June 1, 2007 Changes in the Media and Meme

Taku Fujita
Senior Operating Officer and Executive Producer
Mitsue Information Network Technology
(Operating Officer, mediajam,LLC.)

My First Column and mediajam

Three years ago, I wrote the first column in this corner, entitled “New Meme Pool, Blogosphere”. Looking back on the column, I remember first that I had difficulty in writing it as I had little experience in writing at the time. Taking a cue from a lecture on the theory of adaptive action in which I had been interested at university, I put together my thoughts about blogging, which was making its presence felt in Japan at that time, by using the meme. Subsequently, I was involved in a number of activities at this company. Strange to say, the material in the column was related to some parts of the business via keywords.

mediajam will be launched by mediajam,LLC., a joint venture of Mitsue-Links and Kanagawa Shimbun on June 4, 2007. I have been involved with this project from the beginning, and I often remembered the material in the column on the meme halfway through the project. It is because this project is widely related to the media. The meme would not expand without some kind of media. I would like to examine the meme, which is an important keyword for me, by observing past media forms.

Changes in the Media

Nonverbal

Many years ago before the advent of spoken language, people would convey information and culture by action, behavior, clothing, facial expressions, calling out and yelling. A series of actions including speech, which create a strong impression and are easy to remember, seems to be conveyed as a quality meme. In other words, people's memory is a form of media. As it was conveyed from person to person, it would be changed to different information and be gradually lost in many cases.

Oral Tradition

After the advent of language or something similar to it, information was conveyed by word of mouth, and it became a means of information transmission. It was possible to reproduce information more accurately than in the nonverbal age. However, as people's memory still functioned as a kind of media, there were limitations in relation to transmission speed and accuracy. Considering the range of action at that time, information would remain in limited areas.

Characters

Characters seem to start from pictures. As pictures are an inefficient means of transmitting information, they were changed to simpler characters and ideograms were created by expressing the meaning in forms. Phonograms and words were created to provide more flexibility. Characters were created, and information was transmitted by both hearing and visual means. It led to improving retention and the accuracy of memory. For those who could read and write characters at a certain level or above, reading characters would be faster than listening to other people to understand information. And if phrases were written on a flat piece of rock or suchlike only once, a great many people would be able to obtain the information without any time constraints. These evolutions contributed to increasing efficiency in transmission. In this connection, I may add that characters were considered undesirable at that time, as they might impede memory. It is similar to the start of the present IT age.

Paper and Printing

The creation of paper contributed to improving the portability of characters. It set the environment for expanding the range of transmission of information more than before. The device that further expanded the trend is printing. The media for printed material made information easy to read, and it brought about a great revolution for reproducing very many documents and paper for printing. Thanks to the proliferation of printing, many people were able to obtain information from reproduced documents. Needless to say, it dramatically improved performance in technology, knowledge, understanding and the communication of facts around the world.

Records, Radio, Movies and TV

Art and entertainment using audio were limited to some places until around the 19th century. Similarly the introduction of records and radio released all restrictions in this field. The trend moved to the visual world, such as stage art and entertainment, following the introduction of movies and TV. The optimum experience that represented the enjoyment of being in one specific place was reproduced and delivered to many people, no matter where they were. In addition, some artists, including Beatles and Glenn Gould, withdrew from live performance, and performed via the media only.

The Web

The media listed up to this point after the introduction of printing require tremendous costs for the system to be developed. Therefore, there were limitations experienced by those who used the system and transmitted information. In other words, information recipients might substantially level off, but there was a great gap in transmission. Those who send information via these media could not send information easily because the devices and systems required are large and expensive.

The Web, which appeared towards the end of the 20th century, removes this restriction. Everyone can transmit information easily by using blogs and SMS, and they can release video clips via YouTube. Therefore, businesses that were unable to send information quickly before are able to post news releases frequently on the Web.

Also, the Web makes it possible to create a pointer connected to hyperlinks in a flexible manner, making it easy for users to reach the information they want. Things that enhance the power of this system are search engines, portals, social bookmarks, the existence of other sites that increase the number of links with personal blogs, searches within the site and tags, and the system in the site called RSS.

User-Friendly, Machine-Friendly

I have explained overall changes in the media. In looking at these changes, I realize that, as time passes, more meme-friendly media systems will appear. For example, information was conveyed only to close communities nonverbally or by word of mouth. With the arrival of characters, information could be reproduced to improve understanding and reduce transmission loss. As mentioned earlier, the advancement of quality printing technology had so great an impact that it changed the world completely.

After the introduction of characters, information design such as tables of contents, indexes, chapters and titles were added, and media became more accessible. It helped spread the meme to more people. When you look at the transition, you find that, as media became more meme-friendly, the media possessed a more user-friendly configuration.

Material in the form of a meme is friendlier to media devices, so it will spread to a larger number of people. In other words, a media change is a device change as well. If a meme is used as a vehicle so that the material is easy to input and process, or if a meme is more machine-friendly, it is more likely to survive in the world.

mediajam as Semantic Web≥0.2

Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the Web, spoke about his dream in his book entitled Weaving the Web. One of the topics covered in the book is that the Web will become a more powerful tool that will enable people to collaborate. Another dream is that the collaboration will expand to include collaboration between computers. This integration or the achievement, leads to the keyword, Semantic Web.

Nowadays the expression Web2.0 has become a trendy word. When we think of the Semantic Web as a destination, I consider it to be Web0.2 today. It could not be achieved without improvements in the effective network externality of Semantic Web standard sites. I consider that the content stored in mediajam can be processed semantically to some extent.

A world in which people and machines collaborate to process data ideally takes the form of user-friendly content and machine-friendly environments. As we approach this destination, the meme would be more pleased. mediajam uses 1.0 as a benchmark, and strives to achieve Web≥0.2.

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