Media industry executive Banister offers sharp insights into the latent value of networked media, plus some admittedly hazy speculations into the value of its application relative to user creativity.
The author builds a strong base by simply asking the right questions: What is media? What is networking? And “how to employ networked media (whether existing or nascent) in ways that are native, self-sustaining, and profitable (if that is the aim)”? First, Banister wants to get past the net con, the marketing of promises with inordinate faith in the unknown, all those disastrous IPOs in which “they were selling a religion, more than a company.” While the burst bubble may have hampered investment and made innovation more difficult, he suggests that all our digital tools can be molded into a metamedia, an evolutionary catalyst in myriad point-to-point combinations for business and society, an interconnectedness that must aspire to predictability, responsibility, and profitability (though Banister never overplays the capital-generating aspects of the medium). He sees a lot of old business models behind such surviving networked companies as eBay and Amazon, which “simply ensur[e] that incoming revenue exceeds outgoings expenses” with a “dogged commitment to custom technology invented and deployed.” More problematic, or at least less intuitive, are Banister’s musings on the potential interface between virtual and actual (for instance, the expression of an artist’s intentions versus actualization) or on how “storydwelling,” a participatory, experiential, and immersive form, will compare to the ancient art of storytelling. As the author notes, the influence of networking on the marketplace in terms of consumer demand has already been immense, but perhaps his most intriguing speculations concern the part a network could play in enacting issue-by-issue political expression, putting the beauty of participatory democracy within grasp.
Though Banister mostly places a new body on an old chassis, he gives a profound sense of the individual and societal power inherent within networked media.