Monday, January 18, 2010

The Madness of Crowds

Pack mentality on the internet. To quote:

In the 1990s, Jaron Lanier was one of the digital pioneers hailing the wonderful possibilities that would be realized once the Internet allowed musicians, artists, scientists and engineers around the world to instantly share their work. Now, like a lot of us, he is having second thoughts.

Mr. Lanier, a musician and avant-garde computer scientist — he popularized the term “virtual reality” — wonders if the Web’s structure and ideology are fostering nasty group dynamics and mediocre collaborations. His new book, “You Are Not a Gadget,” is a manifesto against “hive thinking” and “digital Maoism,” by which he means the glorification of open-source software, free information and collective work at the expense of individual creativity.

He blames the Web’s tradition of “drive-by anonymity” for fostering vicious pack behavior on blogs, forums and social networks. He acknowledges the examples of generous collaboration, like Wikipedia, but argues that the mantras of “open culture” and “information wants to be free” have produced a destructive new social contract.

“The basic idea of this contract,” he writes, “is that authors, journalists, musicians and artists are encouraged to treat the fruits of their intellects and imaginations as fragments to be given without pay to the hive mind. Reciprocity takes the form of self-promotion. Culture is to become precisely nothing but advertising.”



Enbrethiliel said...


What an interesting article, Elena!

I am most intrigued by Lanier's idea that the openness of digital technology is a major cause of music "freezing" in its development.

It's true that many musical artists are earning money anyway by selling concert tickets, but does this translate into fans paying for spectacle rather than songs--or for celebrity rather than quality? If video killed the radio star, what is "democratic" digital technology doing to everyone in the world who makes original music?

Now it looks as if books are next! =S

Julygirl said...

Once upon a time, long long ago, we could live in a lovely glass globe and convince ourselves that nothing really bad existed and if it did we could insulate ourselves from it and pretend it did NOT exist. Now a whole new 'virtual world' has dawned where the struggle between the forces of good and evil have a playing field never before imagined.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, E., books will be next! Or at least publishers will be next, since it is becoming cheap and easy to publish and promote one's own work. With the internet, the sky is the limit!

R J said...

Thank you for this link, ma'am. Had you not provided it, I would never have known about the book involved.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, RJ, I think I may have gotten this link from your FB page but I can't remember!