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Media Perspectives - Inside Plato's Digital Cave
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MEDIA PERSPECTIVES - February 17, 2016
I just wanted to let my readers know that I've created a blog where I will be posting essays and articles I've written on digital and online marketing. It's an extension of Media Perspectives. I hope you continue to read and enjoy!
Here's the link:
Jaffer Ali's Blog - Perspectives from a Media Contrarian
Thanks for Reading!
Inside Plato's Digital Cave
by: Jaffer Ali
Socrates: And if he is compelled to look straight at the light, will he not have a pain in his eyes which will make him turn away to take refuge in the objects of vision which he can see, and which he will conceive to be in reality clearer than the things which are now being shown to him?
And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he's forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated?
--Book VII of Plato's Republic
I had not read the allegory of Plato's Cave since my college days many years ago. When I chanced upon it the other day while surfing the web, I found it once again spoke to me as it has spoken to the world for nearly 2500 years.
What was once my basis for a theoretical treatise in college has become a profound revelation as I traverse the online media landscape. It is all but certain that many of the digerati are helplessly, and -- dare I say it -- nearly hopelessly chained inside the cave, unable to see the world outside.
The reality of online media and media in general is that there is a very deep problem that digital pundits apparently cannot countenance. The pain of the light proves so pervasive that they satisfy themselves by looking at shadows cast upon the cave walls.
Media agencies are the most tethered group inside the cave. They are chained to complexity that, devoid of logic and reason, dooms them and their clients to life amidst the shadows. This will remain so for the foreseeable future because complexity fosters the illusion of expertise and advertisers are now so deep inside the cave that they're willing to finance hope against hope in their desperate search for a way out.
But there is more to being inside the digital cave than the mere cause and effect of misguided self-interest. There are dire consequences that lurk in these same shadows. The entire online media ecosystem is growing increasingly unhealthy and unsustainable as seemingly smart folks continue to shy away from the light. Our long-term self interest demands an exit from the cave, but it's as if there is a collective delusion -- beyond reason and rationality -- that keeps us in the dark.
There are an estimated 250 million functioning websites, yet arguably less than 1% of them are financially sustainable. With more than 99% of this ecosystem economically unviable, one would expect considerable focus on this sorry state of affairs. But even just a cursory overview of our digital trade press indicates a wildly disproportionate amount of attention on the marginally viable 1% and almost no consideration whatsoever for the unsustainable parts of the ecosystem.
Can a practiced cave dweller emerge from the shadows? Plato thought so, but I am not so sure. Plato believed in the power of rational thought to overcome irrational emotion. For us to escape from the metaphorical cave that shields us from the light of reason, we must first force ourselves to look beyond the darkness of our own design.
Not until the threat of life in the shadows becomes too great will people brave the journey into the light. We can only hope that the self-inflicted pain caused by an unsustainable media ecosystem will force us out.
Perhaps the words of French author Anais Nin will help to guide us:
"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
Inside Plato's Digital Cave
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