The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More, by Chris Anderson (Hyperion: 2005). Probably a bit ahead of its time, The Long Tail described the dynamics of mass media in a world that has “a democratization of technology.” Print-on-demand books, e-books, Internet music and video downloads are just a few ways in which the mass media are now accessible to everyman–not just the consumption of media, but the production and distribution of media.

Have you written a book? Now you can publish it yourself. As a result, more than a million new books were published in the United States last year.

Do you have a story, an opinion, or a message? Now you can share it with the world yourself. As a result, billions of e-mail messages, Twitter tweets, and blog posts flow over the Internet each day.

With the enormous deluge of information swirling about us every day, how can any writer expect to be read or speaker expect to be heard? Must content creators  spend their days scattering trails of electronic “crumbs” all over the world, in hopes that a few people genuinely interested in their ideas will find the way to them?

Anderson points out that consumers can now satisfy their fragmented interests quickly, easily, and economically. This means the emergence of “millions of micro-cultures,”  which overlap and run in parallel with one another. He believes this is a healthy development, because people are no longer willing to be spoon-fed a diet of superficial, generic messages. Over the course of time, he believes, this ready access to information will encourage the public to become “more open-minded, not less.”

What do you think? What are the actual consequences of our easy access to communications media?

Do we engage in more dialogue with people who have different views, or withdraw into enclaves of people who think just like us? Do we reach out to learn more of what is new, innovative, and transformative in our world, or do we just gather evidence to justify our status quo and confirm our existing beliefs?

As Jesus said, “To whom much is given, much will be required.” That truism applies to many different kinds of gifts. New technologies give us incredible accessibility to the other 6 billion people of our world. So what are we doing with these gifts?