Media: Russell Davies

If I had to start all over again, I'd be a communications planner. Well, actually, I'd be a Jedi, but, in this universe, I'd be a communications planner.

It seems like they're the people who are at the most exciting coalface right now, dealing with the most turbulent shifts in economic relationships, coping with the most rapid overturning of preconceived ideas and observing the most frequent changes in people's behaviour. People are not dramatically changing the way they buy milk or cars or aftershave, but they are substantially shifting the way they consume "media".

This struck me as I read another article pointing out that attention spans are contracting, and that the future of communications lies in a short burst of video via computer or phone. At first glance, that always seems plausible, but even a quick examination of our own media habits makes you realise the real world is way more complicated.

To start with, there's media bingeing: the contemporary practise of completely immersing yourself in a single media property for hours and hours - people buying a box-set of The West Wing or 24 and spending the whole weekend watching it. Or doing it via Sky+ or TiVo. No short attention span there. You get the same thing with video games, most of which demand a substantial investment of time. I once heard a panel of arts supremos blaming the decline of high art on short attention spans, until one of their number asserted that the kind of immersive, sustained experience offered by Grand Theft Auto or World of Warcraft is perfect preparation for Wagner's Ring cycle.

Or think about plot-surfing, something many of us have probably done - watching a programme on 12x speed just to familiarise ourselves with the broad thrust of the story so we can stay up to date with the series. Or there's the wilfully obscure media selections we make, as some sort of trophy media choice. I'm partial to a deep house internet radio station in Moscow, partly because it seems exotic, partly because I think it makes me seem cool. (It doesn't, does it?)

Or there's the way ex-pats use media to connect with home, or groups of friends pass media files and links around as a way of maintaining contact, or the viewing parties that occasionally pop up around media phenomenon such as Sex and the City.This is complicated and fascinating stuff. And most of it is very new. Navigating the changing media tides must be the most challenging job out there right now. I hope it's as rewarding as it should be.


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