From Consumers to Users: Shifting the Deeper Structures of Regulation Toward Sustainable Commons and User Access
Constructing our information environment as one composed of information “from diverse and antagonistic sources”‘ has been a central focus of structural regulation and its First Amendment justification for half a century. In the twentieth century, structural media regulation meant tinkering with the configuration of a mass media market aimed at eyeballs. For example, group ownership and duopoly rules, licensing criteria like diversity and localism, financial interest and syndication rules, or cable access rules, took the basic structure of mass media markets as given, and tried to make sure that this basic structure delivered somewhat more diverse content than it would if left to its own devices. Technology now makes possible the attainment of decentralization and democratization by enabling small groups of constituents and individuals to become usersparticipants in the production of their information environment-rather than by lightly regulating concentrated commercial mass media to make them better serve individuals conceived as passive consumers. Structural media regulation in the twenty-first century must, in turn, focus on enabling a wide distribution of the capacity to produce and disseminate information as a more effective and normatively attractive approach to serve the goals that have traditionally animated structural media regulation.