January 14, 2006

"Citizen Media" Skeptical Questions

Dan Gillmor is speaking about "Citizen Media" at Harvard Tuesday (1/17). I did something perhaps not in my best interests, but fuelded by my frustrations, and posted a "Skeptical Questions" comment:

[Dan, you're a nice guy, so I can get away with this - which is kind of a mini-point in itself :-(]

1. The journalism business is changing - GOT IT! HEARD IT! UNDERSTOOD! Now, why should anyone who is *not* a pundit (professional or wannabe), or interested in creating a business (i.e. 99% of the population), care that media people, both talent and finance, are fighting over the changes?

2. What's so superultrafantastic about being an unpaid freelancer? I grasp that there are many promoters who are very excited about the possibilities of data-mining and vanity-press business models (*cough* *cough* venture capital funds ...). Shouldn't everyone else be wary of being the chum to dream-sellers?

3. Doesn't the power-law show that ordinary citizens really have no way to effectively make their voices heard? (appealing to gatekeepers, whether they are called "reporters" or "A-listers", doesn't count). As I put it: THERE IS RE-INTERMEDIATION!

4. Given that the top-ranked blogs are full of slavering partisan hacks, outrage-mongers, and marketing hypesters, doesn't this demonstrate that, bit-for-bit, the bogosphere is hardly better than the mainstream media, and arguably *worse*?

5. Moreover, it's occasionally sometimes discussed that the politics and media top blogs are overwhelmingly well-off white males. So arguably the bogosphere is highly non-meritocratic. Again, isn't this evidence that contrary to idealism, for *effective* diversity, it's no better, and quite possibly worse? (i.e, the diversity wars are being refought, from further behind).

But good luck anyway.

[End comment - note for non-native English speakers, that phrase "being the chum to dream-sellers" is a play on words. In English, the word "chum" means both "friend" and "fish-bait", depending on context]

Again, Dan Gillmor isn't the sort to throw a temper-tantrum over insufficient sycophancy, so I'm probably not going to suffer for a little bit of being a gadfly. But I sure wouldn't want to be saying this stuff in front of guys who want to make more than $100 million. It's perilous for a skeptic to be around large amounts of money (n.b. it's often not the big moneybags themselves who are abusive, but secondary people who want to ingratiate themselves with the big moneybags).

Comic relief: Jon Garfunkel -The New Worders ("A guide to the various Worders in the New Media landscape. It's no longer just Writers and Readers. But one term doesn't fit all.")

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on January 14, 2006 11:56 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

Subscribe with Bloglines      Subscribe in NewsGator Online  Google Reader or Homepage


Seth, these are important questions. I'm planning to address as many of them as we have time for on Tuesday, and will post replies here and at my blog.

Posted by: Dan Gillmor at January 15, 2006 12:32 PM

I do think Seth's angle was a bit harsh here. Though we did cross paths for the first time when examining these issues a year ago. I would have stated the challenge, as such: What have we learned in a year? What has stood in our way towards getting serious examinations of issues such as credibility, fairness.

And yes, as Seth and I have corresponded on, and as I've alluded to most obliquely in my post on white swan consultants, the financial pressures are likely the factors that are the greatest obstacles.

I actually have come up with a model to examine the credibility problem, and I may actually get it published online elsewhere in addition to Civilities... if not by Tuesday, I'll send you and Dan a draft.

Posted by: Jon Garfunkel at January 15, 2006 01:50 PM

Dan: The deep problem is, how to know any answer is true, rather than popular? That's an undercurrent to the unhappiness with the hype, the marketing. I don't think *you'll* do the following, but one kind of "answer" from some A-list'ers would just be to personally attack me as an elitist who doesn't "get it", or worse.

Jon: As I wrote, some of my take here is "fueled by my frustrations". What stands in our way is that there's little money and scant gurudom to be had in "serious examinations of issues such as credibility, fairness". You can't make *$100 MILLION DOLLARS* from doing that. That's why all the action is on how to outsource creative labor, hopefully for free by making it a lottery where a very few get low-money contract jobs and everyone else gets, err, the satisfaction of having participated in the "conversation".

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at January 15, 2006 02:48 PM