Sunday, 19 July 2009


The cliche about social media is that it gives the consumer power. The consumer transforms through self-expression, and disintermediation from a passive social agent into an activist: a citizen-consumer. The citizen consumer can cut out the traditional media and rely on other citizen-consumers for news and opinion. With this in mind I recently re-watched the excellent TV series, Century of the Self by Adam Curtis (see below for clip).

I asked myself: "How much economic and political power does social media really give to the citizen consumer? And is this a way of getting rid of the supposed policeman inside all of our heads?"

The clip shows how some thinkers saw/see advertising as a corrupting force, where instead of creating an identity for yourself, you simply bought one from the market as a means of self-expression. There is a long held belief in society that advertising manipulates and corrupts, and somehow the practitioners are involved in some kind of mind control, which forces ordinary people to buy things they do not want to buy. If only it was that easy. This is a fanciful belief when you look at how much rubbish advertising there is out there that is irrelevant to the public conversation.

Social media is supposed to be the ultimate force for self-expression, and Generation Y its ultimate purveyor. With social media, and its opportunities for self-expression, what do we search for and write about in this new age of un-mediated self-expression?

On Youtube this month's most popular are Samsung's Extreme Sheep LED viral, and a Pussycat Dolls video, and this month's top searches are American Idol, and Lindsay Lohan. And the top blogs listed on Technorati are generally gossip blogs.

It's also worth remembering this guy on YouTube who has over 1M subscribers

There we go. It seems it wasn't someone else who put the policeman in our heads after all. We put it there ourselves. The policeman is our own desires.

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