Sunday, December 17, 2006

Time's Person of the Year: The Power of the Information Age Public

Time Magazine's recognizes the power of those who now create, control and collaborate with content online and the incredible influence that it is having around the world. This year's Time Magazine's person of the year is "you."

Over the last couple of years since beginning my Health Care Law Blog in 2004 I've gained a good understanding of the "online content creating community" and it has changed the way that I communicate, work and learn. If it hasn't already -- I predict it will change you too.

Some interesting stats for a perspective on where all this might be headed. The Pew Internet & American Life Project found in 2004 that 44% Internet users were creating content for the online world. The November 2005 Pew Internet Report, "Teen Content Creators and Consumers," found that 57% of teens now create content for the the internet. The new generation will create continued demand (and content) that will influence us all.

One statistic that I mentioned earlier this year (courtesy of Denise Howell) was that "Among 21 year olds, 61% of web content created by someone they know." I'm not sure where this stat comes from and whether it was from the Pew report -- but if accurate it goes to show that the public is not only creating content but using and relying on content by those who they personally know. Along these same lines, this past week I attended the Healthcare Blogging Summit and Steve Rubel commented that 68% agreed that the people we trust is "a person like me."

The HealthTrain: The Open Healthcare Manifesto (full Report Version 0.1) discussed at the Healthcare Blogging Summit provides some interesting material for discussion of what impact open published media will have on the health care industry. The Manifesto presents the idea that understanding and learning is grounded in human conversation and that these new technologies allow this to happen easier and with more impact. Time's article recognizes what the Manifesto refers to as the change from "traditional command and control" forms of communication. The Manifesto outlines a set of principles to guide those in health care as we move forward with this online social experiment.

My favorite section of Time's online article on the Person of the Year:

. . . The answer is, you do. And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, Time's Person of the Year for 2006 is you.

Sure, it's a mistake to romanticize all this any more than is strictly necessary. Web 2.0 harnesses the stupidity of crowds as well as its wisdom. Some of the comments on YouTube make you weep for the future of humanity just for the spelling alone, never mind the obscenity and the naked hatred.

But that's what makes all this interesting. Web 2.0 is a massive social experiment, and like any experiment worth trying, it could fail. There's no road map for how an organism that's not a bacterium lives and works together on this planet in numbers in excess of 6 billion. But 2006 gave us some ideas. This is an opportunity to build a new kind of international understanding, not politician to politician, great man to great man, but citizen to citizen, person to person. It's a chance for people to look at a computer screen and really, genuinely wonder who's out there looking back at them. Go on. Tell us you're not just a little bit curious.
I do agree with ProBlogger's comments that Time gets the linkbaiter of the year award (brilliant PR move if Time factored this into its decision). Watch the stats on this Technorati graph. The article is already topping Techmeme.

UPDATE: Fard Johnmar at HealthcareVox also looks at Time's "Person of the Year" announcement from a health care perspective.

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