Nicholas Carr: The new narcissism
As I myself have thought about the watery philosophy and the powerful technology that dovetail so neatly in Web 2.0, I’ve become convinced that we’re building a machine that will, to great and general applause, destroy culture. Keen gets close to the heart of the matter: “If you democratise media, then you end up democratising talent. The unintended consequence of all this democratisation, to misquote Web 2.0 apologist Thomas Friedman, is cultural ‘flattening.'” In the end we’re left with nothing more than “the flat noise of opinion – Socrates’s nightmare.”
Yes, I fear it’s so. Beware of those who come with money and influence and pretty-sounding abstractions and who are utterly unaware that what they so joyfully seek to impose on the world is their own reckless banality.
I think there’s something to what Nicholas is saying, but the problem isn’t the “democratisation” of media. The trend at the moment is for the blogging world to be a kind of feed-pool for professional media – look at how people like Marc Orchant have crossed over into the mainstream. At the end of the day, talent will out. Opinions that don’t stand up to the rigour of reason will wither, those that work won’t.
In fact, I’d argue that it’s often been the case that mainstream media has represented “the flat noise of opinion”, because they haven’t been involved in conversation or debate. Newspapers have been one-way streets, whose opinions haven’t been subject to any debate outside the confines of the walls of the newsroom. They have been impervious to challenge, except for the challenge of the market.
Where there is a problem with the neo-hippies is in their insistence that opinion itself – the voice of the people – is intrinsically of value. Opinion without argument is valueless: the tyranny of relativism.