The internet age has seen a fundamental change in the nature of audiences. Groups of users have moved from their role as passive consumers in the analog age to active participants. Where once you’d watch whatever was on TV at night with your family, you now scroll through TikTok, watch videos customised for your interests, comment, share and have a significant impact on the spread of media. The move in media as a product to media as a conversation is central to the functioning of the internet paradigm shift.
Data distribution happens in three ways, as you can see in the diagram below.
The industrial paradigm focused on mass production and consumption; meaning media focused on producing the same product and delivering it to one mass audience. This functions primarily as a centralized network (diagram A).
The benefit of the internet paradigm is that content is now highly customisable and interactive. Iteration was considered a flaw in industrial media products; it is now a central element that gives internet media its worth. The internet paradigm facilitates and requires a decentralized or distributed method of data flow where the audience shapes the media by giving feedback and creates media as a reaction to the media they have had contact with.
This spread of information creates collective intelligence. Memes are a great indicator of collective intelligence and decentralized network participation. Meme’s come from memes. They’re remixes of information that enable the audience to become the maker and engage in a media conversation.
There’s a lot of conversation around the idea that the internet age is causing people to become more selfish, unintelligent, and dependant on instant gratification. This may be true; if you view and interact with media as a passive audience member. However, the more people who start to participate in the media network in meaningful ways actively, the more collective intelligence will develop.
TJ Dawe talks insightfully about the potential benefits of the internet paradigm shift on human nature:
“Every act of collaboration counts. Every time someone switches from a passive consumer to an active contributor counts. There are ways to make the tools the internet age is giving us propel us to greater creativity, productivity and empathy. We can choose to put our heads together and build on what we know and what others know. We’re in the midst of a major technological paradigm shift, but this one is different. Every single one of us has the opportunity to participate in the way it will unfold.”
“Stay active (online),”