New Media, New Content

Luís Ángel Fernández Hermana - @luisangelfh
30 January, 2018
Editorial: 171
Fecha de publicación original: 8 junio, 1999

Good questions teach a lot

Four months ago began a new experiment, the space called en.medi@ for debate, analysis and research into new media in the Information Society. The number of people taking part in what we define as encounter technology and content generation has been growing slowly, but surely. At the moment, between contributors to the debate and onlookers, there are more than 500 of us. Just as important as the audience, who are mainly from Spain and Latin America, is the fact that this space has generated an equivalent of more than 400 pages of content which would be difficult to find anywhere on the Internet or in books. The quality of this content is, on the one hand, proof of the hard work which has gone into creating it and, on the other, of a determination to raise the tone of the debate by contributing carefully thought-out material.

en.medi@ has proved to be a very useful tool in an electronic media which is just beginning to rethink the idea of “own content” through interaction with readers. Although the space is still not able to stand on its own two feet, if we take a look at the way it works and the way its different content areas connect, we can start to see a content flow of sufficient substance coming from the debate to orientate the relationship between and its readers and, in so doing, do away with existing barriers between “specialists” who emit and the “audience” who just listen. In fact, over the last few months, some new contributors to have come from en.medi@ and, at the same time, some of the content from en.medi@ is opening up areas of information and research on which we are already working in This feedback was one of en.medi@’s objectives and it seems to be becoming more robust and substantial all the time.

When we launched this space for debate and content generation, we set down some of the intentions and objectives of the project. Some of them made reference to the virtues, opportunities and values that we supposed the Internet had, but it is sometimes difficult to envisage how these will gel and take shape in concrete terms. One of the objectives was collaborative work. Although, I must insist, we are still in the initial stages, I think we are getting closer to the time when en.medi@ will initiate communication projects as spin-offs from some of the ideas expressed in its debates. I’m thinking, for example, of the idea of creating new media for congresses which maintain the flow of information before, during and after the event. The framework which en.medi@provides, covering both Spain and Latin America, will allow for the design of this type of media and the coordination of work via a tele-distributed newsroom in virtual territory.

Another feature is distributed intelligence. I think that I speak for myself, and for many of those participating in en.medi@, when I say that we are all learning an enormous amount thanks to the level of the debate. The combination of the discussion area with the contributions coming from other sections (Ojeando, +enredandos and Nueva Sociedad) allows us to “package” distributed intellectual capacities and enrich the general tone of the debate and analysis.

On the other hand, the idea that a structured space such as en.medi@ has a large capacity for self-regulation has also been fulfilled. Our job as moderators has been limited to stopping a few attempts to send advertising or redirecting some personal messages which found their way to the address by mistake. When the debate hotted up on issues such as the war in Yugoslavia, freedom in Cuba or the unavoidable debate over what language to use on the Internet (or in daily life), after a few violent skirmishes, participants themselves quickly discovered how to get the debate back on the en.medi@track. And let me state here very clearly: the inability to exercise some measure of self-regulation have left many lists languishing and, in many cases, brought them down despite interesting content and the quality of their membership.

On the down side there is the problem of the scarce resources en.medi@ has to make do which affects the liveliness, continuity and depth of some of the subjects proposed by participants. Various lines of discussion have been left in an undeserved limbo, crucified by a lack of time or the patience to explore their possibilities further. This is something we hope to be able to resolve over the months to come, with writers dedicated to en.medi@ exclusively in order to raise the tone and volume of discussion.

Nevertheless, en.medi@ has proved that it is an efficient encounter and content generation technology in a participative environment. Technologies such as these should change the type of communication that is still occurring in the Net, most of which is a carbon copy of that in the real world. For example, during the run-up to elections in Spain at the moment, electoral information has been deadly boring both in the written and audiovisual media. Spaces like en.medi@ would at least allow for debate on the Net between readers and journalists, or with candidates, backed up by the necessary documentation to make it possible to come to solid conclusions about conflicting electoral programmes, problematic neighbourhood or community issues, the needs of certain areas, etc. Of course, none of this has been happening, on the Net or out of it. Off the Net we are witnessing election campaign meetings in all sorts of strange places, attended by small groups of people whose expressions reflect a boredom and resignation that not even the magic of television spotlights can remedy. Nevertheless, these meetings, and what is said at them, are all granted their three or four minutes of television time or a whole page in the newspapers.

In the short time that en.medi@ has been operating, its content has also to a large extent reflected the difficulties that universities are having in adapting their training to changes in the field of communication and new information systems. This is a universal phenomenon. What is interesting is that en.medi@ is demonstrating its possibilities as a space for the development of course content which could also be taught online. Some universities are corralling a bunch of lecturers in a room and telling them to design the content of online courses in just a few days to “fill” knowledge holes that are still in the process of being created. This process will have to be put to the test by students and, in order to do so, it would be very helpful to use the kind of conceptual technology able to generate, modify and adapt content, to formalise or enrich it with contributions from outside the academic world.

Translation: Bridget King.