Advertisers bid for words. The successful bidder for, let us say, the word COMPUTER will have his ad placed on the top right side of the screen every time someone types COMPUTER into the Google search box. The advertiser is happy because his ad is directed to a targeted audience (those who are, for whatever reason, interested in computers which he happens to sell). It turns out that it costs an advertiser under 10 dollars for each new customer compared with about 50 dollars when he advertises on television and 40 dollars when he advertises in a newspaper [BATTELLE]. Users are happy because they have access to the best and most relevant information on the left side of the screen and need never even glance across to the right side unless they are interested in buying a computer.|
Having advertisers pay so that we have free access to media is not a new idea. This is how we initially had free radio and free television. However, we are now willing to pay for satellite radio and for cable television because we found there was a catch. Advertisers could influence the programming which interrupted their ads. Since they wanted many eyeballs, the programming had to cater to the lowest common denominator. Thus, it had to focus on entertainment that the mass audience preferred over enlightenment. Could you imagine a program called Enlightenment Tonight every night in prime time and a rival network coming up with Inside Harvard to compete? Two billion people watch the Oscars - how many people would watch the Nobels? To compete in this market, news and documentary programs, which should be based on enlightenment, turn to entertainment. They have to be "interesting" and, alas, what most of us are interested in is drama, especially drama in which other people are suffering. If it bleeds, it leads.
The acquisition of YouTube by Google presents an interesting contrast to the acquisition of AOL by Time-Warner. They are in the process of earning, rather than losing, billions of dollars. Time-Warner/AOL had the traditional behavioristic concept of the person. They assumed that the millions of subscribers to AOL would passively purchase the books and films of Time-Warner. Google/YouTube, on the other hand, had the humanistic and interactionistic concept of the person. They provide their clients with the means of being active and interactive. Subsequent meetings of the New School of Athens should include those younger people who are more at home with this fourth generation of media.
Andy Clark suggests that the acquisition of those extrasomatic tools is not simply a piggy-backing of cultural evolution on biological evolution. We are not simply hunter-gatherers in new technological clothing. We are natural-born cyborgs, primed to merge with media [CLARK]. Those media do not simply extend minds but change minds. The media become part of the processing system rather than simply the content that is being processed. We learn to read and then we read to learn. People are changed by the media they acquire early in life when the nervous system is still forming. Young people raised with the third and fourth generations of video- and computer-based media are different from people of my generation (I don't remember using the telephone or watching television before leaving Scotland. I was 20 when I left!). They have skills we lack and should be recruited.
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