Sunday, March 01, 2009

Guest Post: About communication

I started a conversation on Twitter with David Sonnen - but as you might know, Twitter only allows 140 characters - so we continued the conversation in emails.

I had asked him, as I have asked you here, why R's behave as they do and continue to advocate their same failed policies to the 22% who still follow them...and ignore the rest of the country.

Comment away readers....

His reply:

Communicating has gotten complicated: Internet, blogs, Twitter, social nets, email, cell phone, eArticles, eJournals, and the occasional face2face... We've just started to fathom the impacts on culture, social structure and cognition. Can we make sense of all this new stuff? Maybe a little.

History, I think, is instructive. Every time folks invent a significant new way to communicate or a significant new way to perceive, human culture changes significantly. Examples. Communications: written language, paper, movable type, telegraph, telephone, radio, television, Internet. Perception: telescope, microscope, chronometer, oscilloscope, x-ray, various tomographies, radar, sonar, genome processing, and a much, much longer list.

Each time one of these new phenomena comes along, a new class of experts arises (E.g.: Scribes for written language and paper). Then, if the invention proves broadly useful, it eventually blends into the invisible cultural infrastructure. Experts become less relevant or change roles. The new exciting/threatening invention becomes "normal". We adapt our common myths and rituals to the new normal, and go on.

Digital communication/ Internet is maturing to the point it's blending into our normal infrastructure. So, we use it to do things that are just normal -- chat, exchange ideas, form communities, gossip, explore each other. (Note: these are all very much 2-way communications.)

We can do these normal, 2-way things with just about anyone, anywhere, any time at velocities close to the speed of light. And, we can use information generated by all manner of extended perceptions. Example: Check out the video at http://www.deepastronomy.com/hubble-deep-field.html .

I think that the next generation will probably have a pretty good handle on all this, but right now, I feel like I'm the other side of Alice's looking glass. (It is quite an interesting and exciting place, but weird.)

This ramble might bring us to the R's situation. Seems to me, that the R's mastered the use of 1-way broadcast media to polarize groups of people around perceived issues. They were quite successful at a simple technique: Stay on message, Ignore problems, Crush dissent. While the technique is ancient, the R's refined the use of broadcast media to appeal to a large mix of people with their simple message -- Regulation is bad, Tax cuts are good, Individuals are better than government at everything, People with other values are evil. They were successful at creating a perceived reality for a long while.

Folks like Rush and Ann Coulter have mastered the R technique and all of its deep cultural appeal. The R message has proven to represent a failed philosophy to about 75% of the people, but that doesn't matter to folks like Rush and Ann. They still have 22% or so who are true believers. And that's one of the R's big problems: 22% is a huge number of customers.

Rush, Ann and associates can whip their 22% into a frenzy over just about anything they want with what you've titled, "vile commentary". Those folks will rant, demonstrate, and contribute to the R cause. They will also listen to the ads on Rush and Ann's programs and buy stuff. Rush and Ann make literally millions selling ads and the R's get an audience that affirms their (failed) philosophy. Everybody is happy and homogeneously on message.

Except, of course, the 75% or so of the public that thinks the Rs and their friends are, at best, irrelevant and at worst, dangerous nut cases.

Now, the D's are starting to understand the powerful difference between 1-way and 2-way digital communications. Also, an important minority of the 75% majority are getting really involved in digital, 2-way politics, quite independently of the D's or the Government. One result, so far, seems to be that the diverse, off-message majority is marginalizing the R gang. Another result is that a bunch of smart folks have risen from apathy to activism.

Bob Dylan sums it up nicely: here
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Your thoughts readers? Post a comment

1 comment:

123 said...

It is extremely interesting for me to read the post. Thanks for it. I like such topics and anything connected to them. I definitely want to read more soon.
Alex
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