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I remember the early days in my advertising career when the Creative Director would occasionally break into spurts of wisdom and bellow “Content is King!” and we’d drown our brains into storming it’s most unfrequented parts to come up with an award winning idea. Long gone are those days and long lost is the crown which now possibly is in possession of the court Jester [think funny men on Twitter].

In this age of constant content generation and instant, free distribution, anyone and everyone is a publisher and broadcaster. Quantity has superseded quality. Alarming as it maybe, while traditional media still works in the prescribed hierarchy, the new media is where the King has lost his crown. Personalized Youtube channels, Vine, Twitter accounts, Facebook brand pages, Instagram feeds give the humble user a power over the editor.
I cannot think of a better example of this than the humble beginnings of our beloved internet sensation, Justin Bieber. Bieber, who released his debut album, My World, in November 2009, went from an unknown singer whose mother posted YouTube clips of her boy performing, to a budding superstar with a record deal in just two years.

Has the advent of this new media given rise to commoditised publishing?

“In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium – that is, of any extension of ourselves – result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.” McLuhan in Understanding Media.

Once upon a time content equated to an award, now it’s just a filler.

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For long the broadcast media has operated as sole provider of mass information. Public announcements, political campaigns, celebrity gossip, you name it and we’ve always been ‘fed’ by an all controlling ‘Big Brother’. Much like the central idea of Foucault’s panopticism. The systematic ordering and controlling of human populations through subtle and often unseen forces. Audiences for these media, their behaviors structured through the panoptic management of perception.

But with the advent of self generated content, the media landscape is fast changing. The power of information seems to have been diluted. Scholars like TIm Mathesin have argued that the now synoptic relationship of the media and the audience is based on the notion of an consumer agency where private information is consciously bartered for a perceived benefit. The urban ‘synoptic’ provides an exclusive interactivity. Neo-liberalization as it is called brings the shift in class relations.

Looking at the campaign by Cape Times Famous Photos Reimagined as Selfies, it is no longer ‘how fast you get the news’ but ‘how close can you get to the news’. Words like ‘selfie’ didn’t even exist as late as one year ago.  It’s only a matter of time before Oxford decides to include ‘selfie’ and ‘photobomb’ [along with ‘twerking’ but that’s for a later rambling] in the English dictionary. While it’s not uncommon for a language to evolve through times, it is rather interesting to see the reasons behind the evolution.

Is this a shift from the Panoptic to the Synoptic?

Princess KatherineCape_Times_05 cape-times-selfies-2