I remember when I was still in university there was a lot of talk about ‘new media’ as some emerging thing, or even of web 2.0 discussed with some sense of open hope and anticipation towards pastures new. I thought about this when I was at a planning meeting for the community garden that I’m involved with, when we were talking about outreach.
Somebody said that twitter and facebook are a bit old hat in terms of social media (the preferred term of today). We all understood what was meant, in the sense that we would hit at an audience who already know about the garden and using such media mostly retains our base of interested persons and who are already informed of most of the community garden’s activities.
Getting involved with a community garden is as grassroots as things can get. I mostly got involved because somebody said they didn’t like lifting things. Now we are talking about having a co-ordinated strategy for tweetdeck posts, preparing copy for upcoming mail-outs (we use mailchimp). One of the great liberating features of the social media is that it has enabled such a broad form of expression. Taking the perspective of the community garden, I can live-tweet about garden events or things going on; garner attention and new interest from tweeting about and being seen tweeting and take part in a wider discussion. The community garden twitter account has a follow from our local MP, various councillors in local government, and even a transition town group in Latin America. The fact that others in the garden share the tweeting means I can get on with what I particularly enjoy at the garden: lifting stuff and playing my clarinet in an open space.
Although perhaps not part of the ‘new media’ but more of the late 1990s and early 2000s zeitgeist, I’ve found blogging (both writing and reading) and podcasts as a big staple of my life these days. I have come from seeing podcasts as an obscure infant medium to an established form. I recently listened to a radio programme on the podcast recently, which made me reflect on how the evolution of the medium has aged as I have aged. I suspect however that the podcast will outlive me and morph into more fandangled and interesting things than I ever can.
Podcasts used to be something really scarce. Back in 2005 I would re-listen to episodes of Philosophy Talk and go through the whole archive of ‘In Our Time’. I would eagerly follow Marc Maron’s WTF in mid-late 2009 as Maron’s life was in dire straits and wondered what the next episode would tell. Nearly 5 years on, Maron’s podcast has a TV series based on it and he’s gone from strength to strength, even to the point of broadcasting an episode with Josh Radnor on the day that How I Met Your Mother had its finale. I would dare say that after WTF, Maron’s podcast format has had many imitators.
I wonder if the ‘wild west’ or Californian gold rush of podcasting is over at least in terms of the solidification and establishment as podcasting as a medium. But with it another gold rush might emerge, perhaps a less figurative commercialisation and profit-making set of models. I love the podcast for the same reasons as the radio. I can feel connected to the world despite distantly listening in without taking part in the things that are discussed. I am also starting to find there are a few too many podcasts to listen to in the world! I can’t listen to them all as attentively as I used to listen to every episode of Melvyn Bragg and I can’t give all the philosophy podcasts as much attention as they deserve or that would require a good amount of learning from.
And here comes the other ‘old hat’ of blogging. I have said to myself that when I get a smartphone I will be able to read blogs quicker with the (now defunct) Google Reader App. Then I said to myself that I could get a lot of reading done on Feedly with my new Tablet, although both of these are true, it is also the case that these new devices allow me to reach a much much wider pool of information so plentiful that I end up not reading the stuff that I planned to.
Blog reading is a big part of my life, it’s become both a leisurely pursuit and in some cases for friends, necessary for their work. Because of the ubiquity of ways we can access the internet the stream of blogs and RSS feeds is soaking human experience, perhaps for some, too much so. Lately I’ve set time limits for myself for blog reading and catching up on articles. I’ve found that I use my time more efficiently that way.
Perhaps its time to be more deliberate about blog reading and podcast listening. Time to be more mature about facebook profiles and twitter accounts. As the medium has grown up so have I and I see so many pitfalls with these media (or rather put – more ways people can be silly with them). Perhaps like the 19th century after the wild rush comes an age of more deliberate and considered usage and perhaps regulation. It almost looks like an historical narrative repeating all over again.