Blame it on the Transistor Radio

by vernsanders on March 2, 2010

As part of my goals for 2010, I am working on a new EBook. It isn’t the one I thought would follow The Choir in Modern Worship, but I am, in a sense, doing the new book on commission, because a friend of mine, whose opinion I respect, suggested that it would provide a greatly needed resource. So I’m working on a book about social media, and how it can be used by churches and individual ministries of churches to create, develop, and engage communities.

It turns out that I like writing. A lot. And an EBook is sort of the “stage three” of content. Stage one, a blog post like this one, is supposed to be short…500 words or so (which I try to adhere to, with varying success). Stage two, writing magazine articles of 3,000-5000 words, I’ve been doing for some time (duh…I own Creator magazine). Stage four is a full fledged book.

So in the 350 words or so that I have left, in the tradition of social media, I’d like to start a conversation/update process about the new book. In order to make it worth your while, I’m going to give away a prize every week for the next little while, to someone who leaves a comment on my blog during that week.

Back to the title of this post. I am writing the “set up” or back story to the new EBook, and, while I can’t go into great detail here (500 words…sigh), I want to connect some dots.

How did we get to social media? Blame it on the transistor radio.

Why? The transistor radio was the first step toward an info/entertainment universe that allowed an individual to  “tune out” mass media, and choose his or her own cultural programming. No longer was the radio or the stereo a “shared” or community gathering place. Instead, the transistor radio gave an individual complete control (within the radio programming choices) over the choice of content. Buy one and become a tribe of one. By adding earphones, the “world” could be tuned out, and everyone could “feed their head” according to their own taste.

The transistor radio morphed through the walkman and personal cd player to the ipod and smart phone that almost everyone carries around now – with their own personal ring tones, playlists, and wallpaper. As miniaturization was applied to the television via the computer and internet it spawned the same cultural shift that radio went through due to the transitor: personalization of community based upon multiplicity of choices. Along the way, the definition of community changed from “those amongst whom I am living” to “those who like the same things I do.”

And the logical (or should I say inevitable) extension of that is social media: individuals now faced with the extraordinary ability to define the community or communities to which they want to belong, and the overwhelming feeling of helplessness about which community to pick in the face of essentially unlimited choices.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think. If we didn’t get here because of the transistor radio, how did we get here? How do you “pick your tribe”?

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