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The background of interactive media

An op-ed on how new technologies affect people's lives

The background of interactive media
5 March 2016

The following article is a reflection on the importance and significance of everyday life, globalization and collective intelligence for the birth of mass media and the consolidation of the information society.

In addition, this article is part of the Interactive Media subject of the UOC Multimedia Degree.

Everyday life

Recently, my father posted a note on Facebook, in which he said the following:

I think the technological obsession is turning into a nightmare. Does hyper technology free us? Maybe from ourselves? Will it be a luxury to have a SELF in the world we are or they are building? Does hyper technology create jobs or rather destroy them at an ever-increasing rate? Anyway, I don't like the world that is coming. I think it is rather terrifying, and dehumanizing..., but in a light way. So that we don't see the face of the monster. But you can already see something and here we have the smiling android...

This is a critical opinion against technology from a 65-year-old person. He has a degree in philosophy, is a professor of history and has been a user of new technologies for as long as he can remember. In any case, it fits quite well within the profile of a person retired from his work activity and who in theory has free time to learn how to use new technologies and to participate in interactive media. His opinion was not new to me, as we had discussed the subject on other occasions. My initial reaction was to defend the benefits of technology for humanity. I replied:

Because of technology, a lot of people have access to information, a lot of diseases are being cured, the universe is being explored and we are able to have this conversation. How technology can be a bad thing? Just because kids use their phones in the table while having lunch with their parents?

The conversation continued with several exchanges of opinions until at the end, he revealed the reason for his frustration:

Between 1987 and 1992 I was between 35 and 40 years old and belonged to the generation of "los reyes del mambo" or "los putos amos" (as they say now). With cassettes, VHS and Fax (the latest technological marvel) we felt fucking great. The 90's arrived and with them came the PC and the Internet and, from being the fucking masters, we became "recyclable material". It is a story that always repeats itself. That's why no one of my generation is crazy about the technologies that dethroned us, nor do we bow down to them. We use them as much as we can, knowing that it will be increasingly difficult for us to keep up to date and even to participate. In all this I am also exaggerating, but it is a way to draw attention to myself and to vent some frustration.

To a certain extent, he is right. New technologies have redefined many aspects of our lives and continue to do so at an exponential rate. In fact, for professionals working in something related to the Internet or new technologies, there is not a year that goes by that we don't have to learn a new paradigm, framework, system, platform, library, software or tool. Learning is continuous and we constantly have to recycle our knowledge of the environment to be able to continue being useful in our profession.

Daily life has changed a lot compared to the 60s and, normally, people who have not grown up in this maelstrom of rapid technological advances are overwhelmed and frustrated. However educated and intellectual they may be, the digital world uses codes, metaphors, systems and virtual environments that require learning. It is necessary to invest time and effort, otherwise, you are doomed to technological ostracism or symbolic and unfruitful participation.

On the other hand, the Millenials and a large part of generation X have adapted to the new times without major complications. After all, we have grown up playing the little machines, witnessing the birth of the Internet and being the pioneers in the consumption and production of everything digital and virtual. Simple acts such as buying a videogame magazine at the newsstand were replaced by a subscription to an online magazine. Napster marked a before and after in music sharing. Recording the neighbor's cassette tape was immediately relegated to the past.

There are countless examples of our daily lives that we have been adapting one by one to the information society until we reach the present, where practically all actions that can be incorporated into the digital world have already done so or will do so soon (read fintech). This process of reconversion of a commercial or industrial analog activity is known as disruption. We have already seen it recently in the case of AirBnB or Uber, which continue to have tensions with professionals who still make a living with the traditional model.


Mass media and the information society also contributed to accelerating the further integration of the world's nations, and the exchange of ideas, products and cultures. This process is known as globalization. The Internet has enabled people in isolated countries to have access to the world's largest source of information and to learn and observe what is happening in other parts of the world. The means of transportation have also helped people to travel and confirm everything we know through the Internet. Therefore, it is a system that feeds back on itself. Users search and share information on the networks and then check that this information is useful in real life. For example, the case of TripAdvisor, an application that gathers thousands of user opinions on hotels, restaurants and places, so that travelers can make informed decisions for their benefit during their trips. Today, fads are no longer isolated phenomena. News is no longer just local. Changes in economies affect every country. Everything is global. Everything is instantaneous. All data flows and affects us to a greater or lesser extent. The people who inhabit the modern, connected world are no longer isolated and dependent on each other.

The enormous amount of data we are generating is leading to the emergence of new scientific disciplines, such as Big Data, whose aim is to analyze massive amounts of data in search of patterns to draw conclusions that can later provide benefits and insights.

Globalization means that people are consuming more and more information. We no longer just consume the local newspaper and chat with neighbors or co-workers. Today, people move around, speak several languages and communicate with colleagues and acquaintances in various time zones around the globe. Our circle of action has expanded significantly and therefore, we increasingly need better means of communication and more entertaining, productive and effective ways of interacting.

Collective intelligence

The mass media has also been fed by another very important movement. The collective intelligence. This movement is more supported by young people since it requires a high level of assimilation about the functioning of the Internet and social networks. It is also the most popular means of expression among people in a position to fight for drastic social and political changes. Collective intelligence emerges from the collaboration and collective efforts of many individuals to make joint and consensual decisions. It is a phenomenon that can be seen at its best in crowdfunding activities, Wikepedia (a free encyclopedia maintained by Internet users), online signature petitions, social networks, online voting systems, online forums and communities such as StackOverflow, etc.

In recent years, we have seen how people have organized themselves to create movements as important as the Arab Spring or 15M. These movements also have a collective intelligence base, as social networks played a major role in their organization and dissemination. These events are unique and novel in the history of mankind, as without the mass media, they could not have reached this level of repercussion. Also, the fact that dictators and repressors censored and cut off the use of the Internet during the Arab Spring, indicates the level of power and influence that this medium has come to have to destabilize an entire country and overthrow governments.

The previous point leads me to talk about another highly topical issue: the US presidential elections. If we take into account that the Internet has become a vitally important medium, it is normal that governments and large corporations want to control it. For this reason, nowadays it is very important to find out about the interests of the different political parties: Who is subsidizing their election campaigns? What are their objectives regarding net neutrality? What is their opinion of organizations such as Wikileaks or people like Edward Snowden...? All these aspects are discussed on social networks like Facebook or Twitter and end up shaping the collective conscience and people's opinions through collective intelligence. Between all of them, objective and transparent data is obtained. It is a way of unveiling the truth. To uncover the liars and manipulators. It is the new policy of citizen participation. Created from collective intelligence and the exchange of data on social networks.


All the phenomena we have talked about feed back on each other and their causes/effects are rich in detail. Another aspect that has led to the success of mass media and the information society is its bidirectional nature. We are no longer talking about TV, radio or the press. Unidirectional media. The Internet allows us to become content producers. Not just consumers. All users have a voice and spaces to share information. The manipulation of society is no longer so easy. Now it is easier to obtain a more objective perspective by gathering the opinions of hundreds of publications (including blogs). We can say that the Internet has democratized information and made it livelier and faster.

Surely, the neutrality of the net and the bidirectionality of communications are the most important factors for its success, since they are the essence, the principles that allow other phenomena such as globalization and collective intelligence to develop. Therefore, our objective as citizens, defenders of free information, democracy and social justice, is to strive to ensure that governments do not legislate to favor the interests of a few and that large corporations do not try to buy governments to favor their interests.

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