Active versus Passive Media

In the early days, the Internet was an active medium.  The experience of exploring the world wide web was called “surfing the Internet”. The Internet was analogous to a huge  sea, with waves and currents and winds, but the user navigated among these forces directing his experience as his interests required.

When you opened your web browser you might be presented with a few things, “best of the web” or “top sites” but very shortly you were off on a voyage directed by you. With use over time you accumulated places you wanted to revisit and they referred you to other places of similar interest.

Contrast the passive media: Television, newspapers, radio. You could choose on a very large grandular level what station to watch or newspaper to read, but beyond that you turned over your experience to the producers of that content.

Early in the Internet powerful people realized how power was slipping from their hands by self directed media. There  were attempts to make the Internet experience similar to the passive media.  Microsoft put active desktop on every windows laptop. Active desktop would feed Internet items (selected by Microsoft) to your personal computer for you to passively enjoy. Cel phones had “feeds”of one sort or another built in, often not removable. Again you could consume media information that more powerful, richer people selected for you.  Neither met with much success.

However, Facebook and Twitter are fairly successful Since one obviously cannot curate from the firehouse of information put up each second on these platforms, the user sees only a minuscule portion of the communications sent out. That minuscule portion is decided by people more powerful and richer than you.

These new one way media became supremely popular. I do not know why but I could try some guesses. Still, they are new iterations of passive media and as such are instruments of control instead of liberating.