Googling Chaos

Since the economic tsunami of ’08, two books survived my reading pile and washed up again onto the surface of my library, providing navigation during the ensuing media’s apocalyptic, tide-altering times. 


Caught between “The Chaos Scenario - Amid the Ruins of Mass Media, The Choice for Business is Stark: Listen or Perish” and “Googled: The End of the World as We Know It”, I sought out a safe harbor and shelter from this doubly harsh, bookish storm.


So there I stood, by a brackish eddy, alongside a famous American seaport while on a school visit to the Baltimore Museum of Industry, beside Key Highway, not far from the venerable Domino Sugar plant.


Amongst the ruins of long lost labor was memorabilia with names like Allied Signal, Head and the famous linotype machine invented in Baltimore. 


At the museum, children learned about the stuff once made in this great land and how Baltimore had a hand in much of it, from the assembly line to printing on movable type by printing press.


Decidedly, if Baltimore’s harbor, like so many other ports across the world (from Haifa to Hong Kong’s Victoria), is ever to again be a beacon to the world, it needs to plan and dam quickly for what’s to come, because this new tide of change is no longer just coming, but is already a cause to bail. 


Sure, there have been monumental shifts due to innovations and inventions before, but never with the same degree of momentum surging over the gunwales.


If Noah’s flood took forty days and forty nights, the current speed of today’s change is a tidal wave.


Recall Perchik’s prognostication, “A revolution is coming” in Fiddler On The Roof.  I don’t have to tell you how that one turned out.


For example, witness that American behemoth to the far north in Rochester, New York—Kodak.  A brand known for preserving memories of the past, Kodak didn’t focus its lens on the future. So a company once known for innovation in photography will likely be going the way of LPs, tapes and CDs as the speed of technology washes away another icon of American industry.


Of course, when you are in the eye of a storm it’s difficult to know you’re in one. 


So I again took a look at Bob Garfield’s Jeremiad, “The Chaos Scenario” where he writes, “Traditional media are in a stage of dire retrenchment as prelude to a complete collapse. Newspapers, magazines and especially TV as we currently know them are fundamentally doomed…”


Or read Ken Auletta’s “Googled”, where he compares this era to other times of historic change whether the wheel, Guttenberg or even electricity and points out that what’s made this one different, is the velocity. “It took telephones seventy-one years to penetrate 50% of American homes, electricity fifty years and TV three decades.  The Internet reached more than 50 percent of Americans in a mere decade.”  Today that number is over 80%.


Since ’08, we’ve seen how fast this sea can come in, yet it’s the force by which it ebbs that’s most devastating.  Witness how quickly many businesses that once called America home can fast become candidates for entry into the Museum of Lost Labor like Blockbuster, Borders and potentially Barnes & Noble.


It might seem appropriate to ask for leadership to guide us out of this current typhoon, but the whole paradox is that the power is no longer in their hands. It’s in yours and mine. 


If you have a digital camera, a computer and these days everyone does, you’re a reporter, a photojournalist or an ad exec.


On Youtube you can find a video of a car driving recklessly in a parking lot and suddenly, like one of those Monster Trucks it lands on top of two others. One of the crushed cars was a Hyundai.  The next day, Hyundai came out to the same lot and gave the guy who owned the crushed Hyundai a new one.  Hyundai filmed their generous act and posted it to Youtube garnering millions of hits.


What was the other car?  No idea. 


The irony is there was no ad agency, no television, no newspaper needed. 


Just you.  Now, pass me an oar.


Abe Novick is a writer and communications consultant and can be reached at [email protected]