At first, I thought the editors at Time had lost their minds.
Of all the heros, goats, and villains of 2006, the best they could come up with was to name “YOU” as “Person of the Year?!”
As I joked in my last post, I suppose this means we all get to put that on our resumes now. Elsewhere, there have been the inevitable jokes about this being the logical conclusion of a “Me Generation” gone mad.
But take a look at their actual story and you’ll discover there’s method to their madness. Turns out, the “YOU” they intend to honor isn’t any old you. It’s the “YOU” who use the internet. It’s folks crazy enough to spend a lot of their free time (as I do) creating content for the World Wide Web.
They suggest –following others who’ve also written on the subject– that a different kind of World Wide Web it being birthed before our eyes. They claim it’s so different that people have taken to calling it “Web 2.0.” This “new” web is not dominated by official news sources, big corporations, and big government, but by millions of folks who seem compelled to put themselves, their lives, and their thoughts about…well, almost everything….out there for all to see.
Time says it’s not about the old, official sources of news and info on the web, but rather:
“it’s about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people’s network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes….”
Time Magazine suggests this is a massive, ongoing, social experiment, and that it involves a whole lot of us:
“…we didn’t just watch, we also worked. Like crazy. We made Facebook profiles and Second Life avatars and reviewed books at Amazon and recorded podcasts. We blogged about our candidates losing and wrote songs about getting dumped. We camcordered bombing runs and built open-source software.”
Here are some signs of change Time gleans from around the World Wide Web, and some observations about the people (the “YOU”) who are leading the charge:
“Car companies are running open design contests. Reuters is carrying blog postings alongside its regular news feed. Microsoft is working overtime to fend off user-created Linux. We’re looking at an explosion of productivity and innovation, and it’s just getting started, as millions of minds that would otherwise have drowned in obscurity get backhauled into the global intellectual economy.”
“Who are these people? Seriously, who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I’m not going to watch Lost tonight. I’m going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I’m going to mash up 50 Cent’s vocals with Queen’s instrumentals? I’m going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?”
“The answer is, you do. And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME’s Person of the Year for 2006 is you.”
So, basically, if you’ve created a blog, left a comment on a blog, posted to YouTube, reviewed a book on Amazon, created a podcast, put up a MySpace page, then apparently you really are Time’s Person of the Year for 2006.
But so am I. And so are millions more of us too. The uncomfortably confessional nature of the blog is likely to become more common, not less so. Yes, there is lots of drivel, minutia, and cyber-trash out there. But Time suggests something interesting:
“You can learn more about how Americans live just by looking at the backgrounds of YouTube videos—those rumpled bedrooms and toy-strewn basement rec rooms—than you could from 1,000 hours of network television.”
I find it interesting that a major news magazine, owned by a major media corporation (AOL/Time Warner), is the one noting this social trend. I believe it’s a real social trend, to be sure. But I also believe that media behemoths like Time, and web behemoths like AOL, clearly have the most to lose. If anybody gets left behind here it’s them; or at least the vision of the Web-as-cash-cow that they and other corporations assumed was a sure thing.
And yet, even with all the potential loss of their own corporate skin, Time ends with this hopeful note for the future:
“There’s no road map for how an organism that’s not a bacterium lives and works together on this planet in numbers in excess of 6 billion. But 2006 gave us some ideas. This is an opportunity to build a new kind of international understanding, not politician to politician, great man to great man, but citizen to citizen, person to person.”
That’s certainly what I find interesting about the blogosphere, the worlds of MySpace, YouTube, and all the rest. I enjoy doing this just like millions of you seem to. Who knows where this new world of interconnectedness may lead? But it is interesting, to be sure. And I’m pleased to have my tiny little corner of “Web 2.0,” and pleased for the few folks who wander by now and then, and seem to enjoy it.
So, as the year draws to a close, thanks to YOU.
And congratulations on your award.