The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Jay H § Matching cuts / 2014-10-02 02:41:13

Supernova: Whole New Internet?
 / 

Janice Fraser, the author of this article, is facilitating a discussion about what’s new on the Internet — what developments like Flickr, Technorati, Del.icio.us, &c. mean. Do they signify a broad advancement in the pattern of innovation?

She starts off with a slide explaining her thesis: “The new internet embraces openness, relinquishes control, and assumes an unknowable future that will be realized through collective effort.”

So where does this leave us? We’re turning away from publishers providing content and embracing people as content providers, Janice says. We’re mistrusting centralized authority in favor of collective wisdom. We’re rejecting a packaged experience for an authentic one.


A rumble from the crowd. “OK, I’m getting bored,” says Man-from-audience. “You haven’t said anything controversial.”

A period of back-and-forth ensues over the question of what’s really new in all this. Janice says marketers have to figure out how to respond to the trends listed above. Man-from-audience says they’re just repackaging corporate products as “authentic” ones, nothing’s really changed there.

Back-and-forth ends. Janice continues with her list of what’s changed in the new internet. Tech advancements can be cool, she says, but what we’re looking for is new design insights. The new Internet doesn’t care all that much about business plans; it just wants to make “things.” (Cf. Chris Anderson re: long tail being less about financial compensation and more about self-expression.) Our applications have changed from being feature-rich to being “feature-stingy.”

This last point draws some fire. Flickr is very feature-rich, someone points out. But it started out with a lot more features, rebuts someone else. But for every specialized software application, someone else says, there are tons of broad apps as well. It’s just a function of having more apps.

Yes, these are the disagreements that are happening right now. I feel a little bad for Janice. She just wanted to define the parameters of the new age of the Internet. But she got handed an audience of attack dogs. Man-from-audience empowered the rest of the crowd to unleash snark. Now, smelling blood, they’re almost at the point of attacking each other.

Marc Canter asks why apps can’t adjust themselves from feature-rich to feature-stingy based on the preference/mood of the user. Man-from-audience says it’s ridiculous to try to build such a super-granular app. Two participants each attempt to deliver a can’t-we-all-just-get-along broad theory of everything moment. Janice has seemingly abandoned the conversation to surf the Web.

Honestly, the most interesting thing on display is the gender dynamic of the conversation. I can’t tell whether this is a relevant detail or not, but I’ll include it nonetheless: The room is very predominantly male. Janice, you might have noticed from some pronoun clues, is female. Has that set the tone of the discussion at all? Would Chris Anderson have drawn more snark from the audience had he been Christine, instead of, ostensibly, Christopher?

I think I might have noticed one other black man at the conference so far, so maybe that’s the only reason I’m sensitive to this.

Then again, only one of the other two women who’s spoken thus far made the point that the fairly narrow demographic represented here can’t possibly describe the experience or parameters of “the new Internet” for people across the globe. I think she’s thinking what I’m thinking.

June 20, 2005 / Uncategorized

3 comments

When you first pose the question, Howard, I’m tempted to say, “Of course!” The first blog that hooked me in was a community blog that relied on group moderation. Twice I’ve rented apartments I found on Craigslist, and I later subletted one of those apartments to a fellow I met through Craigslist. I’ve gone on adventures with random strangers from that site. Typing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foo into my address bar is almost an impulse whenever I encounter an unfamiliar term. I surf the Internet on a browser built by crowds of people working for the pure common good.

I don’t know how much that reflects the “new Internet.” From my perspective, the Web has always been very collaborative.

But what feels newest in my recent experiences of the Internet has been the mainstreaming of standards and open-source. These things don’t seem notable because they’re any more or less collaborative than anything else I’ve mentioned, but because they signal things the Web hasn’t always seemed to have — organization. Shared, defined goals.

Which brings us back to Janice’s thesis. And when I see what I’ve just typed, I wonder if my new-Internet principles of “organization” and “standards” aren’t somewhat in tension with Janice’s ideas about “openness” and an “unknowable future.” After all, organization means we’re working towards a shared idea of the future, not some shadowy, happenstance outcome. And standards represent a closing-off, an imposition of control of a formerly chaotic system, the establishment of a proper and an improper way to accomplish something.

What’s different about the Web is where those rules and controls are coming from — not from any top node in any hierarchy, but from a collective of equal partners.

I hear about China and MS banning terms like “democracy” from blog titles and pray they fail. Activists used to declare “the internet views censorship as error and routes around it.” Is that still true?

I want the internet to be open and collective. The notion that this emerging global consciousness could be filtered, regulated and controlled is painful beyond imagining.

I also know (as your post recognizes) that collective action generally requires organization, just as some kinds of enterprise require scale. Any blogger can (potentially) post brilliant insights and observations; producing sustained, investigative public interest journalism generally requires a trained, paid staff — and probably even some hierarchy. The two are not at odds (and could be converging), but they are different. Balance, balance.

BTW, did you see Gillmor’s citizen journalist pledge? Very good, I thought …

The snarkmatrix awaits you

Below, you can use basic HTML tags and/or Markdown syntax.