to create a blog. It is well known that, thanks to technological development, the relationships an individual has with the world and with others have changed. The media (who, in fact, mediate) have interposed themselves between me and the world, gradually removing the centrality of the two components of the relationship. What is the global village, if not the establishment of the medium between the relating components?

Now (here’s the point) something new is happening: a new technological leap (Internet, first of all, and then the new Web 2.0, characterised by participation) makes access to knowledge more democratic, undermining the monopoly of the professional “mediators”, freeing speech and multiplying it into several new discourses. This is the decisive issue for me: to re-establish the possibility of a non-mediated relationship between those who speak and those who listen. Naturally, this does not mean doing away with mediators in one fell swoop: there will always be an (increasing?) need for communication professionals that help us to join the dots.

There is also an opposite risk in this scenario: namely, that this process conceals a homogenisation and levelling of thought, making a critical perspective impossible. From vertical communication (I read a book, I study a subject) we have passed to a horizontal communication (I browse the Internet, I see everything but basically I know nothing). If this is true, then the dream of democratisation heralded by the advent of the Web in its present form has already vanished.

As always, it is difficult to reach an unequivocal conclusion and, in all probability, there is some truth in each position. On the one hand, it will always be easy to argue that this desire to add your own face, to “be me”, will ultimately turn out to be a pretence, that even on social networking sites or blogs, despite an appearance of authenticity, in reality one mask simply hides yet another. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that if individuals assert their own authenticity and originality, it means not only that the world of communications media has not yet homologated and levelled each individual, but also that this risk is perceived. Basically, awareness of the dangers of homologation by the media co-exists alongside the conviction that the world of the media is still the only available stage on which to put your own face.

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