It was about 10 years ago that Diana Takata and I founded nextPix with Dr. E Ted Prince, and about eight years ago when I met Mike Neff and we started the SolPix webzine. This new SolPix Blog will continue discussing many of the ideas that were initially put forward on both the nextPix website and the SolPix webzine. I’m glad to be back after a 2-year hiatus from SolPix.

In 2000, in an essay titled ‘The New Media Age’ – and even as early as 1993 in a piece called ‘The Digital Tribe’ — I outlined what I thought were some trends in the media for the future. A lot of what I considered actually came to be – trends that led to YouTube, Social Networking, increasing media fragmentation, micro-niches, media democratization and so on, have come to be reality.

While these trends continue to evolve, we’re also faced with different challenges. While the last twenty years have indeed been revolutionary, driven by a combination of new technology and the War on Terror and the subsequent backlash so many of the Bush policies brought about, we are now in the age of Obama. What does that look like? What is the media future under Obama?

My sense is that this decade will prove to be just as transformative as the last, with much of that transformation, particularly within the United States, involving a continued re-assessment of our core values. While many people are diving headlong into change, many more are trying to hold onto old ways of thinking and old models of behavior.  However, I think that we are in a time that will allow for nothing short of change that could, by the force of events, be extreme, driven to a large extent by continued economic upheaval and shifts. Ultimately, I think we’ll end up in a better place – I guess that makes me an optimist!

So what we might have is an opportunity. For those interested in making media, it can be an opportunity to find oneself in one’s vocation rather than just another way to make a buck. Media people should look to the trend in ‘B’ corporations (more on that below). With the days of Enron, WorldCom, and the Wall Street meltdown (hopefully) behind us, this new socially-responsible business sector should have its mix of media providers. It’s already happening: we have Participant Media, Chicken and Egg, Human Media, DogWoof, Clear Films and nextPix. We need more like them. These companies are promoting a new kind of ‘B’ movie.

Because digital media can, on the low-end, be so cheaply produced, and (with a little talent) can even be of relatively high quality, many documentary filmmakers and citizen journalists have stepped up to the plate, showing us a sea change in media is possible. These filmmakers and journalists have used digital technology as a vehicle to express what their passion is – often in a way that helps others. I am in fact astounded by the number and scope of documentary filmmakers that use cheap digital means to express some form of altruistic intent.

Moreover, the rise of so-called ‘B’ (for Benefit – often hybrid profit-non-profit) corporations reflects the desire of people to connect their values with their wallet. But the idea of businesses being responsible for something more than the bottom line – that companies exist interdependently with both society and the environment and therefore must act responsibly – has yet to take hold in the mainstream media, where such ideas often have little sway.  For one, first amendment rights make any concept of ‘media pollution’ problematic, even though many people feel that there is a lot of media pollution in so-called entertainment – much of which many of us know is patently awful. But unlike environmental pollution, there often isn’t a direct or easy corollary to physical or mental harm – although studies do continually show that certain kinds of media do in fact create negative behaviors.

But legislating morality is, in my view, not the path to media enlightenment. Rather, promotion of humanistic values is a better path. We do not, in my estimation, need another Hays Code.  I have stressed this on the nextPix site and projects and to some degree in the SolPix webzine. What do I mean by ‘humanistic’? My own inspiration comes from three main sources: Italian neo-realist filmmakers, the founder of the New Humanist Movement, Mario Rodriquez Cobos, and the Dalai Lama.

Of the Italians, the films of Rossellini and De Sica had a profound impact on me during my studies at UCLA. What these filmmakers had to say, in the wake of WWII, was profoundly moral and courageous, told through stories of stunning simplicity. Cheaply made, you might call them ‘B’ movies with a purpose.  American Independent filmmakers should look to these masters from Italy for renewed inspiration.

So SolPix is back, and we’re here to give you our two cents worth on what’s going to happen next in the media revolution (or to some, de-volution) we call the 2010’s. It’ll be serious, but not too serious. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, taking oneself too seriously can have a serious (no pun intended) downside. I think we’re all ready for the upside again – even if that winds up being just hanging out and having a good time on the Web.

I’ll share with you what I wrote In 1993. I think it was pretty forward thinking – but then in fairness I got many of the ideas from others who were still more forward thinking. I just happened to be listening.

A revolution in perception

The globalization of media and the proliferation of telecommunications will allow for a break on the hold of traditional media and the view that it purports. Media will become universal and democratic. Many points of view, hundreds or even thousands of points of view, will all be given equal weight. In this new landscape, the information consumer will pick and choose among the vast landscape of information, brought to them through agent software that reflects their very personal perspective.

Neither the State nor the Networks in the name of Democracy can control media content. The whole situation is a floodgate of awareness, because the implications of hundreds or thousands of perspectives being simultaneously available are the seeds of a revolution in perception. That is, the viewer becomes a powerful editor of their own reality. Responsibility for perception shifts from media owners to media perceivers. In turn, the perceivers themselves may add to the overall mix of media, through an increasingly powerful public access infrastructure.

The whole situation will call into question the current media power structures. Technical expertise and understanding of how to create “commercial” media will be in many ways usurped by the ability to resonate powerful truths above the mass of mere information. Media manipulation will become increasingly easy to perceive, call in to question, and address. There will be no secrets anymore, unless we want them because we fear the responsibility of self-awareness. On the other hand, truth will be harder to decipher, and more valuable when it is found. Truth will stand out not through any single perception, any one artist, priest or purveyor of enlightenment, but in the cracks between those perceptions. Relativity becomes not only theory, but perceptual fact, moving from the brain of Einstein to the mass consciousness.

—excerpt from “The Digital Tribe” by Don Thompson, 1993

We’ll start with this blog, and then see where it takes us.  We’ll try to keep it interesting, for sure.

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