Weapons of Mass Construction

I had a provoking thought the other night about the power and democratising effects of mobile technology when I attended a Faithless gig at the MEN Arena in Manchester on Saturday. The lights went down – and I could see an ocean of  Smart Phone handsets lighting up the whole arena as people texted and took photos of the venue.

The main act started and the lead Singer Maxi Jazz was making a few good points in his lyrics, reinforced by a series of LED news tickers on the stage. The messages I was hearing were about pertinent, current, social and world issues in the world regarding environmental degradation, war exploitation, etc. All very worthy stuff, and with a captive audience of 25,000 his messages couldn’t fail to hit the mark. With the audience cheering readily at his proclamations, he had definitely hit the mark.

This “event” got me thinking about a conversation I heard on the radio last week regarding how news topics being driven via online services such as Google trends, as well as social networking services – and how a growing section of the corporate mainstream media – particularly in the US – were increasingly determining their news agenda on the basis of search topics, and trending phrases, allowing them to immediately plug into the “trend of the moment” via Google.

As the market for TV news is incredibly saturated; the news corporation that can successfully capture the public mood – or tap into the current issues of interest in the general population will become more relevant, and steal a lead on the competition – and – will always have the “issue of the moment” on their screens at the right time – every time, allowing for immediate, highly current, “Zeitgeist Broadcasting”.

It just stuck me there and then at the gig, that ordinary people could actually shape the corporate news agenda and alert the news corporations as to what the current, pertinent news stories of worth were.

This led me on to thinking about the phenomenon of “Googlebombing” which is a practice  intended to influence the ranking of particular pages in results returned by the Google Trends section of the search engine. So by reckoning – if the Maxi Jazz were to have asked everybody in the Arena with a internet equipped handset to type a phrase such as “Peak Oil”, or “no students fees” or “release Liu Xiaobo” or another phrase  into Google – then there would have been a massive surge in the search term in the Manchester area. Maybe the Manchester Evening News or north West Tonight may have run an article on “Peak Oil” or Liu Xiaobo the following night?

So I wonder – in the right hands – with the right circumstances, the correct phrase, and the a host of willing participants –  could we use mobile technology to actively shape the news agenda to reflect the wishes aspirations and interests of the people? now that would have a democtratising effect on the media, and become a force of mass constuction…

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