Digital ecosystems

Luís Ángel Fernández Hermana - @luisangelfh
16 August, 2016
Editorial: 22
Fecha de publicación original: 4 junio, 1996

Date of publication: 4/6/1996. Editorial 22.

The man who eats by himself, saddles his horse by himself

Co-operation among competitors is a principle which apparently breaks with the Darwinism which currently governs our economic life. Although recent biological theories are tending to begin to emphasise the co-operative factor when examining the nature of evolution, the law of the survival of the fittest still holds a strong attraction not only within the field of science. However, perhaps the time has come to put the principle of co-operation amongst competitors into practice according to the ecosystem within which they operate and the kind of relationships that have to be woven between them to keep the factory of life in working order. Internet seems to be providing all the basic elements for just such an ecosystem, an environment within which social, economic and political forces can see each other in a different light, in new surroundings and, therefore, following a new set of unique behavioural guidelines –above all if we take into account the accumulated experience we have of our society since the Industrial Revolution–. Some people, who have, perhaps, seen beyond what the new digital habitat offers at present, have dared to predict “the death of competition”, like James Moore, whose book of the same name is a best seller in the USA.

Something like this is, of course, happening in cyberspace. Just a brief glance at the number of conferences, symposia, workshops, forums, etc., organised by the traditional media to share their digital experiences, is sufficient proof of this. Nothing of this nature has ever occurred before, nor of this dimension, nor content, and even less so when the main subject is the exchange of strategic information between participants. Although not explicitly stated, it is nevertheless a recognised fact that the new media allows for a type of co-operative activity which would be unthinkable within the world of the printed press. But old habits die hard. This exchange of information and even projects, the budding of relationships so different to those that have predominated up to now, has still not managed to break down the barriers between “us and them”. In fact, it seems that different tournaments are being fought. On the one hand, there is the traditional media, depositary of the sacred fire of credibility, or at least atom-based credibility. And on the other, the media which have blossomed within cyberspace for whom a co-operative environment is as natural as the air they breathe. They represent two different experiences and we could even speak of two distinct cultural traditions which still don’t touch sides. The former are trying to discover the mechanisms which will allow them to “position” themselves within the new ecosystem. The latter belong to that ecosystem and use it with the wisdom of the hunter who has lived in the forest for generations.

The point of friction where the respective personalities of these two worlds is contrasted, as though they were signs of identity distinguishable at a distance, is, as happens in any habitat, the use of resources or what the ecologist Ramón Margaleff would call the economy of energy. The traditional media’s main source of wealth, its greatest treasure, lies in its archives and the professionals in the newsroom. The archives are like a safe where this precious capital has been deposited and which, up until now, only its own newsroom staff have been able to enjoy.

Internet would allow them to open it up and convert it into its most precious jewel. For the time being though, the traditional media have, nonetheless, barely managed to open this safety deposit box as they move into cyberspace. Consequently, they have hardly explored the enormous possibilities this could entail in establishing new relationships with a multitude of social sectors who up until now they have treated only as (potential) clients but who, now, thanks to digital “virtuality”, have become unavoidable fellow travellers. Basically what the traditional media companies have to solve are not only the technical problems of adapting their archives to the requirements of the new environment, but also the political (and cultural) question of training its staff to act as receptors and broadcasters of the information that the interactive environment of cyberspace requires and demands. While this problem, and all that it implies, is not dealt with, the tendency to go for audio-visual spectacles on the Net will predominate in the traditional media.

They should instead get on with what they know best, namely the acquisition and processing of information in line with the prestige of their brand name while at the same time adapting it to the co-operative framework which is precisely what gives sense to the still ethereal idea of the information society. The longer it takes to recognise this new situation, the longer it will take to detect the social agents (in the areas of education, culture, urban and institutional life) with whom they should be working on the net. Outside this co-operative digital ecosystem, the rest is ruled by the increasingly sterile law of the jungle.

Translation: Bridget King.