The 'Me' Daily

The first few days of my week have been spent on the bucolic, humid, mosquito-infested shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay. It is the Spring iMedia Buyer's Summit, where the "crème de la crème" of the online media planning and publishing business meet and discuss the latest activities and trends in the online media and marketing space.

Now, it is often times the case at these things that the most compelling feature of the event is that the best things to come out of them are interpersonal engagements that don't ordinarily have an opportunity to take place. Agency people in particular are notorious for not talking to each other much and exchanging ideas. But at these kinds of events, you have a few days to encounter a good number of people and exchange ideas. So often we in the agency community sit in our nerd nurseries working on solutions to problems never knowing what other agencies do with similar problems. But here, there is an opportunity for open dialogue and a chance to experience real thesis-antithesis-synthesis.



The organized content I have typically found to be at least interesting, if not terribly insightful. After all, if you are good enough at your job to end up at the iMedia Buyer's Summit, most of the content that is covered off on is something with which you should already be familiar.

But one such session of organized content that really had me thinking was a Q & A session with Esther Dyson, the publisher of Release 1.0 newsletter and general digerati seer. There were many things she said that was worth making note of, but one thing in particular struck a nerve with me. It was about something I myself have spent a great deal of time thinking about.

It was about the phenomenon of personalization and consumer control over media. The way she titled it for the purposes of conceptualization was "The Me Daily."

The idea is this: when it comes to content, the more that is left in the hands of the consumer the more that consumer will likely be satisfied. But there is a concern that as a citizen of a healthy democratic society, such hyper-personalization is not so good. This is because it leaves one lacking in exposure to difference and therefore intolerant and ultimately hostile to that which is "other." From a marketing perspective, this means that there could one day be little or no opportunity to "introduce" new products or services to audiences because they are only exposed to pre-selected content and advertising. But this is even more dangerous because of the limiting effect this hyper-personalization has on a civil, open, and healthy society in which the luxuries to which we have become accustomed, both culturally and materially, will ultimately be curtailed.

We are already seeing the effects that fragmented media and hyper-personalization has on culture now. America and her audiences already started becoming more inward and, ostensibly, isolated, by the end of the 20th century.

Apathy is the first luxury that is afforded to us in exchange for the generalities to which we used to have to be exposed. This is made possible because we aren't paying attention to anything other than ourselves, and as long as we think that we, qua "self," are okay (and why wouldn't we?) there is nothing to worry about. We no longer see ourselves in a larger context because we no longer live in one. Our personal contests have become only those between ourselves and our appetites - these appetites themselves driven by public imagery of our own choosing.

We currently exist in a virtual solipsistic meme sphere that can successfully serve as nothing more than the confirmation of our biases, leaving us to know only about a world of our own making. We become ripe for fascism when the cloister in which we live serves to affirm only what we already think rather than presenting us with facts relative to that which we do not know. That about which we don't know tends to cause fear. Fear causes anger, and anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

Public imagery found in the "Me Daily" is a drop cloth unfurled over the arena of public discourse and deliberation, and serves as the catch-canvas for the splatter of personal desires and errata. That mess itself replaces and becomes for the individual the arena for public, civil existence. The problem of course is that this is an illusion. It may be an arena, but there is only insular self standing in it.

Since this arena, from the perspective of the individual, looks as though it is populated because it is presented to him or her by personalized media as being wholly formed, the individual has no reason to believe that the perspective presented them through hyper-personalized content is anything other than "Truth."

If this is true, could there be an opportunity for an alternative? Is there a chance - a need - for an "Us Daily?" Is there a market where those who are starved for multiplicity can go? Strangely, in the same way the Internet has made the most extreme editions of "The Me Daily" possible, so it can provide a multiplicity of perspective not found anywhere else.

It is true for a biological system that diversity makes for stronger species. I think this holds true for all systems, and media is no different. It is bio-diversity that makes for better, more durable life forms and the same can be true for the media animal kingdom.

There is nothing wrong with reading a few sections of the "Me Daily," but just once in a while you might want to pick up a copy of another paper and see whether or not the rest of the world is still out there. Otherwise, you risk becoming extinct.

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