Chris at Hypergene Media Blog, had some notes passed to him by futurist Watts Wacker, and it has resulted in a post that’s full of intriguing questions.

The next media revolution will be user-generated content.

To be a part of that revolution, we have to first ask more questions:

Knowing that most people will not want to be “journalists” or “editors,” how do we architect a flexible media ecosystem that allows – in a twist on Skype’s model – as many people to contribute as little content as possible?

How do we build for emergence and not specific behavior or outcomes?

How do we change our institutions to be relevant for future that is already here?

How do we learn to trust our audience and protect them from the occasional bad apple or group-think?

Authority is shifting. Trust is being redefined. But to what?

We seem to be getting closer to the answers to some of those questions. Both Google and Yahoo continue to move deeper into search and aggregation (making it easier, but still not easy, to find user-generated content). Our Media, collect, host and deliver content. RSS makes possible (mis-named) news aggregators and video-collectors like FireANT, although neither of them are smart enough to find stuff for me.

The question that intrigues me most is this one:

How do we change our institutions to be relevant for future that is already here?

Combining that question with Mark Glaser’s OJR piece Is Yahoo public enemy no. 1 for big media?, changes the question a little from how we change institutions to which new institutions will most threaten existing media when it comes to finding, aggregating and delivering all of that user-generated content.

Right now, media that gets it (and it’s clear that not all of them do) operate in invitation mode — join us by submitting your stuff. Only a few go beyond that, linking out, and in most cases the links are to the A-list bloggers, the same folk who regularly turn up on the TV talk shows. Yahoo, Google, Technorati, Ice Rocket and the other search sites operate in find-it mode, driven by targetted search. The weakness is that they find sites, not information.

The potential for the combination of professionally-produced media (not just journalism) and user generated content is immense. We saw a hint of it from New Orleans: and other professional media, the stunningly real blog The Interdicter, the slideshow of images by Alvaro Morales, or the incredibly moving work of Clayton James Cubitt. The magnitude of the disaster, and the heavy interest in it, made sure that the user-generated content bubbled to the top and became widely read and cited.

(That’s also happened in the wake of the truly awful earthquake in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. See this list of blogs.)

What’s missing is the user-generated content (we need a better term) that’s being produced every day — bits of journalism, personal essays, entertainments (in words, images and video). Some of it makes it into the public sphere and gets passed around through blog links, email or IMs, but not nearly all of it, or even most of it. Even finding the good professional journalism being produced every day (sorry, blogging triumphalists, there’s a lot of good journalism in MSM) is a challenge.

Right now I get a combination of professional journalism and user-generated content, but it means visiting (through Bloglines or bookmarks) more than 200 web sites a day, as well as using iTunes podcasting downloads and FireANT to bring in audio and video that I’ve subscribed to. I’m missing a lot that I’m sure I would find interesting, entertaining and perhaps even vital to my understanding of media and journalism. True, before the internet I also missed a lot: now I’m not only aware I’m missing it, I’m also unhappy because the ‘net, in theory, makes it all available.

One more of the Hypergene questions:

How do we build for emergence and not specific behavior or outcomes?

Indeed. At the moment, that seems to be one of those core questions we should be asking about the future of media and journalism.

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