Deep Breath Necessary to Stop the Hyperventilation and to Get Oxygen to the Brain

I enjoy reading Nicholas Carr’s blog precisely because he tends to throw grenades at the Web 2.0 echoplex, but his latest post is in almost every way hysterical.

Carr — and his brother-in-arms, Andrew Keen — argue that web 2.0 technologies that “democratize media” will “democratize talent” and we’ll be “left with nothing more than ‘the flat noise of opinion — Socrates’s nightmare.'” And that we’re “building a machine that will, to great and general applause, destroy culture.”

This is just silly, silly hyperbole. (And it should be noted I write that as someone who loves his old media, who has also questioned the utopian claims of the web 2.0 evangelists, and who thinks that the online, interactive world may not be right for all talented people.)

Long before any “Web 2.0” service came along, some people, for example, decided Britney Spears, Danielle Steele, and Yanni were talented. Some people deemed their works “culture” or “art.” I can pretty much guarantee they weren’t bloggers or Google or Craig Newmark …

These two posts are so full of apocalytic prose, and so lacking in any logical argument, it’s hard to figure out what their case really is. But I think they’re trying to say the following:

1. Web 2.0 technologies will make it easier for more people to create more content, and a lot of that will be crap.
2. Personalization technologies and filtering technologies will make it easier to get only the crap we really like.
3. Real “talent” and thus culture will be strangled by these twin forces.

Can I say “Yanni” again?

Look, lot’s of people have been able to create bad art, music, writing for a long, long time. And people have been able to quaff down that badness without restraint. Web 2.0 technologies will not change those entrenched human behavioral dynamics much — either for the better, as the utopian cheerleaders proclaim, or for the worse, as envisioned by Carr and Keen.

And while new technologies will undoubtedly cause some disruption in how we find and celebrate real talent, I do not doubt that there will be mechanisms to sustain their work in some way. This is not a new problem, really. Saul Bellow managed to make a living while most people were reading Danielle Steele novels, not Herzog.

The ultimate irony — and unintentional hilarity — of these posts is captured in this phrase from Keen‘s piece (cited approvingly by Carr):

“Blogs personalize media content so that all we read are our own thoughts.”

That sentiment — with which I so fundamentally disagree — I found, of course, in a blog, via my personalized Bloglines feedreader. Hah!


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