Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The death of the Event

This post on "Towards a Post-Media Era" has me fascinated - partly because I don't really understand it so I'm making up my own questions in my head.

Take "The News", for example. What is "The News"? Traditional news streams are about an Event combined with a Channel, such as a newspaper or a TV station. This produces a "headline".

The "headline" is an Event. It is a thing that occurs and indeed breaks. There is an idea that this thing is real - and that competing news channels then fall over themselves to somehow discover and reveal the authentic thing to a waiting, discerning audience. The tale of The News is about objectivity.

Once you start ignoring The News, this model doesn't make any sense any more. Why not? Because it's no longer relevant - to me, as an actor. Events are only things so long as I want to consume them. If I'm not consuming them, how can they exist as a thing, any more than a Marketing Press Release "exists" for me?

Not Just News

The same can be said for all manner of other things which aren't really things, events which aren't events. The struggle for Music Charts is not one of format, but one of nowness - how do you celebrate "new" artists in an era when anything that people remember is available for instant access? What value does the current top 10 have once its boundaries blur with the all time top 10?

Similarly, democracy is rapidly moving to a post-event world. Elections are becoming merely televised milestones to mark subtle shifts in the rein-holders. But politics is increasingly detaching itself from the idea of a 4-year representational clock.

Both power and attention are becoming ubiquitous and constant. Up until now, power has even based on attention, and Publicity has been Power as a result.

History On Demand, In Context

But start to  ignore things, and Attention loses its grip. Novelty value fades into the background - but what are we left with? We still receive information, we still "know" what is going on in The News - but can The News be said to be The News if we are no longer actively consuming it? What is the difference between "News" and "Continual Information"? Can a 24-hour news channel ever consist of something "new"?

This blur of information is fascinating. This ubiquitous, paradoxical state of being between knowing and not-knowing - but also between caring and not-caring. News becomes contextual - we find something out when it becomes relevant, rather than being told something is relevant when it happens. Can we catch up with 5-year-old news in the same way we suddenly "discover" 20-year-old music? History on demand?

And in politics, will I only care who won my local election once I need to integrate with national power on a particular theme? In other words, why should I care now when it's more efficient to care when I need to care?

And how does this change the tools we use - the media we currently use to find out about things? Will the "Archive" become more important than the home page? Will "Provenance" matter more than urgency and immediacy? And how can we define that Archive before we know the context we'll be accessing it from?


Slowly, "The News" should be replaced by "Developments". Everything will happen in context, and everything will be Historical before (or as a result of) being reported. News will give way to a steady, bi-polar landscape of Relevance and Apathy, to be ignored until the time and the person is right.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Putting the dead and the virtual on trial

Moscow plans to put dead lawyer on trial according to the FT.

This sounds like one of those bizarre stories you might see in the Fortean Times, involving an old Russian mystic and a seance. In reality, it's more surreal than spooky.

From what I can tell, the lawyer in question, and the company he worked for, accused the Russian Police of tax fraud. He was then charged and locked up in pre-trial detention, where he died from "lack of medical attention" (to put it mildly). A human rights group found the charges against him had been fabricated. His family and the company are now raising charges against Russian authorities, who in turn are threatening to still take him to trial.

Is anything about this actually "real" any more? Or is this some crazy future vision, where the truth can be easily obscured in a battle of finger pointing, redactions, threats and virtual references?

Can you sue a company? A dead person? A philosophy?

The Wikipedia page on Magnitsky explains the whole thing in far more intricate and depressing detail. Is it actually preferable to live in a concocted world than to face up to details like these?