Ben at if:book posted inviting discussion around some issues in a long post by Nicholas Carr. Ben's focus on Carr's post was around the web being a competitor to traditional media. The issue he centers around is, essentially, will Web 2.0 further drive nails in the coffin of for-profit media?
The Internet is changing the economics of creative work - or, to put it more broadly, the economics of culture - and it's doing it in a way that may well restrict rather than expand our choices.
The post goes into the role of wikipedia and blogs and their roles in the unseating of mainstream media. Ben's pulling of this slice of a huge and rich post by Carr creates a straw man out of what is a much stronger argument.
The fact is, even without the internet, mainstream media is currently tarnished along with big politics. There is a fundamental lack of trust in the world today in general and in the US in particular. Polarization, obvious political buffoonery and an utter lack of access have led to the systematic alienation of the populace. Big media is part of this alienation, fairly or otherwise.
Played right, Web 2.0 would actually lead to a resurgence of maintream media, depending on how much maintream media is willing to get in on the conversation. There is impartiality on the web, precious little of it to be sure, but where it's recognized it is rewarded. Snopes.com and various political ethics watchdog sites have been recognized by both political parties.
But Carr's points were much deeper than this. Carr is warning that the people creating Web 2.0 are so overzealous in their pursuit of collaborative perfection that it borders on religious hysteria. The new pontifs of this religion, according to Carr, are the amateurs. Bloggers, musicians, etc. In essence, the artists control the means of production.
It's not so much that people are supplanting tradional media, but they are doing it badly and without thinking. Carr pulls some gems from Wikipedia, showing that it is hardly a be-all, end-all of encyclopedia. Crappy amateurs in love with their new god are unwittingly killing their previous one.
I still don't entirely buy the argument. The popularization of communication should not derail mainstream media or commercial media any more than having local school boards derails big time politics.
I think a large part of commercial media's crying is due to their already tenuous hold on the marketplace. Mountain bikes, coffee houses, and dinner parties are more of a killer of commercial media than the internet. Why?
Because the blogosphere needs something to talk about. We'll still need famous people. We'll still need coherent posts to link to. We'll still want source material.
Commercial media needs to understand that its role hasn't changed, hasn't weakened, and isn't in danger - by Web 2.0 at any rate. They have reached a point where society (their market) is making a pronounced shift. They need to react to that market shift.
This is difficult because people are already distrustful of them. They need to reform their image and make a market shift - and that's hard. I'd be scared too, if I were them.
Is there crap in the blogopshere? There sure is. Is it changing the way people get information? Yes. Is the crap in the blogosphere any worse than AM radio, editorials in the WSJ, or TV Nightly News Nuggets? Nope.
As the Web 2.0 world grows and commercial media continues to contort on the floor, we as consumers will be required to seek out, find and reward good reporting. Some of it will come from the commerical side. Some of it will come from the non-commercial side. A lot of it will be coming from the increasingly large gray area in between.