But for some reason, probably sheer forgetfulness, I subscribed to First Monday from the get-go, but not to The Edge.
So it took Steven Levy and Newsweek, via an article headlined Mao’s Revenge,(for some reason the online version is headlined Poking a Stick Into the Hive Mind to alert me to Jaron Lanier‘s essay last May, on Digital Maoism. I find it hard to figure out why I didn’t see anything about it anywhere else, given the importance of the debate and the nature of the participants in that debate. So mea culpa again.
Two asides. One, I couldn’t resist linking Lanier’s name to his wikipedia entry; there is an imp in every one of us :-). And two, what I am doing is itself a departure from the Information is Power mindset of old. I am meant to keep these sources to myself and then appear wise and learned while regurgitating stuff from my secret sources. That’s what the old model was about. Hidden sources. Privileged access. Exclusions. A sham wisdom. In the blogosphere we opensource not just our ideas but also all our sources. Because we don’t need to rely on such trickeries as hidden sources.
I need time to read through all that has been discussed, by enough luminaries to fill an Ivy League faculty and more. There’s a lot of useful stuff in there, stuff I believe some of you will enjoy digging through. So dig away.
If I haven’t finished reading it, why am I breaking from my norm and just linking to the stuff? Because it’s now in the mainstream, as a result of the Newsweek coverage, and we need to act. Collectively :-) Before the mainstream accept his view as the norm. Because they will. I can see reprints being ordered now and becoming part of every enterprise pantheon on social software. Unless we respond.
I like a lot of what Lanier usually says. But this time he brings his guns to bear on all the traditional criticisms of social knowledge and citizen media: lowest common denominator; dumbing down; propaganda; hive mentalities and drone thinking; the whole shooting match. And, sadly, he agrees with the critics. Thankfully, he too has critics, and the Edge does a good job in putting their points of view across.
Please do read it if you’re at all interested in the subject. I promise to comment in detail sometime soon, for whatever it’s worth.
Let me end by saying that any medium of expression has the capacity to be subverted into a propaganda machine. The internet is not a medium of expression, it is a place. A marketplace. Of conversations. And so it has a capacity for dissent that is unrivalled.
That’s why crowds can be wise. It is in the capacity for dissent, and the free exercising of that capacity, that collective wisdom is formed.