icm2re logo. icm2:re (I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything) is an  ongoing web column  by Brunella Longo

This column deals with some aspects of change management processes experienced almost in any industry impacted by the digital revolution: how to select, create, gather, manage, interpret, share data and information either because of internal and usually incremental scope - such learning, educational and re-engineering processes - or because of external forces, like mergers and acquisitions, restructuring goals, new regulations or disruptive technologies.

The title - I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything - is a tribute to authors and scientists from different disciplinary fields that have illuminated my understanding of intentional change and decision making processes during the last thirty years, explaining how we think - or how we think about the way we think. The logo is a bit of a divertissement, from the latin divertere that means turn in separate ways.


Chronological Index | Subject Index

Summits lost in vapour

About media content innovations

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2020). Summits lost in vapour. About media content innovations. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Print)], 9.2 (February). http://www.icm2re.com/2020-2.html

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2020). Summits lost in vapour. About media content innovations. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Online)], 9.2 (February). http://www.icm2re.com/2020-2.html

The best way to predict the future is to invent it
Alan Kay

What is the end of Fame? 'tis but to fill
A certain portion of uncertain paper:
Some liken it to climbing up a hill,
Whose summit, like all hills, is lost in vapour:
For this men write, speak, preach, and heroes kill,
And bards burn what they call their "midnight taper,"
To have, when the original is dust,
A name, a wretched picture, and worse bust.
LORD BYRON, Don Juan

In a world where you can be anything, be kind
Caroline Flack 1979-2020

London, 16 February - Last month the billionaire Buffett announced he decided to sell his newspapers to his workers, the only ones that seem to have an interest in keeping them running. Buffett is selling his newspaper business for much less than what they originally cost him. […] Increasingly concerned about the business because of declining advertising revenues, [he said] last year that most newspapers were “toast”. (Forbes, 29 Jan 2020)

Modern media outfitters have been the global playground (and main stage, of course!) of incredible inventions and innovations in information and communication technologies for the last two hundred years, since the invention of the industrial press in the 1830s.

Press barons and media moguls, professional journalists and untiring comedians and technicians are all reinventing themselves at all times, but always complaining about the pace of change. There is, in fact, an incredible turnover in the sector, with people usually pressurised to be (and convinced they are) able to be flexible and creative in unrealistic and unhealthy ways.

So that “what’s next for the newspapers industry” (or for the whole of the traditional printing, publishing and broadcasting sectors) is a question that has been hanging in the air for a while, with the allure, anxiety or menace of the “new” always over the corner not just now because “the Kardashians have dragged celebrity culture into its second era, the social media period” (Cashmore,2019).

Technological innovation is a permanent feature of the modern media world, engineered around its lifecycles. Don’t get lost in its vapours!

Should you concentrate, again and again, on the context in which media are produced and influenced or manipulated, including, of course, the ICT components? Or isn’t more useful and healthful sometimes to take a break and consider that contents creation and consumption is what justifies the existence of the media system?

A broader perspective is what I believe could be beneficial to the whole media ecosystem. Think about historical development routes, beyond the current fixed boxes of mobile advertising or other tv and smartphones’ requirements and formats.

There must be something else other than the dramatic manipulation of people personality rights in the scripted reality or constructed reality shows: Celebrity culture may be momentary but there are no signs that it’s fading - writes an expert observer of the phenomenon (Cashmore, 2019) - quite the reverse: new areas of society are being affected. Politics, religion, the arts and public health have all been substantially changed by our unprecedented obsession with the famous.

And recent studies show that “excessive devotion to a favorite celebrity is linked to attitudes and behaviors that are psychologically unhealthy and may predict low life satisfaction” (Aruguete et al. 2019).

In sum, there is plenty of material to work with out there.

Media productions and consumption in perspective

If you are on the verge of a breakdown or you have been affected by job cuts and reorganisations, a simple way to manage substantial personal and professional change consists in taking time off to study or review the history of the media genres, personalities or celebrities you are familiar with or you find interesting. Make social space around you, take your distance, look back.

What did people spend their leisure time with before tv, radio and social media, or before the internet or even earlier, in the 18th and 19th Centuries? All right, it was sad but … there is no ultimate technology that can satisfy the fundamental need of continuous change of genres, style, relationships between popular leaders and their audiences for the purpose of creating and disseminating news and gossips. This is what the media industry is all about!

Not waves, not webs, but… wipeouts! You should therefore see how to manage this process, not be crushed by it, and transform the things that matter to you in sustainable, enjoyable ways.

The start of Lord Byron’s Don Juan tells everything about the scope of the content creation process:

I want a hero: an uncommon want,
When every year and month sends forth a new one […]

Successful media businesses constantly reinvent their heroes. The creativity we see around in the media world at present looks in general very poor, often abusive, aggressive and unhealthy. There is space for improvements in the ways media poke at people lives. Go and look for your new heroes and… may you also find a new you!

Dispatches from the front line

This is what did, for instance, Michael Herr when he approached the biography of Walter Winchell (Herr, 1989). Herr was not new to subversions of genres’ codes (in his book on the Vietnam war, Dispatches, he had already experimented the juxtaposition of films script and textual chronicles).

