New Media and Society

New media play an increasingly important role in everyday life, both on a local and a global level. Of course, mass media have shaped the development of advanced societies for a long time. However, the new possibilities for citizens to use the media in more creative ways doubtlessly lead to changes in how people live their lives – not the least when it comes to younger generations.

New media should perhaps better be called social media, or collaborative media – which is the term we use (click here for a list of posts about collaborative media). In any case, the main point is that we are dealing with a phenomenon playing an increasingly important role in social life. This in itself makes it crucial to pay academic attention to the phenomenon.

The new media industry is similarly becoming increasingly important. And it has certain characteristics that single it out from traditional industries. Technological development is faster than within traditional industries, but work within the industries is also to a much greater extent based on experiments. The pace is higher than in traditional industries. The digital material is cheap; the cost of copying something is basically zero (Anderson, 2009). Therefore, rather than doing careful studies over longer periods of time before acting, it is more efficient to simply experiment. Sometimes it will work, sometimes it won’t.

But the alternative – trying to plan and predict successful products – does not exist. Another characteristic of the new media industry is that the development is largely based on co-operation between companies through the notion of open innovation and that users play an important role in the development, a phenomenon called user-driven innovation (Chesbrough, 2003; Moschella, 2003; Goldman and Gabriel, 2005; von Hippel, 2005; Leadbeater, 2008).

In other words, the new media industry has its own logic. However, it is important to realize that its currently quite specific production practices and business models are becoming increasingly important also for other industries. Developing business models for new media, as well as experimenting with co-production, is therefore relevant not only for the creation of new products and services within new media, but also for traditional industries; there is a need for the creation of general knowledge around innovation and co-production.

A very clear example of the importance of the new media sector can be found in the hugely influential business magazine Fast Company’s recently published list over the world’s most innovative companies in 2009. The majority of the companies on the top twenty list are new media/design companies – including all companies in the top five! Only one Swedish company makes the top fifty list. That is the new media company Spotify – read here what Fast Company writes about Spotify.