Monday, July 9, 2007

Cult of the Amateur and other Stuff

I finished Cult of the Amateur, a screed against all those monkeys pounding keyboards across the Internet and debasing society by shoveling piles and piles of mediocrity in our direction, thus taking our minds off higher fare and leading to a society amusing itself to death (to borrow a phrase from another great book).

I admit some sympathy for this position, despite the books flaws, which have been discussed in detail elsewhere. This is where I should insert lots of links to the pros and cons of the book. Google 'em yourself. I'm busy.

So, what's this to do with What People Know? With political knowledge?


We are coming to the tension between an elite versus mass approach to news, knowledge, entertainment, and politics. It's Lippmann vs. Dewey, or Plato versus Aristotle. From a What People Know perspective, it comes down to where are people best informed: bloggers and YouTube, or the mainstream professional media? As the audience for the MSM erodes, are people better informed? Does it even matter that people are generally uninformed, or at least not factually informed?

This gets all tied up in the Wisdom of the Crowd as compared to elites as leaders of opinion, and the question of emotion versus factual knowledge. The end result? I imagine we are becoming more "affective" in our political orientations, less willing to spend time learning what's going on, more distracted by the thousand new voices or easier ways to spend our time, more likely to follow the more emotional appeal, and generally less capable of participating effectively in a democracy. And that's bad news.

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