Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Fifth Estate

Most of us rely upon the mainstream media for information about the world each day. But the view we get that way is fragmented and confused, it's a kaleidoscope of images and sound bites without context or meaning.

We're fed bits of news and views on a wide range of subjects by experts and professionals, a constant stream of discrete entries, a flood of florid reports, a swamp of tripe and trivia. We sink or swim in this soup, swayed by the currents of opinion that swirl randomly within it, subsumed by its persuasive and pervasive conurbation, seduced by the assurance it offers, the comfort of certainty, the bliss of ignorance.

If we are to make sense of the world around us and of the painful perturbations that periodically rock humanity, we will first require a mechanism, a process that captures, corroborates and compiles information in a way that renders it comprehensive and comprehensible. In other words, a system of obtaining and organizing information so that it actually tells us something useful and truthful.

When disparate aspects of a situation are presented in isolation, their relevance is lost, but when presented within a context that incorporates and explains their relationship, it can elucidate the situation, broaden the perspective and deepen the understanding.

The mainstream media presents a bewildering array of sounds and images that serve only to madden the mind and make sick the body. The mainstream media is an opiate that has destroyed the moral and intellectual fibre of humanity. Its inevitable demise can only be a good thing, but in its place we must strive to build a fifth estate that truly serves the long-term interests of humanity.

The Fifth Estate is a public media, a free media, an independent media. The Fifth Estate already exists online, where cooperative investigation and collaborative research is conducted across continents with increasing skill and alacrity. This growth in public media, the convergence of independent sources, citizen journalists and an ever expanding information resource base, offers an opportunity for some real social advances, especially in the field of public education.

The internet offers access to enormous quantities of information. What we need are the tools, the skills required to search, sift and sort that information, and to assemble that information into narratives that explain the way the world works and how we should deal with it.

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