Mainstream Media and Mass Communication
The newspaper industry and international telegraph networks mutually facilitated each other. As supply and demand in the newspaper industry rapidly increased in the nineteenth century, news agencies were established in quick succession.
The French Havas Agency was founded in 1835, the German Wolffin in 1849, and the British Reuters in 1851 (which survives today as Thompson-Reuters). These three European agencies, which started to operate internationally, were all subsidized by their respective governments.
The flipside of global communication is mass communication. The world we live in today has evolved to a point that is truly astonishing and monumental.
Consider this: right now you have the ability to instantly communicate with anyone on the planet using email, essentially for free. You also have the ability to access knowledge on-demand and for free (via sites like Google and Wikipedia). Google is now working to apply machine learning to its search technology, which promises to make the questions that we ask yield even more profound answers.
"The cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an educated electorate." - Thomas Jefferson
Mass communication is currently undergoing a transformation. We are clearly in new territory. Last year we saw the electorate in the UK vote to walk away from 60 years of work at advancing the power and wealth of the European Union (of which it was a founding member). The UK will now go back to forging its path to the future in isolation.
In the US we saw the election of a president who was clearly unstable and had absolutely no experience in government. In both cases the outcome was precipitated by mass communication gone horribly wrong.
The mass media has lost its effectiveness in supplying us with the necessary information to make informed decisions. The graph below gives us an idea of what has happened in the last decade to precipitate this radical change.
Print media has always been the cornerstone of our sources of information and truth. The founding fathers in the US established the postal service primarily to provide a vehicle for the delivery of newspapers (which were delivered free). Newspapers subscribed to wire services like Reuters in addition to hiring their own foreign correspondents for worldwide news. The process of investigative journalism was key to the success of newspapers in providing readers with “the truth.” But the revenue to pay for these very expensive aspects of the business started to dramatically decline after 2000. The newspapers responded by cutting back on the above mentioned activities. This has left us with a ‘truth vacuum’ which has currently been filled with such things as ‘fake news’ and ‘tabloid newspaper hysteria.’
The populace has responded by using the internet to try and distill the truth from all the noise. Google currently handles 3.5 billion queries a day. We are also using social networking to try and crowdsource the truth, but as the recent elections result have shown, this process is error-prone. There is just too much information; our limited time and tools have thus far proven insufficient.
The Information Diet
The Fringe In strategy is to try and dramatically pare down our information intake. Our proposed micro-infrastructure would provide internet access, but the bandwidth would necessarily be very limited. We will not be able to supply features such as streaming video to all citizens. Our vision for the ‘autonomous village’ is to have an information strategy that follows our world view. As we are going to be building autonomous villages in areas where there hasn’t been any previous exposure to mass media and global communication, great care will be taken to point the way to vitally important sources of information and communication.
Some good examples of this would be:
Towards the Global Village
Marshall McLuhan predicted the internet. In the early 1960s, he wrote that the visual, individualistic print culture would soon be brought to an end by what he called "electronic interdependence" (think the internet) when electronic media would replace visual culture with aural/oral culture.
In this new age, humankind will move from individualism and fragmentation to a collective identity, with a "tribal base." McLuhan's coinage for this new social organization is the global village.
The ideal outcome of the Fringe In project is to connect the citizens of the autonomous villages with other autonomous villages, and with key contacts in the ‘outside world’ that will help build more sustainable and prosperous futures for the entire network - a veritable global village.