Michael Curtin’s ideas about the logic of accumulation in his piece, Thinking Globally: From Media Imperialism to Media Capital, were particularly interesting. Kieran Medina gave a presentation recently discussing the enormous popularity of a Snapchat “Our Story” about the New York Blizzard. Their research covered how with the current culture of second screens, phone applications now have the ability to gain as many if not more eyes than television screens and the valuable market this potentially opens.
The Snapchat story had over 24 million views, which put it higher than The Walking Dead and even higher than Monday Night Football. With such a heavy viewership, particularly in the youth market, Snapchat seems to be able to move into a space of contemporary new media and therefore has great potential to be used as an activist tool whether for promoting news, resistance movements, and other social and political issues. While Snapchat is currently ad-free, with “stories” like the blizzard, how long will it be able to sustain an add-free space? Although Snapchat doesn’t currently offer a necessarily valuable culture beyond perfecting selfies, its popularity does interact with Curtain’s concept that “over time [contemporary media] must redeploy its creative resources and reshape its terrain of operation if it is to survive competition and enhance profitability” (p. 5).
One of the concerns I was considering when thinking about apps like Snapchat is the ever changing, evolving, and shrinking of people’s attention spans. Snapchats are not only inherently short as their name implies a double meaning referencing both the snapping of pictures and videos as well as the limited, pre-timed, one-time viewing model of the application. What happens to us when our shortened attention spans start being harvested for information intended for capital gain? It’s a dangerous and slippery slope that has been evidenced by the waning popularity of socially apps or websites that can’t maintain enough traffic to remain competitive. The capitalist transition ultimately kills diversity and ingenuity. Capital has bee responsible for the demise of politically charged media across the ages as technology and the capitalist tradition heavy influenced the film and television industry from the levels of production and distribution that forwent many films and shows of social value in the aim of producing what’s popular and safe and guaranteed to turn a profit. It seems likely that applications, even those with political potential, will likely fall victim to the capitalist machine.