From a cutting-edge cultural commentator, a bold and brilliant challenge to cherished notions of the Internet as the great leveler of our age
The Internet has been hailed as an unprecedented democratizing force, a place where everyone can be heard and all can participate equally. But how true is this claim? In a seminal dismantling of techno-utopian visions, The People’s Platform argues that for all that we “tweet” and “like” and “share,” the Internet in fact reflects and amplifies real-world inequities at least as much as it ameliorates them. Online, just as off-line, attention and influence largely accrue to those who already have plenty of both.
What we have seen so far, Astra Taylor says, has been not a revolution but a rearrangement. Although Silicon Valley tycoons have eclipsed Hollywood moguls, a handful of giants like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook remain the gatekeepers. And the worst habits of the old media model—the pressure to seek easy celebrity, to be quick and sensational above all—have proliferated online, where “aggregating” the work of others is the surest way to attract eyeballs and ad revenue. When culture is “free,” creative work has diminishing value and advertising fuels the system. The new order looks suspiciously like the old one.
We can do better, Taylor insists. The online world does offer a unique opportunity, but a democratic culture that supports diverse voices and work of lasting value will not spring up from technology alone. If we want the Internet to truly be a people’s platform, we will have to make it so.
Great talk from a lady journo. Watch this and learn, kiddos.
Here’s a very long video of me talking about my love affair with the internet. Included are Gchat conversations from 2009 about why I didn’t want to join Twitter, some #realtalk about my former dude-bosses, and a liberal helping of GIFs.
If someone has something worthwhile to say, they can write their own article. Comments are too immediate, and rarely contain good thoughts.— Don’t Read Comments (@AvoidComments) March 6, 2013
"When we watch students with books, there’s a very different experience – there’s that power of having something physical that they own, particularly when they write and see their name in print: it’s always there. With computers, it’s gone at the touch of a button."
-Dave Eggers, novelist and founder of 826 National
How did you cultivate your interests in comedy and comics while growing up? That was pre-Internet, so were you lurking in arcades and comic book shops?
That’s exactly it. The distribution is much wider now, but back then, we just had a different way of acquiring that content. If it meant something to you, you would find it. It was almost more satisfying as a nerd, in a way, because you did have to go on a quest for those things. And they were treasures that you had to hunt to find, whether it was underground comedy tapes that you would trade with someone or old comic books that you would trade—it was more in the physical world and it wasn’t a digital process.