Note: the first four paragraphs of this post are adapted from my remarks in The Huffington Post, where I put up a new blog entry this morning.
Every year, TIME magazine editors name their Person of the Year. You know the individual-or in some cases, group- they believe whose actions or innovations in the concluding year will have the greatest influence going forward.
Well, take a bow, because you're it. TIME has chosen you as Person of the Year.
Roughly paraphrased, the thinking behind this coronation is that 2006 was the year when everyone could create a MySpace or Facebook page, upload video to YouTube, create a blog, and... drum roll please... BE HEARD!!
To me this thinking is condescending, patronizing, marketing-driven hooey. I mean you can- and quite probably do- have millions of little islands of citizen created content where the majority opinion is that, say, the Bush war in Iraq was/is a bad idea, and we should get out much sooner rather than later.But at the end of a year when "you" had all this influence, guess what happens. Bush ignores the Iraq Study Group and is thinkng hard about how to inject 20,000 or so fresh troops into the Iraq theater.
Still, there is to be a change in the Congressional power balance. If we stay in the technology realm, that could mean less of a good time for broadband monopolists seeking to thwart meaningful net neutrality legislation; online privacy safeguards; maybe incentives for universal broadband. The change in partisan power will result in debates that will be fun to watch- and might actively result in laws sent to you-know-how for signature or veto.
So who, then, had the requisite, transition-facilitating innovations that helped propel the partisan shift?
Since we cover technology in this blog, let me stick to that area for candidates. And why I am all for personal empowerment, I believe that not for the channels and devices developed and popularized by the candidates I am about to name, "you" might still be howling in the wilderness.
OK, what about one of these three choices for "Person of the Year:
YouTube co-founders Steve Hurley and Steve Chen. YouTube, of course, was the video sharing service where an East Indian-American attending a rally for Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia) took cell phone "footage" of Allen saying "macaca" and then uploaded it to the service.
The Information Providers: Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin; Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. Their innovations have enabled massive amounts of knowledge and facts to be available to an increasingly aware and action-oriented public.
My third choice is a stretch. It is about a technology, not a person per se.
The Cell Phone Camera: Obviously the cell phone camera is not a "person." But the way it has changed, and will change society is profound. Not that it is new: famed Internet entrepreneur Philippe Kahn invented it back in 1997 while at Starfish Software. But still, if you are a public figure, you can't go anywhere or say anything- at least in public- and be assured you will get away with it. The Chamber of Commerce guy who makes a racist crack? Well, all those attendees brought their cellphones, and most have cameras. The comedian who used that word in the nightclub. Cell phone camera caught his tirade. And one U.S. Senator soon to be an ex U.S. Senator? Cell phone camera caught him saying the "m" word.
To paraphase an old Simon and Garfunkel song:
"I said be careful, his cell phone is really a camera.."
OK, holding to the concept of you: