Saturday, November 15, 2008

"Local" is now Ethos

The New “Local”

“Local” takes on a new and enhanced meaning in this digital age. I chopped out a portion of the last post because it was straying off-topic slightly, and the blog was becoming too long. But, an avid reader, Pat, points out that “all politics is local.” This past election cycle certainly proved that, and the Internet was key to creating this national movement resulting in the election of our new president. Certainly, for a few of the debates and for election night, the country was tuned to television by the millions—A vast community. Viewers also cared about the down-ballot races in other states, because the parts mattered to the whole.

Sometimes sports can do the same thing. This past World Series did not deliver. But, the 2008 Olympics did, especially whenever Michael Phelps was in the pool. People still refer to the Dallas Cowboys as “America’s Team”. And, sportscasters will often refer to “Red Sox Nation”. Live television has the power to bring all kinds of people together. Is that phenomenon “local”? It depends on what one means by “local”.

Radio stations like Austin’s KGSR FM stream their programming on the Internet. Displaced Austinites and others are listening online around the world. Is this a part of the new “local”? KGSR’s web site invites you to become a part of the “KGSR Community”. What kind of community is this? Does this have to do with place, or is the geography of “local” changing? Meanwhile, KGSR FM2, the new so-called HD channel is playing all Austin artists—local programming to the extreme.

But, back to Pat’s comments: “I watch the hurricane reports for northern Florida, since my son lives there. That makes Florida kinda local for me!” I’ll admit that I picked Charlotte, North Carolina as a weather example in the previous post because I have friends and family there. So, yeah, I DO care about the weather in Charlotte, because I care about them. The Charlotte weather report is parked on my Internet service provider home page right next to Austin.

Technology is taking “local” to a new level.

“Local” in the digital age, I proposed in my master’s paper, is attached to ethos rather than place. Like-minded readers/viewers/listeners/users/consumers of programming are carving out their own niches, cultures, and virtual spaces through the Internet. They have agency as a part of what is coming to be known as the “active audience”.

This is not to say that the readers/viewers/listeners/users/consumers abandon the old media (Traditional TV, radio, and even newspapers); research says they do not, but they take what they may find in the traditional media and manipulate it in their own way using new media. So, in Austin, Texas or anywhere else there is Internet penetration, a reader/viewer/listener/user/consumer could be a member of several different spheres—some of them spatial and others virtual.

Word of the day: Ethos.


americanjohn said...

I agree. Growing up in El Paso it was my home for many years. I still go to the local websites for media there to keep abreast on events in my hometown and in Dallas where I lived for 4 years. I lived in Michigan for a while and I do the same thing there. Now I'm in Austin keeping up with current local news in my city.

Isaacs PR said...

This is my first time stopping through and I am impressed!

My name is Zack and I am blogging for my PR consulting practice. I've yet to get my first client but it's coming. :)

* But I think Michael Phelps wouldn't like being called "Mark". Maybe you were thinking of Mark Spitz, or this is an inside joke that I'm left out of it.

Whatever the case may be, I'll be back! Great blog!