No society has ever known enough about its actions to have developed immunity to its new extensions or technologies.
(That’s Marshall McLuhan, in The Medium is the Message.)
Attempts to understand the content of the broadcast itself, ranging from the political to the psychological, have followed. But it is the method of broadcast, delivery and amplification that may prove to have most impact.
McLuhan also said, “Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication.”
It’s worth stopping for a moment to look how Reynolds’ live stream is both the natural evolution of technologies affecting journalism, and the start of something new in media.
- The ubiquity of mobile phones is now largely total. There are more phones than people on the planet. Data is, in some countries, cheap. What happens when all the people formerly known as the audience are connected and enabled to upload?
- Reaching for the device has become second nature (in the U.S., U.K. or Europe at least)— it is an extension of us. The social awkwardness or technological barriers that used to accompany filming on a phone have disappeared. How long till always-on?
- The concept of virality is understood, and at the forefront of our minds. Reynolds said, in a second video, “I wanted it to go viral.” Not everyone is an accidental eyewitness. We now get the network, deeply.
- Live is replacing video. Facebook Live, Periscope, Snapchat video chat, Live.ly are natural extensions of their parent platforms. It is instantaneous, interpersonal and scaled.
- Social networks are media infrastructure. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et al are the paper, ink and radio-masts of now. Journalism ceded control of its distribution a long time when it denied digital and neglected to build product. How will it attempt to restore power?
- News feed curation, algorithms, machine learning, UX principles and filter bubbles (self-created or platform-imposed) must be navigated and negotiated with, in order to reach an audience. A new language will emerge.
- The redefinition of the news cycle is complete. Journalists as information-gatherers and context-bringers. Obama and Zuckerberg statements inevitable. Follow-up videos from Reynolds incoming. Monitor, assess, curate, contextualise, push, measure, respond. Go again.
- Ethics and the censorship debate were blown wide open again. The responsibility and regulation of the social platforms will see a land grab for standards and moral high grounds. Journalists will have to recalibrate what they deem distressing, graphic and unsuitable.
Diamond “Lavish” Reynolds’ live stream is both a consolidation of the previous decade’s most discussed media trends, and the moment when a new scale, scope and pattern of journalism revealed itself.
Welcome to the future of news. Currently watching: you and everybody you know.