by: Lynette Webb

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Image from Flickr CC

“Fragmentation” has been a been buzzword in media circles ever since the arrival of multi-channel TV, huge growth in magazine titles, etc. From this the concept of ‘niche media’ emerged. When the Internet came along, this added another dimension… and now the rise of user generated content has added even more fuel to the fire. We’re already at the point where the term “mass media” is used half-ironically, as slang simply for the traditional big media names… But the so-called mass media of today are small fry compared to their counterparts 20 years ago.

I picked this particular image to illustrate it because I think it captures the spirit of what’s happening. A combination of things occurred in quick succession (broadband, emergence of support services like youtube, etc) and it was like they lit a touch-paper which can’t be fully controlled. But the cap is also symbolic as a reminder not to take the current blossoming of online creativity for granted. Whether it be copyright / libel suits based on antiquated laws, or attempts to block access to content (be they politically or commercially motivated), there will always likely be hiccups … As an analogy, consider how online music started out being brilliant for consumers back in the hey days of P2P (Napster, Audiogalaxy etc) when you really could find ANYTHING… then came the clampdown… only now are we beginning to get back the richness in variety of what’s on offer, but it’s taken years. 

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