Not surprisingly the common domains around the term “micromedia” are occupied by microscopic entities unrelated to media in the conventional sense. Still the concept behind the phrase remains valid: one key to developing the info-economy is development of laser-focused media outlets where the content, the specific information, is the magnet. Micromedia leverage visibility and access to create a sense of belonging or community, and as people are attracted and become active, the importance of that community grows. Think of BBS’s, and Usenet Newsgroups, which have evolved to become Yahoo Groups and other aggregated virtual communities, ever more tiny.
As people participate, a sense of community builds. With it comes a sense that this micro-market is larger and more significant than it is. The fact that 100 people share an interest, across a planet of 5,000,000,000, seems remarkable or at least validating! In fact it’s a new form of tribal organization. But while people previously joined tribes through birth or ritual, modern tribes organize purely around interests. The more intense the interest, the more exclusive the tribe, the closer the bonds.
These bonds are as real and tangible as everything else in the infosphere. It is a mistake to discount online relationships, communities or personas: we can address each of these entities on all traditional levels of human experience. We can form friendships, companies, clubs, and schools, or any other sort of format as easily in the virtual world as the real one. E-commerce is as viable as bricks and mortar, and in fact may be more efficient, safe and healthy. Dismissing or ignoring the organization of the virtual world eliminates opportunities in the physical one.
On a social level, its worth considering how the virtual world might enrich and expand the lives of shut-ins, the elderly, and the handicap. The networked information economy provides equal access to many people who had previously been excluded. Not only does it create employment opportunity for individuals, it creates new markets for assistive devices, products, as well as an efficient way to coordinate and deliver aid to all kinds of people. Exploiting the potential of many-to-many networks is a central goal of dataesthetic design.