Internet Platforms Are Something New. But What Does “New” Mean?

August 12, 2018

“New” is an interesting concept. A new car suggests a vehicle that emits the mix of polyvinyls, warm electronics, and snake oil. “New” in a camp in Yemen means a T shirt abandoned by a person and claimed by another. “New” in a temple in Kyoto means repairs made a century ago.

But I learned in “Platforms Are Not Publishers”:

Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the internet are not media. They are something new we do not yet fully understand.

Would it be helpful to have the context and intended connotation of “new” defined?

Nah, after the Internet revolution, everyone knows the meaning of the word.

The problems generated when flows of data rip across the digital landscape is that these bits and bytes erode. The impact is more rapid but less easy to detect than the impact of a flash flood gushing through the streets of a Rio hillside slum.

The notion that commercial enterprises are the context. The platforms emerged from the characteristics of digital technology; that is, concentration, velocity, disintermediation, etc.

The large platforms are like beavers. Put a beaver in the observation deck of the Chrysler Building in Manhattan and the beavers are going to do what beavers do. They may die, but their beaverness makes them behave in a way that to some degree is predictable.

I like the idea that individuals in the “media”—another term which warrants defining—have to shoulder some of the blame. Better hurry. I am no longer sure how long the real media and the real journalists will survive.

Their future will be finding a way to exploit the digital flows.

In short, Internet platforms today are not much different from the BRS, DataStar, Dialog, and Lexis type systems before the Internet.

What’s different is the scope, scale, and speed of today’s digital flows. In the context of the information environment (what I continue to call the datasphere) is unchanged.

The problem is that today’s digital experts have a limited perception of “new” and the context of online systems and services.

In short, too late folks. Russia, Turkey, Iran, and other countries have figured out that the shortest distance between A and B is censorship.

Censorship is now a content fashion trend. That’s “new” as in governments are punching the “off” button. The action may be futile, but it is a reminder that old school methods may deliver because responsible commercial organizations ignore what may be their “duty.” Publishing? What’s that?

Stephen E Arnold, August 12, 2018

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