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The highly interactive and participative nature of streaming media makes it possible for users to check sources online. You can verify the truth of a story with a quick search and some light research. You can also know the identity of storytellers or reporters, checking interests and affiliations, which may taint their viewpoint or lead them to tell their stories with a particular distortion or slant. Stories can also have peer reviews appended to them (though these are often misused by unscrupulous marketers to provide a faux-objective testimonial to the quality of a work, when in fact it is almost a paid advertisement). The other aspect of streaming media technology that tends to keep people honest is that it lends itself to low-cost, direct surveillance appli-
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cations. Also, the sheer amount of editorial choice available with streaming media (the million-news channel universe ) makes it harder for anyone to slant and control the media s overall agenda. Diversity protects dissent.
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As with the vanilla World Wide Web, trust networks of people who share similar views and values can form almost spontaneously, using streaming media video conferencing technology. However, unlike the Web, with streaming media you can directly see and hear other members of your trust network. It is much harder to masquerade as something you are not, when the camera and microphone are on you. Today, powerful interests and political despots can influence the entire television output of their spheres of influence, hiding inconvenient stories and making it impossible for dissenters to find a voice. Streaming media content is produced by a wide range of program makers, so the likelihood of the medium s falling under the control of special interests, whether corporations or governments, is reduced. Propaganda, spin doctoring, and other officially sanctioned fictions are harder to maintain when digital media spans borders. Television brought the benefit of being able to see people, and judge their characters by their body language and the movement of their eyes. Politicians once able to hide behind the veil of radio were suddenly revealed in full-motion pictures. Streaming media adds the ability to freeze or slow down the action, review the video, and even to examine images in detail, zooming in on things of interest. This added level of control and the ability to examine video in fine detail helps viewers either establish trust in those they are watching, or gives them additional tools with which to scrutinize those they do not trust. The hand may be quicker than the eye, but streaming media allows viewers to slow down the hand.
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When television was the only available audiovisual mass medium, if you had a program you wanted to make, it was difficult to get it made and aired. The cost of production meant you either had to have deep pockets, or a generous benefactor, or else you made the program as a commissioned
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piece for one of the major broadcast networks. Unless the program was self-funded, the injection of outside finance necessarily circumscribed limits on the range of editorial opinion that could be expressed. Some points of view were inexpressible. A program maker could go only so far, but no further. Thereafter, to get the program scheduled for airing meant another round of negotiations and crossed fingers. Unpopular points of view or taboo subject matter meant that the program aired only in the graveyard hours if at all. I recall once seeing a wonderful expos of the activities of certain multinational companies that, while compelling and authoritative, was relegated to debut in a 3AM time slot. Hence, while freedom of speech is enshrined in the US constitution, the commercial nature of the television medium imposes practical limits to the range of topics that can be aired. Freedom of speech is not protected when such filters and censorship, however benevolently applied, exist institutionally. The insidious aspect of television is that it leads viewers to believe that allowable dissent (those viewpoints considered radical, yet still acceptable for broadcast) represents the real limits of the range of viewpoints possible on a given subject. In reality, the range is often greater, but some viewpoints are considered too extreme or unpopular to air, so they never receive the oxygen of publicity. It s as if those opinions don t exist at all, because they cannot be rendered to a television audience. This is a distortion of the public debate and an erosion of democratic freedoms, whether or not people like to acknowledge the fact. With streaming media technology, the scarcity of airtime is a thing of the past. Everyone who has enough money for the equipment and bandwidth can have a channel (this is still a democracy-distorting limit, but not as severe as the limits imposed by television). Making the program is also much cheaper and within an individual s means, since desktop editing tools and high-quality consumer-grade digital video cameras are now available. Just as desktop publishing expanded the range of publications, so desktop video production will expand the range of programs. Although large media conglomerates can still exercise considerable influence and control over streaming media, because they have the financial resources to control access to the major content-delivery networks, no media mogul can own all the content ever created, nor can that mogul create an impervious gateway barring access to the streaming media network. The edge of the network is actually very porous. It was designed to be so, in the event of nuclear war, back when the Internet was first posited by DARPA. Hence, while the incumbents in the media industry can seek to control access to the network, as they have sought to control magazine distribution, for example, they can never achieve it in practice, or even approach the level of control they still
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