11 May 2016

Alternative media: Nervana Mahmoud and Matt Sienkiewicz

Professor Matt Sienkiewicz, who teaches courses in global media cultures and media theory at Boston College, invited Nervana Mahmoud, a British blogger of Egyptian extraction, whose insightful articles could be read on her blog Nervana, to join him in a lively discussion in his weekly podcast session on Media Studied Podcast.

Although I am not a fan of podcasts, vastly preferring written text, which allows me to get the same input in a fraction of the time it takes to listen to a conversation, the subject of the podcast linked above* was of a personal interest to me, and I recommend it very much. At the tail end of the podcast you will hear a few minutes of Nervana talking about herself, so don't miss it.

Since the subject is of more than just passing interest to me, I would like to throw in my two pennies. First of all, alternative media (which yours truly, being a blogger for more than 10 years now, contributes to as well), taken as a whole, is quite similar to what a wise man (Carl Sagan?) said about the Internet, comparing it to a huge garbage bin. Yes, you could find pearls, including pearls of wisdom and pearls of knowledge, in that bin, but you have to search carefully and discriminately.

It is not that the mainstream media is free from garbage, far from it. An interesting phenomena related to garbage happened when the blogosphere started to emerge as a significant competing factor. First ignoring the blogosphere, the mainstream media sites switched to grudging acceptance, providing links to the more popular blogs from their articles on related subjects. This period of acceptance passed and the MSM opened a real no holds barred war against blogosphere, best illustrated by the famous Tom Friedman's histrionics.

With time the blogosphere fortunes have somewhat diminished, mostly due to encroaching of Facebook, Twitter and similar media carriers that provided more immediacy. But so have the fortunes of the MSM. Closure of printed papers, diminished return from on-line advertisement, increasing competition for surfers - all this is still going on. Meanwhile a curious thing happened with the much vaunted veracity of the MSM. Their finances restricted, much less investment in rigorous fact checking is allowed, which makes the MSM no less error-prone than their competing alternative media. On the other hand, in order to tame the hated alternate media, many MSM sites have taken to adoption of bloggers, with most (if not all) opening themselves for independent writers in their "Blogs" or "Opinions" sections.

In short we are watching a media transformation in its initial stages, and it is not for me (but definitely for Matt Sienkiewicz and his colleagues) to tell us where it is all going.

We shall see.

Yeah, and meanwhile listen to that podcast.

(*) Well, most of the podcast, since the middle part, related to the looming US elections and the rather disappointing crop of pretenders this year, was something I've sweared to lay off for the duration. I shall better stick my head into a microwave...