Some things are timeless: We want our stories to be shared, our opinions to be heard, our insights and ideas to be considered, our art to be appreciated. Ever since people began to gather around a fire or village common, those of us who had something to share would use this aggregate of potential listeners to find those who would hear, consider and appreciate what we shared. There were those who had no interest in what was being shared, just like there may have even been some who were against us sharing it. But there were always those who listened to the message, understood it and related to it. The one who shared found an audience, and the audience responded. That was how an idea, a story or a message could find its way from person to person, from village to village, from country to country, continent to continent. As the message was shared, it’s audience grew.
Throughout history, this was usually a pretty slow process; often a person’s story never reached beyond the limits of the village. Both the distance someone could travel and the medium in which he could express his message were almost always limited by privilege; only the rich or powerful could make their voices heard beyond the local village. Not only did wealth and privilege exclude the masses from making their voices heard or expressing their purpose, almost all of the commoner’s life was taken up in survival. There was simply no time or energy left to consider, let alone share our unique message with others.
Through the history of invention in the last five centuries, leading to the explosion of technology in the 20th century AD it became continually more possible for our message to reach further than a few family members and villagers. Ships, trains, automobiles and planes greatly extended our ability to expand our geography, as it allowed our audience to aggregate through increased mobility. High-speed printing, music and film production, radio and television greatly expanded the duplication and mass distribution of intellectual and artistic content. Trade and investment dramatically expanded the reach and lowered the cost of distribution. But as much as technology increased the number of people whose voices could be heard and decreased the cost of being heard, the pipeline of creation and distribution (how many books, records or films companies would produce, how many stores would stock, how many theaters would open, how much radio or television space was available) was still limited and still expensive; making our voices heard was still a privilege of the elite.
Technology is timely.
And then came a technology explosion that so greatly changed the production and distribution of intellectual and artistic content that it completely disrupted the existing system of producing and distributing the written word, art, music, and performance. The technology to produce books, art, audio and video continued to exponentially increase in both performance and usability and decrease in price. With the advent and uber-evolution of affordable personal computers and increasingly sophisticated software programs creators didn’t need the assistance, permission or approval of publishing, music or film companies to produce their art; they could do it, and do it equally well, right from home, at a fraction of the cost of ‘professionally’ produced products. The destiny of their creation was in their hands. The common man, if he chose to, could afford to produce his own art on a technical level equal or superior to anything professional publishers, music studios, or film companies had produced heretofore.
The technology that allowed for (or limited) the distribution of intellectual/artistic goods also evolved dramatically. Books, music and video used to require physical form (printed books, CD’s, DVD’s) in order for consumers to access the content. Digital compression (technology that allows for greatly reduced file sizes), expanded bandwidth (high speed Internet and cellular service) and digital user interface products (smart phones, tablets, notebook computers) have allowed the distribution of ‘digital’ products – ending the necessity of printing presses, CD/DVD manufacturing facilities, distribution warehouses, freight transportation, and brick & mortar retail stores. Since there is no physical merchandise there is no need to produce, warehouse, transport or display physical goods. The simplest possible manufacturing/distribution chain has been broken down to a single link; that between the creator and the consumer. Put another way, the link between the one with a message to share and the one with whom the message is shared.
Back to the village.
So we’re back to that one-to-one link between the message we have to share and the one we share it with; what has changed in the last thirty centuries? The village has changed. We’re no longer limited by geography. Our ‘village’ is now the world, seven billion people. There will always be those who have no interest in what we’re sharing, just like there may even be some who are against us sharing it. But there are always those who will listen to our message, understand it and relate to it. We share, we find our audience, and our audience responds. That’s how our idea, our story, our message finds its way from person to person, from village to village, from country to country, continent to continent. As the message is shared, our audience grows.