Getting Together

Getting togetherOnce upon a time, long-distance collaboration with others wasn't so easy. You'd have to find each other to begin with, and assuming that part was successful, there were technical barriers to overcome. You'd need compatible software, and of course some way to connect the respective computers. It was challenging, and expensive to do right. While the larger organizations could finance and implement the required hardware and software, smaller operations were often unable to participate in any meaningful way. And for the motivated but underfunded individual, the idea of running with the big dogs was just short of ludicrous.

Man, have things ever changed. Now the challenge lies more in keeping too much of the world from insinuating itself into your consciousness; for better or for worse, nearly everyone has some sort of Web presence now, not to mention the often-abused ability to mass-mail the news of that presence straight to your inbox. On the more positive side, this also makes it easy, and cheap, to advertise desirable products and services, or collaborate with desirable people regardless of physical proximity. The falling cost of hardware combined with the increasing speed of data transfer have created remarkable opportunities for small organizations—and individuals—to explore ideas that would have been impractical, if not impossible, in the not so distant past.

Digital audio and video products are now within the reach of many, while ubiquitous broadband connections provide the high-speed transport required for their implementation as wide-area communication tools. The essentials—computers and rudimentary software—have been affordable for some time, so the framework is generally in place already. The missing ingredients of motivation and content are supplied by those with the desire and the aptitude to contribute something of value; it's no longer a question of cost, or contact. Mass media's content is increasingly dictated by those who consume it, but also by the new ways in which it's presented. Every enhancement in software capability brings the consumer one step closer to the role of publisher, broadcaster, or journalist. When it becomes impossible to identify significant differences between the fruits of the professional and those of the professional amateur, it won't be due to a lack of education or talent on the part of media professionals; it will have more to do with new tools in the hands of those who've been waiting for a level playing field.

One of [the] outstanding facts of the net era is that the costs for like-minded people to find each other and work together are falling rapidly.

Jay Rosen


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