On Twitter a lot of people have been linking to the @herpderpedia account, which is retweeting people’s confused reactions to today’s Wikipedia blackout. On a mailing list I subscribe to, somebody wrote of this phenomenon:
It’s really amazing
A. how completely oblivious people are to the issues
B. how completely oblivious people are to the page they’re looking that explains why wikipedia is blacked out
C. how much I don’t want to live on this planet anymore
I share his sense of disappointment, but this kind of ironic distance is exactly what we don’t need right now. Instead, let’s have a little compassion for each other. Send those people links to help them understand why Wikipedia has gone dark today. That sharing capacity is exactly what this issue is all about.
If only 2% of New York Times online visitors trigger the 20 per month article threshold, their former mass advertising audience turns into a niche of self-selecting paid customers.
There has never been a mass market for good journalism in this country. What there used to be was a mass market for print ads, coupled with a mass market for a physical bundle of entertainment, opinion, and information; these were tied to an institutional agreement to subsidize a modicum of real journalism. In that mass market, the opinions of the politically engaged readers didn’t matter much, outnumbered as they were by people checking their horoscopes. This suited advertisers fine; they have always preferred a centrist and distanced political outlook, the better not to alienate potential customers. When the politically engaged readers are also the only paying readers, however, their opinion will come matter more, and in ways that will sometimes contradict the advertisers’ desires for anodyne coverage.
Acts of communication, by themselves, aren’t especially interesting. We’ve always had protests, riots, and revolutions, and the people who carried them out have always found ways to spread the word. If the medium for those communications shifts from word of mouth, to printed flier, to telephone, then to texts and Twitter, what does it really matter? Technology becomes an important part of the story only if it’s changing the nature of the events — and the nature of the social groups that are carrying them out.
Last night the Personal Democracy Forum Media people held a “flash conference” at NYU. The panel of speakers included two of my favorite people, Beka Economopoulos and Clay Shirky (who mentioned me during his talk! zomg!), focusing on the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements. It was skewed more toward OWS, but I did appreciate what Mark Meckler had to say about his experience doing grassroots organizing for the Tea Party.
Mark starts at 38:00, Beka at 57:00, and Clay around 1:14:00.
Douglas Rushkoff is hosting a virtual round table with danah boyd, Nicholas Carr, Clay Shirky, RU Sirius and a bunch of other smart folks. It’s a chaotic mix of academic hyperbole and hastily typed rhetoric, but somehow it keeps me checking in for new entries. You may find that subscribing to the RSS feed is an easier way to read this since new content doesn’t always appear at the bottom. The first part is mostly about Nicholas Carr arguing with everyone else about whether groups can collectively “have an idea.” Carr says they can’t:
I think one of the reasons we’re having trouble discussing the way brilliant new ideas emerge from “networked ‘mass’ groups” is because that phenomenon doesn’t happen. The ideas for Wikipedia and Linux, to take, once again, the obvious examples, came from individuals, not from the groups that subsequently formed to bring the ideas to fruition. As Eric Raymond, the author of “The Cathedral and the Bazaar,” once wrote in an email to me, “The individual wizard is where successful bazaar projects generally start.”
We need men as allies, men who both encourage women to speak up and who consciously choose to spotlight women who are talented. But, more importantly, we need men (and anyone with privilege) to consciously and conscientiously account for their own privilege and biases and to actively work to highlight and embrace diverse voices of all kinds. Your interpretation of others is just as (if not more) important in creating change as their efforts to impress you.
Some blog upgrade hiccups pushed this back into my feed reader as an unread item. Worth a read in case you missed it.