Friday, December 28, 2007

Open Thread

To do as you like with. Some (non-exhaustive) possibilities:

(i) De-lurk: say 'hi' and introduce yourself if you haven't commented here before
(ii) Request a topic for a future post
(iii) Remind me of an old comment (or post elsewhere) you'd like me to respond to
(iv) Raise a question or discuss a philosophical puzzle that's on your mind


  1. quiet...

    Richard, I'd like to hear more art-talk. You wrote a post, Democratizing Culture, that touches on cultural production, but sidesteps some tricky aesthetic questions. I'm especially concerned in that post that Benkler takes it for granted that if you can disseminate information then that automatically makes for a more diverse culture--there's no talk of consumption. Also, the thought that the Internet makes culture "radically decentralized" assumes that prior culture was centralized. I don't think that is true; it certainly wasn't easy for diversity, but we've plenty of historical situations where diversity was the norm. The best example is America from 1865 to 1968--we typically represent this time period as politically and culturally repressed when in reality the cultural production that went on then was the best and most diverse that America has offered. What do you think?

  2. Mmm, interesting. I don't know much about American history, but I'd certainly agree that the 20th century's cultural centralization was an artifact of the mass media formats that were developed then. (Benkler, too, recognizes this: "In the twentieth century, Hollywood and the recording industry came to play a very large role in this [cultural] domain.") I would expect there to be more local production (and so diversity) before then. And now the internet raises the prospect of greater yet cultural participation in future.

    "Benkler takes it for granted that if you can disseminate information then that automatically makes for a more diverse culture--there's no talk of consumption."

    I'm not sure if that's quite fair; he does talk about how "a billion volunteers have qualities that make them more likely to produce what others want to read, see, listen to, or experience." If something is both (i) in demand, and (ii) accessible, what more do you need to ensure consumption? (Or do you mean to instead question the first premise, that there is any demand for amateur products? That would be an funny thing to argue on a blog, though!)

  3. Well, it's not fair since I haven't read The Wealth of Networks myself. What are these qualities that make one 'likely to produce'? If it's some valued skill, then sure consumption follows. But it seems clear that most blogging reaches for that skill without ever grasping it--but production is far from slowing. Unlike in a real market, millions of unviewed webpages doesn't cause a big problem, whereas millions of unsold homes does. Am I making sense, or is my concern off the mark? Maybe I should just pick up a copy of Benkler to see for myself...


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