Cybersalon Wrapup

    March 20, 2006

I left last night’s Berkeley Cybersalon scratching my head a bit. Is this conversation really still going on? Are we still having the “journalism vs. blogging” argument?

Some still are.

Probably the best way to set up the evening is to quote from moderator Andrew Keen’s article from The Standard back in February. The piece can be distilled down to a single quote: “Without an elite mainstream media, we will lose our memory for things learnt, read, experienced, or heard.”

Oh really?

Speaking with Andrew one-on-one and at some length after the session, he is a very reasonable person. Yet, the conversation still was peppered with these sweeping pronouncements without backup. There was another question that was asked, in context of the “anarachy” of citizen/customer driven interactions through blogs and podcasts that blew my mind. Andrew: “When has there ever been a case of anarchy that produced something worthwhile?”

How about the Internet, Mr. Keen?

Others had similar thoughts:

Scott Rosenberg:

“What is the value in sharing experiences?” Keen asked at one point, with a touch of disdain in his voice — as if he wanted to say to the entire universe of millions of bloggers, “I grow weary of your scribblings.” My jaw dropped. Isn’t “sharing experiences” the root of literature, the heart of conversation, a primal impulse of our humanity? Who would sneer at it?

At the heart of Keen’s complaint and others like it is an outmoded habit of thought: an assumption that every blogger seeks and might be owed the same mass-scale readership that old-fashioned media have always commanded. But it just doesn’t work that way. Publishing is no longer a scarce resource (as Tim Bishop well put it). The blogger who is telling the story of her final exam or his fraying marriage or her trouble with her two-year old? None of them cares whether Keen reads them, and they certainly don’t expect him to. Their “shared experiences” don’t diminish the opportunities for the kind of “expert journalism” that Keen values. He can keep patronizing the “elite talents.” I will, too — I want to read John Markoff and bloggers.”

Steve Gillmor:

“But my misgivings aside, I found myself stunned by the comments-and more, the body language, of several women, including Lisa Stone and particularly someone whose name I did not retain who will have to let us know more about her when she publishes an external blog. She spoke the KM-speak of a corporate tactician, and Lisa the data side of a partnership with Jory Desjardins’ color commentary. The something I learned was that however I can accomplish it, I need to factor this energy in to the moment we are experiencing in the birth of the network.

I enjoyed meeting the moderator, Andrew Keen several weeks ago before he strapped on his Bill O’Reilly pose, and amused myself watching John Markoff struggle through what he called afterwords “a trip to the dentist,” and found the The Panelist Who Came to Dither a good mind terribly wasted. But thanks to Lisa and friends I found the event not strange as Scott reported but a telling signal that maybe just maybe the next time we have this conversation we can pick up where this one ended, in the streets at the intersection of What used to be and What might be.”

Tim Bishop:

“I don’t think that Keen’s argument holds water, and it seems like a red herring at best — complaining about digital media and the democratization of the means of production is like complaining about the effect of the advent of the steam engine on horses, or parents complaining about the music their children listen to, but Scott Rosenberg, who in my personal encounters with him has always seemed extremely level headed, stood up and gave a great and impassioned defense of the need for and value of self-expression, both as the fulfillment of human need that is valuable for itself, and as the motivation for everything from technological progress to great literature. It was a great mini-speech that I can’t do justice to here, not having an article to crib from, but that moved me and brought a round of applause from the audience.”

(A few photos here.)

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Christopher Carfi, CEO and co-founder of Cerado, looks at sales, marketing, and the business experience from the customers point of view. He currently is focused on understanding how emerging social technologies such as blogs, wikis, and social networking are enabling the creation of new types of customer-driven communities. He is the author of the Social Customer Manifesto weblog, and has been occasionally told that he drives and snowboards just a little too quickly.