The Digital World Pivots Around Me

Maybe Galileo had it wrong when he said the earth gravitates around the sun.

Today, I arrived at work ready to consume my news. I didn’t flip open a newspaper. I didn’t look for a remote to watch Good Morning America. I didn’t grab my iPhone to first turn to the New York Times or The Washington Post to sift through 100 stories that I didn’t want to read in order to find three that I did. I opened up my Google alerts, then checked my Twitter, then checked my News Feed on Facebook. Here I found stories that I had seeded the internet for, that my friends were taking part in, or that my friends had, because their preferences parallel mine, recommended to me. Hmm, my news seems to revolve around me.

On Twitter today, I stumbled across a link to a NYT article by Nick Bilton. Bilton writes, “If you pull out your smartphone and click the button that says locate me on your mapping application, you will see a small dot appear in the middle of your screen. That’s you.” After this, Bilton pointed out that as you move, your proxy, that little dot on the map, stays still; it’s the map that moves to keep up with you. Hmm, my mapping application likes to keep me in the center of the world.

As I jumped from link to link to link on Facebook today, I noticed an advertisement for Dallas- Cowboys-colored M&M’s that kept appearing on each page: my profile, my Facebook home page, my cousin’s photo album of her trip to Amsterdam. The ad was following me around! And it wasn’t the only advertisement stalking me. I seem to be the virtual host for a “Groupon” ad that pops up in the strangest places: “Deal of the Day: sushi half-off,” the ad tells me when I read The NYT, CNet, and the Wall Street Journal. Hmm, my advertisements seem to orbit me like officious peddlers in a Chinese market.

Bilton explains that this new online universe, the one that is geared toward the individual, is the way of the future. It’s a world where people don’t buy maps of the zoo, of Paris, or of the state of Missouri, they buy maps of themselves; maps that go where they go and change with their changing locations.

The same goes with the consumption of information. Consumers are now their own gatekeepers. They decide which news comes to them through their acquaintances, through their preferences, and, in advertising, through the trail of cookies they leave on Web sites as they surf.

“Now you are the starting point,” he writes. “Now the digital world follows you, not the other way around.”

The Internet has spawned a new generation that forces media to bend to each individual’s preference. My friends don’t watch Modern Family when it comes out Wednesday night. They watch it on their smartphones during class.

This generation wants the media consumption experience hyper-personalized. Therefore, content creators need to be diverse. Content should be consumable on televisions, computers, smartphones and tablets. The new generation wants the digital experience. They want to comment, to like, to get involved. They want to be in the center.

Galileo may have been right when he said the physical world orbits the sun. As for the digital world, it gravitates around me.

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