As many of you may already be aware, TIME magazine recently revealed that their Person of the Year for 2006 was - You. Not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Donald Rumsfield, Al Gore, or even the founders of YouTube.com, but rather the content creators of YouTube.com. But not just YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Wikipedia; all of these websites, although brilliantly conceived, flourished because of the end users who power them. And for this reason the editors of TIME, fascinated by the rise of anonymous and not so anonymous Internet denizens, have made their nondescript choice for 2006's Person of the Year. Flashing fancy new terminology such as "Web 2.0" and "Digital Democracy," Lev Grossman makes a detailed argument for why the cyberpopulace deserves to be irrevocably associated with 2006. Considering the impact of YouTube and it's role in shaping the 2006 midterm elections alone, I have to say I find their selection to be right on target. In response to the argument that the founders of YouTube, as the progenitors, deserve the highest acclaim, I say that without the onslaught of interest and the feverish response to that interest which drove their invention, YouTube would have been just another passing fad.
Even more personal to myself, however, is the statement that this story makes for bloggers like us here at AtD. The bubbling up of what one might call the 'unidentified heroes' of this new media stands out as the best example of the Internet proletariat reclaiming power from the bourgeoisie. This truly could be the rise of the average American to fame and greatness, unprecedented in human history both in the access to communicative tools and in the ability of those tools to produce a platform to be heard. This is the new media by which the public can shape the story as much as the private corporation or the CEO of said corporation. Or as Richard Stengel puts it in "Now It's Your Turn," covering the Person of the Year story:
There are lots of people in my line of work who believe that this phenomenon is dangerous because it undermines the traditional authority of media institutions like TIME. Some have called it an "amateur hour." And it often is. But America was founded by amateurs. The framers were professional lawyers and military men and bankers, but they were amateur politicians, and that's the way they thought it should be. Thomas Paine was in effect the first blogger, and Ben Franklin was essentially loading his persona into the MySpace of the 18th century, Poor Richard's Almanack. The new media age of Web 2.0 is threatening only if you believe that an excess of democracy is the road to anarchy. I don't.
Well said Mr. Stengel. As a frequent poster over at DailyKos, the largest political community on the web, I feel I have been a part of history in the making. There I (or anyone for that matter) can post a diary entry which, through the process of Democracy, can become recommended by other users and eventually land on a sidebar on the front page. (I'm still working toward this goal.) As a result, the millions of visitors to the site would be able to read my political opinions, commentary, or analysis and add their own. Right here at AtD, even though we're starting small there are profound hopes and goals. I dare to dream of a future in music journalism imparted in no small way from my experience here on Web 2.0. The same goes for everyone else on this blog and blogs and communities all across the cyber-landscape. If one thing is certain, and as TIME so accurately depicts, it is that the possibilities of this expansive playing field are limitless. Digital Democracy has already ushered in a new awareness of and appreciation for the ability of these possibilities to change the world. A world where potentially anyone's voice can be heard and seen by virtually anyone, anywhere, and at anytime. Here's to making Above The Din a participant in this epic convergence.