I’ve been doing quite a lot of presenting in recent weeks, and at the end of last week presented to two different sets of undergraduates at Manchester and Birmingham universities. It was part of a MediaGuardian Insight series into working in modern media, and my subject was digital media and the evolving landscape.
What struck me pretty forcefully at both places was how some of the things I take for granted – blogs, RSS, tagging, participatory media – are having little or no impact on these young people. When I was talking in Manchester, someone shouted “what’s plogging [sic]” from the back of the hall, so I asked people to put up their hands if they knew what a blog was. About a half-dozen hands went up. When I asked how many people had a blog, only one hand stayed up. When I asked about RSS, only a couple of hands waved. But when I aseked about podcasting, though, 30 or 40 hands went up.
What does this tell us? A few things:
- The UK is a very different place to the US when it comes to digital media consumption and usage. Social media platforms, such as blogs, are still very much the preserve of the digerati, and haven’t genuinely broken out yet.
- Digital media practitioners in Britain had better be careful they don’t get too far ahead of their audience. I spend a lot of my day talking about participatory media. Maybe I shouldn’t spend quite as much.
- Technology breaks out much, much faster when it’s linked to consumerism. I’m convinced that podcasting was recognised so widely because it’s linked to the iPod (which is in turn linked to iTunes, and Apple, and that great big sexy consumer machine that Apple has become). So where’s the RSS iPod? Will there ever be one? Maybe it’s just a mobile phone…