Monday, March 30, 2009

New media and the message

In the first Q&A on this blog, Brian Dunning gave a pessimistic assessment of new media that took me somewhat aback. Just to keep me on my toes, Dr. Harriet Hall and Dr. Stephen Barrett both gave a positive view of new media and it's impact. Derek Colonduno chimed in with a positive future looking opinion on new media. Most recently, Dr. Kirsten Sanford stated her opinion that new media is fragmented, or at least, it's presentation of information is.

I think the concept of fragmented new media can be helpful in reconciling these carrying assessments of the value of new media. Medical information is something that people will go out of their way to research and find out about. Keeping that in mind, it makes sense that Dr. Barrett and Dr. Hall would state positive views of new media. Get the good information about medicine out there, and people will make an effort to find it. Now it only it was as easy to steer them away from frauds and charlatans. Brian Dunning is looking to bring enlightenment to the masses, to lift up the veil and show reality as it is. People don't often use search engines to challenge their preconceived notions as much as they use them to look for medical information, so it is not that big of a surprise that Mr. Dunning has a different assessment of new media than the founder of quackwatch and the skepdoc. Perhaps Derek Colonduno is right and all this effort going out into new media is having a disproportionate effect on younger generations and will have a positive effect on the degree of skepticism and scientific literacy of people in the future. . . Well, I guess we can only wait for the future to arrive and find out.

In the meantime, I think there are some statements that can be made about what can and cannot be reasonably be done with new media. New media does seem to be effective in getting information out that people will look for, such as medical information. It is also good for preaching to the choir, hi choir. New media is not an on ramp to the mainstream media, your blog or podcast is not likely to get picked up and developed into a TV series by a major, or minor for that matter, network. New media is not the ideal tool to reach out to people who are on a different political or ideological wavelength. Still, I don't want to leave you all on a down note, so I leave you with the words of the Killer Dwarfs who said, "Stand tall, stick to your guns, show them what you're made of!"

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