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No David, Social Media Won’t Kill Culture

If you're going to take credit, make sure it's yours to take.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

Social media won’t kill culture.

First: Fuck you, David.

I bought a paper copy of Esquire today and turned to page 26 (yes, that’s how many ads I had to get through before reach­ing the edit­or­’s note). 

There, the edit­or David Granger writes that the “treas­ured assump­tion of the digir­ati” was that the digit­al revolu­tion would cause the end of record labels, book pub­lish­ers, and movie stu­di­os. “But it did­n’t, ha!”

The dis­in­ter­me­di­ation,” he con­cludes, “is free­ing tra­di­tion­al media out­lets like Esquire, enabling us to expand our horizons.”

That’s all well and good, David. 

Traditional media out­lets must adapt to digit­al-first — or fade away. However, when tra­di­tion­al Mad Media Men and the Copyright Mafia yelled at the top of their lungs, “Social media will kill cul­ture, and journ­al­ism will die,” we said:

No, that’s not how this digit­al stuff works.”

Social media can­’t kill cul­ture.
Social media is culture.

Second: Culture won’t die (and journ­al­ism won’t either). New rev­en­ue mod­els are emer­ging out of the ashes — exactly as we, “the digir­ati,” pre­dicted. To our point, the inter­net has proven to be an amp­li­fi­er of human cul­ture, not a destroyer.

So, let’s set the record straight.

What happened was that record labels, book pub­lish­ers, and movie stu­di­os com­plained and moaned. But in the end, their whin­ing fell on deaf ears. And so they were forced to adapt.

Exactly like we, “the digir­ati,” pre­dicted.
And tra­di­tion­al media hated us for it.

For the largest part, the digit­al­isa­tion of soci­ety will be a good thing for human­ity — pos­sibly also allow­ing Esquire to “expand its hori­zons.” And I’m pleased that Granger feels the need to acknow­ledge this, even as late as 2011. 

Never too late for a change of heart, right?

So, in the spir­it of change, hear us this time around. Traditional media is still down for the count, but instead of being humble, don’t try to rewrite his­tory in your favour. Since Esquire gives advice on how to be a man, let me return the favour:

If you’re going to take cred­it, be a man and make sure it’s yours to take.

Best regards,

ps. The Gutenberg galaxy is not com­ing back:

The Electronic Age and Digital-First

Human cul­ture is often described based on our access to pro­duc­tion tech­no­lo­gies (i.e. stone age, bronze age, iron age). 

Still, accord­ing to Marshall McLuhan and the Toronto School of Communication Theory, a bet­ter ana­lys­is would be to view soci­et­al devel­op­ment based on the prom­in­ence of emer­ging com­mu­nic­a­tions technologies.

Marshall McLuhan - Cambridge University - Digital-First
Marshall McLuhan at Cambridge University, circa 1940.

Marshall McLuhan sug­gests divid­ing human civil­isa­tion into four epochs:

  • Oral tribe cul­ture. Handwriting marks the begin­ning of the end of the oral tribe cul­ture. The oral tribe cul­ture per­sists but without its former prominence.
  • Manuscript cul­ture. Printing marks the begin­ning of the end of the manu­script cul­ture. The manu­script cul­ture per­sists but without its former prominence.
  • Gutenberg galaxy. Electricity marks the begin­ning of the end of the Gutenberg galaxy. The Gutenberg galaxy per­sists but without its former prominence.
  • Electronic age. Today, we reside in the elec­tron­ic age. Likely, we haven’t yet exper­i­enced this age’s decline yet.

The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (1962) is McLuhan’s mass media ana­lys­is, pop­ular­ising the term glob­al vil­lage.

As a PR pro­fes­sion­al and lin­guist, I sub­scribe to the concept of the elec­tron­ic age. My line of work’s main point of ana­lys­is is that soci­ety is unlikely to revert to the Gutenberg galaxy.

The PR industry must adapt to digit­al-first. Why? Because the Typographic Man is not mak­ing a comeback.

Read also: Digital-First is the Way

Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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