When I was in New York this week I had lunch with one of our company advisors who was one of the pioneers in interactive advertising. We were talking at length about user generated content, fame, and personal exploitation. My thesis is that there are two things driving the current generations expressive behavior, 1. The idea that entertainment requires a persons direct involvement to make it personal and worthwhile and 2. A desire for fame or status.
We talked around the topic a bit and he said something to the effect that it is fascinating that people both appear driven to and desirous of exploiting themselves. That is, they either don't understand or in fact don't mind exploiting themselves if they gain some kind of recognition, fame or notoriety. I don't like to think of it that way necessarily but I think a lot rings true to those words. I brought up the Jackass films and he said that although that was exploitation, it was brilliant and what we are seeing is a broad commonness to self exploitation on some of these websites. It was an interesting talk.
That evening as I sat in my hotel in Boston, I sat dumbstruck as I watched the footage broadcast by NBC of the Virginia Tech killer. I couldn't believe that NBC felt compelled to release something that not only provided no real value or insight, but also at some level validated the actions of the killer, at least in the eyes of others who would pursue similar actions in the future.
One of the most interesting things about user generated/edge of the network/consumer media is the potential for media that originates outside of the center of the network to be able to harness the massive reach and distribution of mainstream media. At it's best you have the Adam Stacy subway bombing pictures which provided a haunting and visceral image of news as it happens, at it's worst it is a news organization taking advantage of it's selection by a killer to broadcast his rants and insanity. I have great respect for NBC Universal as a company and I can only hope in the future that they make the decision to avoid these sorts of missteps.