Walter Winchell was a famous gossips columnist the life and work of whom epitomizes the entire celebrity culture of the media industry of the 20th Century.

Prohibitionism spawned his career according to John Mosedaile, who published “The man who invented broadway” in 1981. But his contemporaries were more keen on interpreting his work as evidence of the slander, libel and nasty political corruption that impregnated the tabloids and gossips columns for about thirty years, between the 1920s and the 1950s.

Some dedications of his biographers have caught my attention while, by chance, I was browsing other books next to Herr’s one. They reveal the depth of emotional impact Winchell’s work had on colleagues, celebrities and biographers: “to all those who have ever been hurt by irresponsible gossip columnists” (Stuart, 1953) or “for my beloved daughters and for all those who stand outside the corridors of power and privilege” (Gabler, 1994) - for instance.

The connections Winchell had with acquaintances, political and economic ties, friends and enemies were scrutinised with new attention after the FBI released the records they had on him in 1984. Possibly it was because of these records that Michael Herr decided to rediscover him? Herr’s biography is in itself a reinvention of the genre, starting from the title: Walter Winchell: A novel. The book seems in fact an anticipation of reality tv scripts! Could have been possible to further glamourise Walter Winchell life in the biopic movie with Stanley Succi, Golden Globe in 1998, without Herr’s novel?

Who knows! Other authors have later recognised Winchell’s pioneering role, projecting on him the shifting of taste towards factual and reality tv: he did not just invent the modern gossip column - wrote Gabler in 1994. - He became an opinion-maker largely because he understood […] that gossip was a weapon of empowerment for the reader and listener. Invading the lives of the famous and revealing their secrets brought them to heel. He humanised them and in humanising them demonstrated that they were no better than we and in many cases worse. (Gabler, 1994)

I personally do not find any attraction in the idea of “humanising" others as people, generally speaking, seem to me always human enough! but I do not watch the telly. When I do, after few minutes I feel embarrassed for all the people doing their cooking, washing, crying and laughing in front of the camera, as I do not feel the need to socialise intimacy. But I appreciate I am not a very social person, whereas people tend to like the idea that creativity, interactions, connections and confrontation or imitation spring from a social life full of chatting, whispering, lurking. Could Gabler have reframed Winchell’s character if Herr had not already reviewed it?

Winchell died of cancer, made donations, had a family devastated by suicides and mental health issues. His actual life was allegedly plenty of sadness (Machlin, 1981), not differently from the life of the celebrities and celetoids he allegedly victimised - but I must also say that it is not my scope to verify how much of his biography actually consists in an amassment of paparazzis allegations. Hearsay and vindictive or celebrative gossips have been consistently feeding the press for the last two centuries - fake news have a long unknown and mostly hidden tradition.

The future of publishing is so interesting because - writes Andre Schriffin (Davis, 2019) - publishing is a microcosm of the different societies in which it exists and a mirror of the way in which modern capitalism has evolved. Make it yours… before it’s gone!

References

Aruguete, M.S. et al. (2019) Are measures of life satisfaction linked to admiration for celebrities? Mind & Society, volume 18,  pages 1–11. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11299-019-00208-1

Cashmore, E. (2014). Celebrities culture. Routledge. Second edition.

Cashmore, E. (2019). Kardashian Kulture. How celebrities changed life in the 21st Century. Century Emerald Publishing.

Davis, C. ed. (2019). Print cultures. A reader in theory and practice. Red Glob Press, 2019.

FBI (1984). Walter Winchell [Collection]. Retrieved from http://vault.fbi.gov/popularculture

Gabler, N. (1994) Walter Winchell: gossip power and the culture of celebrity. Picador.

Herr, M. (1989) Walter Winchell a novel. Picador.

Machlin, M. (1981) The gossip wars: an expose’ of the scandal era. Star.

Mosedaile, J. (1981) The men who invented broadway. Richard Morek Publishers.

Pew (2019). Newspapers are a critical part of the American news landscape, but they have been hit hard as more and more Americans consume news digitally. Pew Research Center July 9, 2019 Retrieved from https://www.journalism.org/fact-sheet/newspapers/

Rojek, C. (2001). Celebrity. Reaktion Books.

Turner, G. (2006). The mass production of celebrity. International Journal of Cultural Studies. International Journal of Cultural Studies 9 (2) 153-165. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/1367877906064028

Warren Buffett Sells More Than 30 Local Newspapers For $140 Million, Forbes, 29 January 2020. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/sergeiklebnikov/2020/01/29/warren-buffett-sells-more-than-30-local-newspapers-for-140-million/#ab6e8a6577de

Weiner, E.H. (1955). Let’s go to press. Retrieved from Internet Archive https://archive.org/stream/letsgotopressabi011181mbp/letsgotopressabi011181mbp_djvu.txt

Wiener, J.H. (2011). The Americanisation of the British Press 1830s - 1914: speed in the age of transatlantic journalism. Springer. Retrieved from Google Books