The Breakfast Table

Our Morphing Mediascape

Yes. As you probably know, the Reader’s Digest has a column called “Laughter is the Best Medicine.” “LOL” stands for “laughing out loud,” so yes, invest in LOL over LLY if you want the best medicine. But that wouldn’t be as good for Lilly shareholders.

I was just reading in the New York Times about how CBS News is now devoting a ton of time to covering the superdramatic high jinks on its entertainment hit Survivor. I like this idea so much I can hardly stand it. Most of what passes for news is bogus anyway. Celebrities are already covered as if they are news. Media comments about media commentators about media are already covered as if they are news. Why not cover events that happen within entertainment as if they are news?

When we at Word were thinking about developing graphical online communities, one of my fantasies was that we could do a Talk Soup-like program in which we could show clips from the most entertaining moment of that day in our virtual world, thereby creating a sort of Mobius strip meta-reality pod. Then we made Sissyfight 2000, our graphical community game, and we didn’t even have to do that–the players did it themselves! One player named their avatar girl “baba wawa” and went around on the playgrounds interviewing the highest-ranked players in perfectly pitched talk show parody form. Then she made screenshots of the conversations and published them on her fan site, It was hilarious. I was in ecstasy.

It’s interesting when big mass media companies just go with the flow and give the public what it wants. You learn more when you do that and then figure out what people are getting out of it than when you try to control it and give them something “good for them.” I’m sure it’s no accident that Sissyfight and Survivor are paralleling each other. I think there is a naturally evolving form here in which the public is processing its understanding of the all-encompassing mediascape by creating these homegrown, science-fiction-y forms. They’re not analyzing–they’re in fact responding in a way that’s much more nuanced and complex than mere punditry.

When I try to think about the Nabisco/Philip Morris merger, it all looks like a big Salvador Dalí painting executed by Andy Warhol. Maybe at bottom I’m just an old-fashioned surrealist, even when I think about business.