Friday, December 16, 2005

true neutrality

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Mona Lisa 'happy', computer finds: "The Mona Lisa features in the opening of Dan Brown's hit novel The da Vinci Code when a Louvre curator is found dead near the painting. "

What is that, a product placement? What kind of reporting is this? What's the logic behind this random string of facts that just happen to involve the Mona Lisa?

They do this with serious stories, too: "The POTUS said such and such about the war. Um, let's see, the POTUS is six feet tall and can bench press 215 pounds. The USA is a country in North America with abundant natural resources. Are we done yet?" It's like the story lasts beyond its own interest in itself, can find no further ways of relating the subjects that come together in its tableau, and gives up on making sense of it, at which point all it can do is give you more details about the protagonists and leave it to you to invent a narrative.

You know what? I just figured out the role of the mainstream news media (MSM). The role of the MSM is to get the fucking fuck out of the way, right now. It is no longer socially responsible for you to go to important events, set up a camera, record high-quality video, then edit out everything except a two-second soundbite, talk for several minutes about the weather and your hair around it, and broadcast it to hypnotized suckers. NO!

If you are in the business of going around to important news events and setting up cameras, you owe it to the public to sell them that data. The information is sufficiently valuable to make a profit, and it's not secret for any good reason. At most I'll grant to the MSM their right to hold off on sharing data for long enough to scoop each other-- give it a two day time lag, say-- but once everyone is in on the story there's no good reason for it not to be open.

Here's a new model: Imagine that there's a camera filming somewhere-- Fallujah, a PTA meeting, somewhere-- and streaming its data out to a data center. You can then go to that data center through the web and access the raw streams. Buying access to the data would mean buying not just the right to view the data, but also the right to redistribute it. (For instance, the data could be under a liberal Creative Commons license (my ideal would be attribs and share alike which would help CC take over the world (drools like zombie)).) Camera operators-- probably mostly independent contractors-- would be making money whenever their camera was rolling and pointed at something interesting.

Q: Why would anyone pay for data that has an open license? A: To get the scoop. Imagine you're a blogger. You want to write about the situation in Iraq. You don't have to go to the MSM begging for crumbs. For twenty bucks you can go dip into the streams coming back from Iraq and buy something new. You could write a special CC-esque license, so that as the Liberator of a particular piece of video you get credited every time that video plays anywhere. If something you had the foresight to liberate gets hot in the blogosphere, everyone's going to know it was you. It might even work as a form of advertising-- this video liberated by Acme, Inc.

After all, other than being a royal pain in the ass, what is the economic role of the MSM in getting news from where it happens to the public? They're a group that hires camera operators. That may indeed be a role for a large organization, but it no longer needs to be an organization that's also in charge of telling those camera operators what to point at and telling the public what they want to hear. It could be a neutral organization, imagine that.

Of course while this model would open things up tremendously in the short term, it would also provide all of the incentives necessary to deeply institute the surveillance society. But, hey, that's probably inevitable anyway. Uh, yeah.



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