As Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws exponentially increased the power of computer chips and the bandwidth of the fiber optic lines and wireless signals connecting those chips, billions of people who used those personal computers extraordinarily quickly by historical measurements gained access to a cornucopia of news, entertainment and other information—extremely more news, entertainment, and other information than had been available locally from the Mass Media’s printed publications and over-the-air broadcasts. Although Mass Media publishers and broadcasters are still trying to contend with that greatest of changes in history of media, there are many unequivocal indicants that they never truly will and that the centuries-old predominance of Mass Media organizations as people’s way of obtaining news, entertainment, and other information is now doomed.
One of those indicants is the rise of what has now become colloquially known as ‘consumer-generated contents’. It has become as easy for any individual with a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, to become online a publisher or broadcaster as it is for Mass Media publishers and Mass Media broadcasters. All the individual needs do is produce a blog hosted by a third party or else a website. Consumer-generated contents greatly augment the already gigantic volume of contents available online, providing even greater competition and stresses for Mass Media organizations. (An unintentional but innate aspect of that augmentation is that the consumer-generated contents of subjective nature — particularly when accessible on blogs and websites that are cloaked in guises which mimic the types of guises used by traditional publishers and broadcasters —are often difficult to discern from otherwise objective contents. Although the branding of traditional publishers and broadcasters can help people avoid some of the resulting confusion about which contents are objective and which are subjective, the financial duress traditional publisher and broadcasters suffer adapting to all these changes has led to them reducing their own production of contents and even led many such organizations to feature subjective contents disguised as objective contents (i.e., ‘advertorials’ or ‘native advertising’).
How the interactions of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws led to the huge rise of consumer-generated contents online is best seen by deflating two over-hyped New Media marketing terms —‘Web 1.0’ and ‘Web 2.0’ —until the two tumescent terms have actual meaning. At the start of an academic year, most of my postgraduate students have heard these terms but confused about what ‘Web 1.0’ and ‘Web 2.0’ (and ‘Web 3.0’) mean; as well they should be, considering how these terms have been coined, marketed, and hyped. (The term ‘Web 2.0’ was actually trademarked in the United States by CMP Media, a business media and conference company that did not coin the term. However, the European Union denied CMP Media the trademark in EU countries.)
I teach my students that there are only three things that they need to know about these terms:
First, that the decimal points are a meaningless marketing hype. For examples, there are no such things as ‘Web 0.8’ or a ‘Web 1.4’ or a ‘Web 2.3’.
Second, that the resulting ‘Web 1’ and ‘Web 2’ (and ‘Web 3’) are useful terms to denote two different eras in public usage of the Internet; much like the terms Triassic or Jurassic denote different, albeit immensely longer, eras in natural history.
‘Web 1’ denotes the period (1991 to approximately 2000) when the software and hardware needed to publish online or to broadcast online were expensive, complex, and difficult to use. The result was that only large organizations (such as governments, militaries, universities, and corporations) published online. During the ‘Web 1’ era, content was produced and consumed in the traditional way: organizations produced it and people consumed it. The only difference between this and the Industrial Era was the content was offered online to the consumers.
However, as several years progressed, the three laws interacted. Moore’s Law permitted more powerful and less expensive hardware, capable of running complex software. It takes complex software to make computer, notably computer interfaces, easier to use. Simultaneous with Moore’s Law, Cooper’s Law and Butters’ Law eliminated the need for people to utilize their home telephone lines to go online, and permitted the transmission speeds of people’s online access to be ever faster. The resulting effects of the laws’ interactions — more powerful, less expensive hardware running more complex software that communicated at ever higher speeds, made online publishing or online broadcasting so inexpensive and easy-to-do that by the middle of the first decade of the this millennium anyone could do so. Furthermore, thanks to the three laws’ interactions, turnkey-software system and services (such as YouTube, Moveable Type, WordPress, Blogger.com, and many others) allowed anyone to publish or broadcast without having much, if any, technical knowledge at all. Hundreds of millions of people (‘the people formerly known as the audience’, as New York University Professor Jay Rosen wryly noted) were no longer just consumers of media but also creators of it. This is the Web 2 era.
Third, that Web 1 and Web 2 have a stratal relation. One is founded atop another, but the two co-exist and aren’t mutually exclusive. In media, large organizations still publish online and broadcast online, as also now do the people themselves.
People’s newfound capabilities to publish or broadcast as readily as traditional publishers or broadcasters creates quite unexpected competition to traditional publishers and broadcasters, extraordinarily complicating and challenging traditional media organizations’ existences. Many traditional media companies unfortunately still don’t comprehend how much.
Moreover, as Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws further interacted, new companies arose that not only helped give people, no matter what their technological abilities, the capabilities to publish online their words, photos, videos, and choices of hyperlinks to other contents, but form networks of their friends and acquaintances who through such a company can also do and share those contents. These are companies such as MySpace, Facebook, VKontakte (ВКонтакте), Renren (人人网),etc., whose services are collectively and colloquially known nowadays as Social Media.
Unfortunately, most executives of Mass Media companies, as well as most academicians who teach Mass Media practices, still misperceive consumer-generated contents (whether in forms such as individual’s websites, blogs, or even Social Media) as merely computer-mediated forums that are ancillary to Mass Media. What those executives and those academicians don’t understand is the Social Media forms of consumer-generated contents are entirely new, intrinsically different, and evolutionary advanced forms of media than Mass Media.
Next webpage: The Rise of Search Engines Heralded Individuated Media