The seminar on Media Re:public that was held at USC Annenberg didn’t have any ground-breaking revelations, but it did raise great questions to think about.
Q. How do you manage popular taste (aka castor oil stories)? When will news become organic? People are becoming so sensitive about the quality of food, seeking organic food and blah blah, but why isn’t news becoming like that? When will the mass trend move towards quality news?
Many participants seemed to be skeptical about the public wanting quality news. One person said that the public has always loved crap and will continue to love crap. This whole ‘liking crap’ phenomena shows that I am definitely not mainstream. I’m not interested in the so-called funny YouTube videos, nor in how many babies Angelina Jolie is having or who is having sex with whom in the bathroom. There must be something seriously wrong with me.
Q. As all things are not of equal value, how do you find something of high value? What will we do with the abundance of metadata?
Clearly tags have made data searching more efficient, but there is a fundamental flaw in search engines. For one thing, I find it horrific that Google has become almost a dominant player in the U.S. search engine market. (In Korea, Google is still not a major player due to local search engines such as Naver and Daum. Naver has a huge advantage because of the abundance of information that it owns, giving it an edge of Google, which doesn’t have its own content.) I find it annoying that Google doesn’t find a lot of specific web sites that I know exist. I hate that Naver can’t find any of my articles now when it used to two years ago. I wonder how much quality information out there in the web is buried and wish that there was a way of more efficiently hacking through the information. Ah, how I miss the days of the Dewey Decimal Card Catalogue System.
Q. Personal Information: In the future, will people be sacrificing more of their personal information for free content?
This is a question that I dare not predict, since my tastes generally tend to be opposite of normal consumers (I don’t mind paying for quality content- not that I enjoy spending my money but I believe that those people who worked to make that content deserve compensation). One problem I have with all this personalization of ads, news, and whatnot is that it only makes me a more closed person in terms of taste. I mean, it’s great that if I choose a song I like on Pandora Radio, I can listen to a whole bunch of similar songs, including those I have never heard of. But how does that help my diverse interests? On Amazon, for instance, the engine keeps on recommending items based on those that I’ve bought. But a lot of the times, I’m more interested in totally random things. Amazon would never know that I’m interested in the latest closed-toe wedges. Once, I bought an exercise equipment on impulse when I was not logged in. I would have never even known about such a machine if I had been logged in and tuned in to my preferences.
The real problem is when it comes to news. If the New York Times tracked the articles I read and gave me suggestions based on those, it would be a disaster. Even though I don’t read half the articles that are on the front page, the fact that editors have narrowed down topics in order of importance may seem like a snobby notion, but helps me maintain a wider perspective of what is going on in this world. Why do developments keep going towards focusing on “me”? Somehow that doesn’t seem right. I believe that at some point, this whole trend of personalization will blow up.