Jimmy Wales: Media revolution is changing the world

Wikipedia founder says art, social connections, spread of information under speedy transformation.

jimmy wales 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
jimmy wales 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The consumer-driven media revolution will have enormous impact globally as the next billion people get online, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales told an audience Thursday at the “Facing Tomorrow” Presidential Conference.
Wales was speaking at a two-part panel titled “The New Media Making Tomorrow,” along with panelists David Fischer, vice-president of advertising and global operations at Facebook, Imax CEO Richard Gelfond and TiVo CEO Tom Rogers. The session was moderated by Dr. Yossi Vardi, former director-general for the Israeli ministries of development and energy.
Wales expressed optimism about the exponential increase in Internet and digital mobile device use. “One of the most important things when we think about the future of the Internet is to think about the developing world,” he said.
As expected, Wikipedia articles in English, European and Asian languages are posted in high volume, he said, noting Hebrew Wikipedia recently surpassed 120,000 articles.
But Wales said the digital world is starting to drive change in African countries, as massive numbers of people get online for the first time.
“This is going to have enormous impact on the world,” he said. “In general, we haven’t had this experience of that next billion people in direct conversation with us, and that’s coming very, very quickly.”
Wales noted the change will be not simply be in technological changes, but in how people interact with each other around the world.
“Everything in Wikipedia, everything in the Wiki-world really, is a social innovation, not a technical innovation,” he said.
“Once the technology exists people begin to be able to do things, but it may take several years in some cases for people to figure out the way to organize their communities to accomplish something.”
Fischer shared Wales’s optimism for the future of social interaction, and said Israel is already active in this regard. He noted with over three million active on Facebook, Israelis use more social media than any other nation.
Fischer attributed Facebook’s place in today’s cultural revolution to connecting people.“You suddenly create also sorts of opportunities when you rebuild the web around people and you go from ‘what’ to the ‘who,’” he said.
In terms of interacting with friends, family or corporations, “the whole experience becomes personal and it suddenly becomes more like the way we live our lives,” Fischer said.
In the realm of entertainment consumption, IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond spoke about how his industry has actually benefited from the rapid advances in home gaming and entertainment technological advances.
“People who don’t want to just stay on their couch all the time – they want to do something else – they want something special and that’s what’s created the boom in IMAX’s business, is that something special.”
He said the biggest changes in the social media industry right now is in the number of devices across the platforms available, and the new technology in making 3-D and high-definition images.
However, filmmakers and retailers like Wal-Mart are disgruntled as studios look to adapt and market film content for immediate on-demand media platforms.
Gelfond said he’s not sure what that will mean for the industry as it tries to adapt.
“Remember, at the end of the day, it’s about the things that Shakespeare did and people did before Shakespeare, which is tell a good story and figure out how to adapt it to the new technologies.”
Similarly, Rogers said TV had been left behind in the technology advancement, but he urged the audience to expect great things to come for TV – what he referred as the first social media.
Near the end of the session, Vardi invited sex therapist Dr. Ruth onstage to share her views on the Internet. Dr. Ruth was in the audience prior to hosting her own master class at the conference.
Dr. Ruth drew applause when she called on the panelists to use their stature to teach others about the Internet’s inherent dangers, including violation of privacy.
She cited the tragic incident of a gay student in the US who committed suicide after peers posted a video of a sexual encounter online.
“Parents have an obligation to know what information the young people get on the Internet,” she said.
Dr. Ruth drew laughter from the audience when she asked Fischer to join her at the podium to touch him in order to demonstrate how people still need to interact through human touch. She bypassed President Shimon Peres, who was seated in the audience.
“This time I’m getting older, so I’m going to use a younger man,” she said.
The media panel followed an introductory panel session, titled “The Future of Connectivity – Internet Everywhere” which included Leo Apotheker, CEO of Hewlett- Packard, William E. McCracken CEO of CA Technologies, Rene Obermann, CEO of Deutsche Telekom AG, and Ivan Seidenberg, CEO and board chairman at Verizon.
All cautioned about heightened security issues, including cyber-crime, in the face of exponential growth of mobile Internet and global social networking sites.