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Democratizing Culture

  • The Internet (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, blogs) allows anybody to become an artist, a philosopher, a scientist or a critic, and to find an audience. The size of the audience depends mainly on your networking, not quite on your competence.
  • A consequence is the demise of specialized newspapers and magazines: if one can find dozens of movie reviews free of charge on the Internet, why pay for a magazine? The magazine loses audience and revenues, and therefore cannot afford to hire the best reviewers anymore. The best reviewers (the ones who are truly competent because they studied the history of cinema and watch dozens of films) have a future only if they leave the magazine and start their own independent blog/website, creating their own network of readers; but they will have to compete with the thousands of casual consumers who will do the same; and the industry might support not those who express the most competent opinions but those who support the industry's marketing plans (do ut des).
  • Artistic and literary movements in history have been self-sustaining cycles of ideas. That requires a closely knit community within which everybody influences everybody else. The diluted nature of the high-tech society makes it more difficult to achieve the critical mass for an artistic or literary movement, i.e. for emerging artists to influence other emerging artists. Artistic expression in the Internet world is akin to a soliloquy.
  • The value of the Academia is that it provides a system for each member to capitalize on other member's ideas, i.e. a positive feedback loop. In modern high-tech society there might well be many more independent scholars than ever, but they don't constitute a positive feedback loop. Most of their research will be lost when they stop "blogging". The cycle of cultural and scientific creativity is limited to the Academy, which is ultimately a bureaucracy. We bureaucratize creativity to make sure that it survives. The Internet-based democracy may produce a lot more ideas but they are less likely to survive.
  • Now that the Internet democracy has allowed the individual to express herself publicly to an unprecedented degree, many individuals use it for the equivalent of walking into the street and screaming to the whole neighborhood what they are doing. This constitutes, de facto, a new form of expression. The hippy generation used their clothes (and their hair) to express themselves. The punk generation used their bodies to express themselves. The Facebook generation uses their ordinary lives.
  • Ultimately, the effect of the democratization of culture brought about by the Internet is to confine the experts to a ghetto in which they consume each other's work, while becoming less and less relevant for the rest of society. It is not only that society has trouble understanding their language (already a major problem in the 20th century): in the 21st century society also has an alternative, which is the many ordinary men and women who express themselves on the Internet for free.
  • At the same time the new forms of expressions made possible by software technology are replacing the artistic/literary movements of the past.