Saturday, January 2, 2010

In 2010, Think About the Political Economics of Information

You might say it started with event-magic in 2004, the year Facebook was founded. On a cool, damp July night in Boston, a tall, handsome, (secretly) cigarette-puffing University of Chicago professor-turned-politician, skilled in the ancient art of oratory, delivered his first nationally covered speech.

An estimated 15,000 media representatives were there, looking for a good story, when Barack Obama, then a candidate for the U.S. senate, spoke to about 5,000 delegates at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. And 9.1 million viewers watched on TV.

Fast-forward less than five years and the boyish face of Facebook founder Chris Hughes was cover art for the April issue of Fast Company Magazine with the cut line “The Kid Who Made Obama President.” The “boy wonder” according writer Ellen McGirt, had “changed politics and marketing forever.”

Media—whether old, new, or yet to be invented—are instruments of power. Power is fundamentally rooted in three forces: production, destruction and belief. Productive power creates; destructive power coerces; persuasive power influences our view of the world. And these forces interact. Productive capacity can create destructive weapons. Coercive power can seize the means of production. Beliefs guide production and destruction. The dynamics of such interactions are the stuff of political economy. And media are right in the thick of it.

Belief, a key factor in political economy, is the real business of the media. With information and exhortation, media influence belief, and so direct the use of time and resources—for better or for worse. Media can help motivate altruism or suicide bombings; set styles; sell products or politicians. So as we start the new year, it would behoove those of us who make our living creating and distributing information and entertainment to be more cognizant of political economics.

Economics alone will not determine the future shape of our media businesses. We have plenty to learn from the story of how our President rose so quickly to the highest office in our nation (hint: the Fast Company story is not the last word). And still more to learn from the unfolding drama of his presidency. In 2010, too narrow a focus on economics and the strictly commercial uses of information might cause us to miss opportunities—social and political as well as economic!

We at the Conference Department wish all a peaceful, productive and EVENTFUL 2010.

Labels: , , , ,


Blogger Roger Wilson said...

Per NYT/CBS Poll Sixty-three percent of Tea Party members polled say "they get the majority of their political and current events news on television from the Fox News Channel, compared to 23 percent of Americans overall. Forty-seven percent say television is their main source of Tea Party information, the top source; another 24 percent say they get Tea Party information from the internet"

April 15, 2010 at 3:17 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

Powered by Blogger

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]