Don't look now but we're all talking about you
– or more precisely Time magazine's decision to name "You" as it's 2006 "Person of The Year." In a nod to the technological revolution which has spawned blogs, user-generated content sharing Web sites and MySpace-type communities, "you" were the most important force in 2006. But is it a condescending note of approval to those forces which threaten the established media order, a late acknowledgement of power of "you" or a real milestone on the road to a new media landscape? As you could expect, there's plenty of disagreement about that. First, here's part of Time's justification
To be sure, there are individuals we could blame for the many painful and disturbing things that happened in 2006. The conflict in Iraq only got bloodier and more entrenched. A vicious skirmish erupted between Israel and Lebanon. A war dragged on in Sudan. A tin-pot dictator in North Korea got the Bomb, and the President of Iran wants to go nuclear too. Meanwhile nobody fixed global warming, and Sony didn't make enough PlayStation3s.
But look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.
Bloggers on both sides of the political spectrum see this is a cop-out at the best. Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters says
So this is the year for the great huddled masses? Wouldn't that have been 1989, when the momentum of freedom and liberty felled an Evil Empire and tore down a wall in Berlin? Instead, Time selected Mikhail Gorbachev, and also named him its Man of the Decade for managing to take the Soviet Union into oblivion. The fact that they selected him over the two men responsible for forcing him into that position shows the problems Time has always had in seeing the long view of history.
At least, however, they made a decision and selected someone. The entire point of a Person of the Year is to acknowledge that some people play larger roles in history. Naming all of us may make us feel good about our anonymity, but in the end it's either pandering to millions of readers or a refusal to take a stand on anyone. Choosing everyone is an abdication on the entire purpose of the project.
And Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas writes
Time's "person of the year" is "You", probably the biggest cop out in the magazine's history. Al Gore was my pick, but if they want to go with people-powered media, why not the YouTube guys? Or the hackers behind the tools that make people-power media possible?
Of course, others see a hint of elitism in an established news magazine bestowing any titles. Jeff Jarvis pastes his mug onto the cover and provides his take
I suppose I should give Time some credit for recognizing the power of the people. Only thing is, there's no news here. This is nothing new. We have always been in charge. It's just that the people who thought they had the power now have no choice to but hear us and recognize that we are, and always have been, the boss.
This year's cover reveals that the notion — or they would like to think, institution — of a single person of the year in the single biggest news magazine is such a social anachronism. It is a vestige of the mass era. It is the conceit of mass media that they could pick one person who mattered for the world and that we would listen.
Author and blogger Norah Ephron ridicules the importance of the award over at Huffington Post
The Person of the Year is me. Of course the person of the year is also you. Actually the person of the year is "You," as in YouTube and MySpace, as in the World Wide Web - "for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game." Don't you love it? I especially love the part about "working for nothing," I especially love the condescension in that phrase, the dead giveaway about how Time Magazine really feels about the giant collective unwashed, unpaid You Out Here that is nonetheless making life a misery for Them In There -- for the Old Media scrambling to figure out What It Means for things like the future of print, the paper business, network television, privacy, and their jobs, for which (it goes without saying) they are paid.
That's just a sampling of what bloggers are saying and there will surely be plenty of chit-chat which, after all, is sort of what Time wants isn't it? I tend to come down somewhere in the middle. Sure, there is a "from the mountaintop" aspect to it -- who are the folks at Time to make such proclamations, right? But actions speak louder than proclamations, and all one needs to do is consider the changes in the MSM over the past year to see that "you" are indeed being taken more seriously.
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