Narrowcast disunity: where does it lead?

There was a news story recently, and I wondered , “if this is reported in other countries, how is it reported?”.  In other words, how would the story look from a different perspective. I tried setting my google search to another country, and searching to see what would result. In fact I tried different search engines and several different countries, but each time I found basically the same stories.

Then I realised, search engines will always display the same stories when I search, because they use my IP address and the MAC address of my computer to access a profile they have built, and will always return only the perspectives and stories they feel resonate with that profile.

Conclusion: Not only can it be impossible to see stories from the perspective of those in other countries, it can even be impossible to even see stories from the perspective of those within the same country who have a different view from my own. Does this matter, and how did we get to this point?

  • From Broadcast to Narrowcast.
  • The significance of Perspective

From Broadcast to Narrowcast

We have transitioned from all of society with a common unifying news source to a society where the perspective of news delivered to each individual can be tailored to their own preferences.

Newspapers, Radio and then television all delivered the same version of events to the entire population. There was a choice of source of news, but everyone was exposed to the same choice. When broadcast dominated, everyone in a community received basically the same news, and the heard the same interpretations of that news.  With few alternative sources, each source of news was seeking to appeal at least the majority, if not the total population, and attract the largest possible audience.

Cable TV introduced the first taste of narrowcast.

Cable TV meant there could be over 40 channels available, and success for an individual cable channel could therefore mean as few 2.5% of the community.  This number of channels enabled niche programming. This provides programming for minorities, and not just those traditionally identified as minorities, but any fringe group from within society.

The internet, YouTube and social media took the next step. In place of 40 or 80 channels, there were now infinite channels. In place of programming for a larger number of channels, content could now be unique. Anything from the whole world watching the same event, through to each individual watching unique content. So much content, that it becomes impossible to discover all possible content, which leads to search engines and algorithims targeting individul preferences making personalised recommendations.

We have now reached the point where what you can see can be filtered by ‘gatekeepers’ of information, providing the information their algorithms indicate you want to see.

Everyone in the world can still watch the same event, but that same event can be watched from many different perspectives, and what perspective you see may be determined by the web sites you use to discover content, and their application of data to select what is best to reveal, in order to maximise their revenues.

The significance of Perspective

to be continued

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