It would seem those who said there was a conspiracy behind the switch to digital television may have been on to something, according to those analyzing a recent announcement made through a conference last month hosted by Broadcasting and Cable. And it would seem the ultimate goal may not be anywhere near as fantastic as those being proposed at the extremes of the spectrum, but the announcement has many up in arms over the fallout that may ensue.
For decades ad specialization was a way for our society to look into the collective wants, apprehensions, desires, and fears of a nation interpreted through advertising. Pop historians look into the ads of the 1980’s and the different ads jockeying for position in our psyche. Advertisements had to appeal to the vast majority while taking the considerations of the rest into place. But now new specialized advertisements are being considered for television now that it has made the change to digital. Rather than appealing to the whole of a society’s culture, advertisements will only be broadcast based on the understood interests of each individual. But will this new technology create vast divides in our culture as the broad spectrum of humanity is no longer represented in favor of individual niche markets? And what vast network of information gathering will be necessary to provide viewers with an “optimal” experience?
Imagine the world as an alien would see it for the first time. In the 1990’s the advertisements it spotted would tell it a great deal about the entire human race and all of the corresponding cultures viewing a given program at any time. But as time wears on, and the move has been made toward a more digital form of television, the experiment carried out over the internet with ad specialization is moving to other forms of advertisement. And as a result these advertisements will serve to cater to our own individual wants rather than the greater whole. Will this technology then create a world of highly specialized miniature cultures sprinkled throughout to divide people and keep their cultural identity feeling like a minority, even if their ideologies are in line with the vast majority of society?
Perhaps it is an overreaction. The Internet has been using ad specialization for years with little in the way of discernable effects. But as media becomes more specialized to cater to the individual, it seems we risk losing the common thread that holds a decade together. When we think about the nineties we have a distinct and clear picture of what held us together as a society. And yet when asked about our most recent decade, there are only a few things people can pin down that tie all of society together. And one of those was 9/11.
Vast conspiracy to undermine our society’s generational culture? Probably not. The greatest problem facing the human race today? Definitely not. But if we are not drawing from the common pool of ideas to form our culture, ideas will become more specialized and alienated from the rest of society. And how long will it be before these problems become insurmountable for a free thinking society?