Shirky’s statement is actually pretty simple when you think about it. Especially if you think of the old compared to the new. The barriers in which we communicate, and the ways in which we participate or all but gone. We are no longer a mindless spectator, but we are now creators. We can participate. He gives numerous examples of ways the groups form, and one in particular that he uses is Flickr (33). He says that Flickr did not create the group, but the people themselves create groups. Flickr was simply the tool in which they used to do so. Some may argue that using things like Flickr still creates barriers. They are correct to a point, but this is still liberating and freeing for the people. They are participating in ways they never have, and they are the content creators.
In 1964 McLuhan actually mentioned something that is abundantly apparent today in “Narcissus as Narcosis”. He uses the term “the group village” (69). The group village simply says that media is bringing us together. In the 60s that was something that did not compare to today’s media, but now it is everything. Look at things like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and any other social platform you can think of. The gap between people is microscopic. You can participate in a conversation with someone on the other side of the world in just a couple clicks. I think this idea of the group village might actually be one of the most important ideas when looking for new media in this way. This is where the scale and scope of what is happening is the most apparent. This type of participation has changed everything forever. The medias that keep people from participating are slowly dying off. Look at TV ratings.
Interestingly, Boal even says that the word “spectator” is a terrible word when referencing a theater audience in “From Theater of the Oppressed” (352). Even the barriers there are breaking down. He says that the theater should incorporate the audience. You are no longer a subject but on the same level as the actor. The best example but well guess is what he calls Forum Theater (344). This is a theater in which the audience actually directly participates and tells the story. This might seem rudimentary and far from new, but this is a great example of how the participation in media is quickly changing. For years theater was simply sitting in your dark seat and consuming the play. Now something that you had to be high class to be participant in, can have anyone partake instead of just being the spectator.
To see how this is an essential quality of new media, all you have to do is look at the word “new”. As stated before, new media now has broken down barriers that have been up for decades. Some could argue that barriers are still there, and they probably always will be to an extent. It does not change the importance though. The new media today has enabled groups of people to make differences that nobody thought would be possible. A simple trending hashtag on Twitter can change the political landscape in a day. With new media now, millions of people can gather together for a common cause in a matter of minutes.