Since the advent of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s, our global media environment has been on a rollercoaster ride. A huge industrial age hierarchy of communications bounded by rules and divided out into borders has been disrupted by the rise of a global information network where media can travel anywhere, anytime to anyone. Over this time we have witnessed the largest increase in human expressive capability in human history. For the first time, everyone got a voice. Our hopes were high, armed with wikis, blogs and social media the idea was that the world would become more transparent, censorship would be a thing of the past, injustices would be flagged up, protesters would be empowered in new ways, politicians would be held accountable, the walls would come down.
Many of these prophecies have come true, whole new industries have emerged as huge media platforms have risen to disrupt traditional media companies, we have certainly become more connected, the capacity for people to organize and express their opinions has greatly increased, while brittle political regimes are facing mounting pressure.
The walls have come down, but so to the ceiling that they held up. Over the past decade, the initial euphoria has turned into the highly problematic media environment we find ourselves in today. The issues are many fold, from the loss of trust in media to collapsing business models to the rise of fake news, while freedom of speech finds itself once again under threat around the world.
The information genie is out of the bottle now, the raw power of digital production and mass communication is now in the hands of many, the only question is how can we make the best use of this information technology of the 21st century to make this new information environment like LED lighting, everywhere. Where we could see our world like never before, with incredible detail but also oversight, while being able to fully trust that information.
The question is then how do we create media platforms that work to systematically promote transparency, accuracy, constructive dialogue and the critical thinking required to work towards developing an accurate and shared understanding of the world around us? This paper explores this question and the changing media landscape as it evolves into this new world of networks. We look at some of the major trends outlined above, key changes that need to come about in moving towards a more sustainable model and the new set of decentralized technologies that can enable systems of media production and exchange that are relevant for a network society.