Futuretainment or…Presentainment?

I caught a great post by O’Reilly’s Robert Kaye the other day. Robert’s coverage of ETech in San Francisco included a rundown of Mike Walsh’s Futuretainment: The Asian Media Revolution presentation. Here are some highlights on the topic of how the young people in Asia consume media compared to the good ol’ US of A…

Because many of the kids were born in the post Mao era, they have no idea what media was like as it evolved in the US and Western Europe. (CD’s? Never heard of ‘em.) Mike points out that most Asian’s use the internet for their main source of entertainment and they get most of that on their cell phones, not at the desktop. They have no problem creating multiple identities online, are more “group” focused yet seek to find a higher status for themselves in those groups on line.

Here’s something that we all have seen in movies but probably never really grasped…”Asian cultures blend low tech solutions with hi tech solutions seamlessly. For instance, while nearly everyone has a mobile phone in their pocket, bamboo is still used to build scaffolding for buildings.” Wow!

What all this increased “density of information” has lead to is Asians being able to grasp many more pieces of information at once and the culture actually cranking out so much more content. This is fascinating stuff.

As I consider all of this I’m struck by the word “futuretainment.” It’s quite easy to point to all of this and say this is the future of media in the US. To some degree, I believe that to be true. But, I’m not sure our culture will evolve the same way. Consider the circumstances for this “revolution” in Asia, specifically China. Here are a people who for years were cutoff from the advances (a very subjective term) that we experienced. It’s like the lid being lifted off a barrel in the rain. Suddenly all of this history, these advances, and this growth just start pouring in on a people that were familiar with something so simplistic. Of course there is a need to quickly decide what to adopt and what to scoop out of the barrel. If they didn’t they would surely drown. So what you see are a people hurdling over some of the stuff that has become part of our culture, in effect being unburdened by history. They don’t need to or even can stop at the CD era if it’s already passé. Why spend money on or time sitting in front of a computer when they can take it all with them on a phone.

In the US, for better or worse, we as a people are naturally going to be a bit slower to adopt. In many cases we are content with where media is and see no reason to change. For the purposes of example, we’ve spent our money on the CD and player or the computer. We’ll get to the mp3 player and smart phone; just give us a bit more time. Damn, this history of innovation can be a real burden, can’t it?

So while the “media revolution” is raging on in Asia, it may not necessarily be the future but the present without all the encumbrances of a past. Who knows, the Asian youth may decide that creating new IM accounts, assuming different identities for different purposes and precipitating virtual characters landing sponsorship deals is a waste of time and return to more simplistic “bamboo-centric” pursuits. That sure would allow all of us to stop paddling so hard in our barrel.

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