Media are social: The coming together of two blogging dynasties

My daughter, Julia, and Jay Rosen’s daughter, Sylvie, have a blog together. They blog about what they know about and care about: American Girl. Yes, it’s a wonderful bit of symmetry that Jay and I, who became friends and virtual colleagues through our blogs, have daughters the same age (fifth grade) and that they became friends and maintain that friendship over distance — one’s a city mouse, the other’s a country mouse — through their blog.

Jay writes about this today in a wonderful post inspired by Clay Shirky’s brilliant speech about creation as the true potential of media and society, versus mere consumption. Clay’s point:

Let’s say that everything stays 99 percent the same, that people watch 99 percent as much television as they used to, but 1 percent of that is carved out for producing and for sharing. The Internet-connected population watches roughly a trillion hours of TV a year. That’s about five times the size of the annual U.S. consumption. One per cent of that is 100 Wikipedia projects per year worth of participation.

Jay brings that down to the level of the individual producer. He says of daughter Sylvie: “She has a foothold on the producer side of the transaction, and understands the Web as an author’s medium.” I agree.

And I see another point: friendship.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a great deal about how the connections and collaboration the internet enables change — improve, I say — the nature of friendship in profound ways that will, in turn, change society in unseen ways. Yesterday, I wrote about ambient intimacy, that is, our ability to stay in touch with the little details of friends’ lives. I’ve argued that the permanence of connections enabled by Facebook links and Google search alters our relationships; this is on my mind because I’m about to write that chapter in my book and because I’m going to see an old friend thanks to Google later this week.

Now add one more dimension: creation as an act of friendship, collaboration as a means of staying in touch, media as a social act. That is what is happening in the American Girl blog: Julia and Sylvie can share by creating. Play is social. Media is play. Social media is fun. (Yes, I used the singular; that’s the subject of an upcoming post.)

This is what I just wrote in my book:

Industries and institutions, in their most messianic moments, tend to view the internet in their own image: Media companies see it is as a medium, believing that online is really about content and distribution. Retailers think it is a store meant for commerce: a catalogue and a checkout. Marketers see it as their means to message (no, message is not a verb, but advertisers love to be ungrammatical). Politicians, too, think it is a home for their messages – and a new means to deliver their junk mail. Cable and phone companies believe the internet is just the next pipe they can control. . . .

The internet is a connection machine. It’s not medium or a market, though it supports them. Instead, it adds a new dimension of links over society, connecting people with information, action, and each other. It is in those connections that value is created, efficiency is found, knowledge is grown, and relationships are formed. Every link and every click is a connection. . . .

Sylvie and Julia are just doing what comes naturally — they’re having fun together. And so I’m sure both of them with will roll their eyes at their crazy dads for blathering on about it here and there and not understanding the point, for making it sound boring, for taking the fun out of it. Sorry, girls, dads will be dads, bloggers will be bloggers, and profs will be profs.