Disclaimer: This is an essay. You have been warned that it’s going to be an essay. I can’t really help but write it, though, because it’s been constructing itself while my brain has watched all morning.
The world today is at the mercy of the editors. I know this because I am one, but I suspect you are all well aware, too. We are drowning in a flood of images, narratives, and soundbites. Nearly all of the media that we consume has been transformed by the hand and mind of an editor, though we may not always (or ever) recognize that they’ve manipulated our reality. This molding of content and message is not necessarily negative, of course: editing often does – and should always – help to synthesize information, to make it easier to process, understand and act upon.
What intrigues me most about editing is where it is heading with the advent of Web 2.0 (the terrible moniker given to the amalgamation of Flickr, YouTube, del.icio.us, etc.) Raw information is now being processed by a larger swath of people. The anointed few that once controlled “the signal,” if I can borrow from Joss Whedon for just a moment, are now being augmented by participatory amateurs. It’s a truly exciting time and it makes me wonder what’s going to happen as the next cohort comes into their own as adult consumers of media.
You see, I feel that I bridge a gap between ways of thinking. I was born in January 1984, which coincides nicely with the birth of the Macintosh and home publishing. Really, accessible rich computing as a whole was born then, too. The internet existed in my childhood but I didn’t have a connection until I was 14. Even then, the web was really in its infancy, as was much of the software and hardware that people used to populate it with content. But, I’m certainly a wired, connected person and I feel that I have a very inherent understanding of the way raw information can be formed by anyone with a desire to “speak.”
Where the bridging comes in is between work and home…though it’s certainly more broad than this. Many of my coworkers were trained in creative computing tools or found them in their adult life. They are extremely competent and enormously talented people, but my personal feeling is that the overall environment is not exactly a natural habitat. On the other end of this divide I span is my sister. She’s 14 now and has never known a world without the web. Her formative years are happening post-bubble. She’s entirely 2.0 in her thinking about media – posting her photos on MySpace after editing them in iPhoto, uploading videos of her friends dancing from iMovie to YouTube, and the like. I knew that she was a new sort of creature when she asked me to give her a copy of DangerMouse’s The Grey Album mashup at 13. I’m incredibly jealous of her and immensely proud.
And this is what’s so intriguing to me, watching on both sides of the gap: will my sister’s people even need the editors? They are all being primed to create their own entertainment, their own media and their own signal. I’ve heard a lot lately about the death of newspapers, the death of books, the death of cinemas but I think we should be pondering the death of pre-processed information. What I truly believe is that the day is coming, very soon…by the time Hannah reaches her 20s…when raw data will be distributed directly from the source to the public. News video feeds, live concert recordings, off the cuff reporting and more will flow from the author to the masses and be edited in a million different ways, each suited entirely to individual sensibilities. And then re-edited and commented upon and emailed and included in 1000 Facebook profiles and…
It’s dizzying, but I’m ready for it. I just hope Hannah and her friends are patient teachers…