The Elitist Web v. The Populist Web

Umair has a thoughtful post on the clash of the collaboratve web with the editorialists. He summarizes:

There’s a new bourgeoisie in town, and they are just a wee bit elitist when it comes to connected consumption. You know the meme they’re pushing by now; but if you don’t, Jaron Lanier sums it up nicely for us:

“…But the hive mind is for the most part stupid and boring.”

Of course, Jaron here echoes folks like Nick Carr, Esther Dyson, etc.

I find this absolutely fascinating. Why? Because all of these folks are very intelligent, very sharp, very well-read, and very intellectual – but in this case, their arguments aren’t just elitist, lame, and reminiscent of corporatethink. Their arguments are deeply intellectually bankrupt: they’re not making real arguments at all.

You should read the entire post. I think he’s right. However, Umair does miss one point in his argument: How efficient are the collaborative “thought markets”?

What I mean by “collaborative thought markets” is the connected discussion taking place online. Examples are wikipedia, digg, ebay and amazon reviews. It’s hard to dispute the price of a transaction on eBay, especially if it’s a popular item. eBay is fairly liquid and efficient. The same may not be true for Amazon reveiws, or Digg…. yet! As collaborative markets get more liquid and efficient, and effective filtering tools get put into place, the argument Umair is fighting will disappear. You won’t be able to discern the difference between NYT and Digg. It only needs to get more liquid.

One thought on “The Elitist Web v. The Populist Web

  1. “How efficient are the collaborative ‘thought markets’?”
    Well, here is a short but important comparison: Wikipedia versus E. Britannica done by the prestigious scientific journal Nature.
    http://www.nature.com/news/2005/051212/full/438900a.html
    “The exercise revealed numerous errors in both encyclopaedias, but among 42 entries tested, the difference in accuracy was not particularly great: the average science entry in Wikipedia contained around four inaccuracies; Britannica, about three.”
    Yes, I also think that distributed average intelligence competes with a concentrated elite intelligence but we must not forget that no matter how distributed a community is it creates its own “circles”. These centerless communities may create quality for some contexts but generally you need some driving force for the purpose of community creation and enhancement.

    Like

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