Social media and the internet have profoundly changed our notions of time and space in everyday life. Images (verbal, visual and social identity) can be published instantly to a wide audience. And it is all too easy to complain about the lack of quality content around and to be disgusted with social media and the saturation of content we encounter each day. Nonetheless, it is double-edged and a potential threat to quality.
If we want to be noticed among the plethora of content out there, we need to constantly update our blogs, our flickr sites, and other social media sites. The dictum seems to be ‘update or perish’; whereby relevance is tied to immediacy, where older posts and images lose currency rapidly. Celebrity has become a determinant of quality. Taste has become tied to celebrity rather than a thought-out aesthetic and sensibility. (I am reminded of the Pop Art movement and one of its chief proponents in the 1960s, Andy Warhol who critiqued mass production and consumerism through his art but I won’t unpack the connections now.)
It seems that it is more important to put stuff out there quickly rather than worry about difficult notions like quality.This is a profound shift that has a fundamental impact on what we regard as ‘art’ in a world where art is increasingly commodified. It is very easy to succumb to the seduction of blog hit stats and comments as true measures of quality. It ‘s all about maintaining a position on the timeline or search, sometimes at the expense of the outcome. Content needs to be readily accessible and identifiable through tags, keywords and metadata which is a form of commodification through searchablity and presence on timelines. Afterall, if people can’t find your content easily through Google or such, they will not read it or view it. It may as well not exist.
There is danger of a devaluing of critical awareness in the process of creating content because of the imperative for relevance through the economics of immediacy. The need to post something to one’s blog or photo feed may override the need to engage in critical reflection. The obvious and literal is also more accessible in terms of the time it takes to read or view a post. So do we sacrifice complexity for the sake of people ‘getting’ what we mean quickly?
This raises more questions to ponder:
Does the imperative for immediacy in a media-saturated landscape mean that visual cues and language need to be simplistic and reductive to grab attention? Will this affect our ability to read complex nuanced texts, let alone subtexts?