Opinion

Self-selected news, anyone?

Zan Azlee

Zan Azlee is a documentary filmmaker, journalist, writer, New Media practitioner and lecturer. He runs Fat Bidin Media www.fatbidin.com

APRIL 13 — As a content consumer, I love New Media for everything that it is, which is an endless information source of content consumption.

Anyone from anywhere who is interested in anything can find it in New Media. It’s really just a limitless, almost infinite source.

If you like mainstream music or even the weirdest kind of genre, you can definitely find it in New Media.

If you like politics (from the local, comical kind to the most complicated American kind), you can definitely find it in New Media.

If you like alternative sports like BMX, skateboarding or body mutilation, you can definitely find it in New Media.

I can go on and on harping about the wholesome goodness of New Media as compared to traditional and conventional media. But hear me out now.

This wasn’t the case when only conventional media such as television or newspapers were the only media around.

Niche content media weren’t able to enter the market since the barrier was tougher (expensive!) and when a broad spectrum of content is available only through a limited number of media, that broad spectrum of content would have to cater to the masses only.

Basically, New Media today has allowed even the most niche content to find a significantly-sized audience to warrant an existence.

This would mean that there is so much more content now available out there to everyone. Hence, society would be more knowledgeable.

But is this really the case? Just think about it carefully.

With so much information and content out in New Media, content aggregators started emerging, such as the almighty Google.

 With the ability provided by these aggregators to customise the kind of information that they prefer, users get exactly what they are interested in.

People interested in skateboarding would only receive content about skateboarding and those who are interested in fat porn will only receive fat porn.

Now, when users are able to only filter in what they are interested in, this means that they will only be exposed to the things they are interested in.

Take me, for example. I would only be consuming content that I like such as liberal politics, liberal Islam, women in yoga pants, etc.

I would really just ignore anything that I didn’t like or agree with since it wouldn’t be of any interest to me. I would be living in my own little world.

Now if this is the case, what do you think would happen to the knowledge and intellectual level of the people?

It would deteriorate, as people would only be looking for information that reaffirms how they think and not entertain anything other, hence, no critical thinking.

So, instead of becoming more knowledgeable and intellectually diverse, people would start breaking up into clusters that are like individual frogs under a coconut shell.

There would be no such things as general knowledge or common sense and everyone would not know what is going on outside of their little coconut shell.

Now this isn’t something of a new idea that I just thought of out of the blue while staring at my computer screen.

New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof calls this “Self-selected News” while MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte calls it “The Daily Me.”

But it is definitely something that interests me as a media consumer, creator and academic. So what should be done? That’s easy.

With so much information available in New Media, we should seek out as much information as possible, especially those that go against our beliefs and principles.

Then at least we can evaluate and re-evaluate our thinking so as to develop and be more knowledgeable. So I say yay to always having different kinds of media around.

Long live 1Malaysia.com, The Star, New Straits Times, Utusan, TV3, RTM, The Malaysian Insider, MalaysiaKini, The Rocket, Harakah and yes, even Malaysia Today!

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

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