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One significant aspect of how Individuated Media services reshape and recolor the media environment is how such services reverse the traditional flow between people and contents.
Since time immemorial, beginning in the era when only oral story-telling was possible and continuing through the industrial era Mass Media, the only way for an individual person to satisfy his many needs, interests, and tastes, was generally to look in many places. If you lived during 1970 in Peoria, Illinois, and were a 30-year old, recently married woman who still liked to know the latest fashion and how to keep your husband romantically interested, needed childcare and housekeeping advice, liked to cook French cuisine, and loved watching daytime TV drama, the chances were you’d that, besides your household subscribing to the daily Peoria Journal Star, you subscribed to Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping magazine and perhaps Soap Opera Digest, and made sure to watch Julia Child’s The French Chef show on public television every Sunday afternoon. Or if you were a man living in the Babylonian city of Atlila in 1013 BCE, sold camels to travelers on the trade routes, and liked to drink fermented barley water with the other guys every seventh day, you’d probably regularly visit the caravanserai to hear the latest trade route gossip, visit the marketplace to learn the latest camel prices, plus find friends and connoisseurs who tell you who that week was brewing best beer. From the distant past to just recently, if a person wanted to know about many things, he would have to visit many places or, later in these eras, subscribe to many things and watch or hear things in differing places. The person had to come to the contents.
This was true even during the Web 1 period, before Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws dropped the price of computing and made personal computers powerful enough for anyone to publish or broadcast, back when contents on the Web were provided primarily by large organizations that had the monies and technical means to publish online. During the Web 1 period, let’s say the year was 2000, a recently-married 30 year-old woman living in Peoria who had Internet access, liked to know the latest fashion, keep your husband romantically interested, needed childcare and housekeeping advice, and liked to cook French cuisine, and loved watching daytime TV drama, would have had to go to half a dozen websites to get that information.
Individuated Media saves most, if not eventually all, of those trips for its users. Individuate services change the flow, tending to make those items of contents come to the consumer rather than vice versa.
When a newspaper website offers Individuated services, it saves each of its users from having to find the stories he wants from within dozens or even hundreds of that website’s subsidiary webpages. The user doesn’t have to click back and forth through index and content pages to see those stories. Instead, stories that match his individual needs, interests, and tastes.
Likewise, when a consumer ‘tags’, adds feeds, or ‘likes’ to his Social Medium homepage, he is causing the individual elements he likes from many providers simply to flow into his own Individuated homepage on that Social Medium, rather than him having to visit those multiple providers’ websites each day. The traditional flow of content is reversed: the contents have come to the person rather than that person having to hunt and gather the contents.
And because time doesn’t flow backwards, because Individuated Media and such manifestations of those as Social Media aren’t going to be uninvented, this reversal of the traditional flow between people and contents will be permanent. It is epochal change in the media environment.
Moreover, it also is a further indication, thanks to unbundling, that the parts in traditional Mass Media packages are in aggregate now worth more than the whole, unlike during the Industrial Era when the opposite was true. The individual parts of the edition, or of the program, are in aggregate worth more now than the whole edition or whole program.
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