Have you listened to the radio recently?
I was on a radio interview with the CBC last week with Jo-Ann Roberts. It reminded me about a lot of stuff I had forgotten about in radio culture– things that are necessary because of channel-surfing that goes on with most listeners.
One of those things is to constantly repeat the thing we’re talking about, what we just discussed, and what we’re about to. It’s an attention-deficit medium, kind of like a Rocket Robin Hood episode. Listenens need to be reminded because we’re not really paying attention in the first place, or we weren’t there. Impatience is adapted to rather than penalized.
This is sound bite culture. You know this already.
Soundbites are the foundation of our media. We cut up, dissect, and put together short bits of information to support our biases and keep viewers. We design segments around these ways of speaking. This process destroys original context and places information into new (and convenient) contexts– or removes them entirely. The best piece of information is the one that’s easily digestible, uses simple language, and is massively spreadable.
The tweet is the apex of sound bite culture.
- It requires no context;
- it spreads faster and with little friction; and
- it’s easily inserted in any environment.
It is the absolute and perfect acceptance of a culture with as many channels as individuals. Too much to pay attention to? Reduce the information to its barest possible form, removing all filler to increase how much you can absorb. Natural, right?
This isn’t to say that it’s bad, but it does mean that in a world where Twitter is the easiest mechanism of propagation, ideas have to be designed with a simplicity that even previous media would have been uncomfortable with.
The question is whether this attribute will make other media wither away and die. If I can get my news piece in 140, do I need the whole article? I think most people, for most articles, will say no.
After all, no commercials, no filler… why would I ever pay attention to anything else?