Set it Off

Doc Searls has always been my favorite “A-list blogger.” Part of what I like about him so much is how uncomfortable he is with that tag. Famous people who love to be famous for its own sake have a strong tendency to be assholes, so I like my famous people to have a certain amount of reservations about it. In a recent post, Doc went off on Nick Carr about A-listiness. Preach on, Brother Searls!

It’s weird how people talk and write about the blogosphere (and by slight extension, the podosphere and vlogosphere and other other citizen media -osphere). There are basically two tones one can take. 1) Breathless euphoria about the burgeoning infotopia at hand (think, anything Christopher Lydon ever says on the subject.) 2) An odd mix of fear at the lack of hierarchy and/or assertion that the hierarchy is there and this is just like old media (think, every single story ever done by major news media about blogs, vlogs or podcats). My thinking puts reality square in the middle – blogging and podcasting are useful tools and have been positive forces in my life but let’s not get too crazy. They haven’t transformed my life into something different, they have added a little to what is already there. New media is not governed by the rules of old media, and despite how many lazy reporters assert that the goal of every blogger or podcaster is to get famous and millions of fans, it is a patent lie.

Big media says that because big media is projecting their goals on citizen media and cannot imagine anyone having goals that differ from theirs. That someone might sit down and record a podcast or write a blog regularly, have 120 listeners or readers and be completely content with that is mind-fryingly weird to them. They cannot mention it without condescension or derision because of their own failures of imagination and vision. Blogs and ‘casts scale up and down, and while big media understands scaling up they lose it when it comes to scaling down. If MSNBC was offered the chance to have their ratings cut to 25,000 viewers but be of so much relevance to those fewer viewers as to completely alter their lives to their wild betterment, they couldn’t do it. We can. Ponder that dynamic, big media, and when you begin to understand that then perhaps you are in position to write or tape your story. Unless and until then, shut the fuck up about citizen media because you fail to grasp the one insight that makes us all do what we do. When you do a story without grasping it you are really reporting about yourselves and your own fears, not us.

5 Replies to “Set it Off”

  1. concur w/ both doc’s and then your take on this dave – it is unfortunate that everything new needs to be rationalized by some reacting to it via forming a correlation to whatever preceded it, mostly to create a comfort-zone for those w/ the legacy mindset…

  2. Damn Dave-when you got your bloggin mojo going-watch out. Excellent well stated points. Seems like you’re beginning to return to form after the departure of your beloved Grace. You are one of the few “double-threat” citizen media people I know-compelling in both text and audio.

    One of the few hundred and happy.

  3. “Big media says that because big media is projecting their goals on citizen media and cannot imagine anyone having goals that differ from theirs.”

    I don’t believe this statement is accurate. I dothink sometimes people get that impression, because big media sometimes do stories about hierarchy and size and goals, while there’s a substantial amount of social pressure in the bogosphere to deny that exists – so you end up with outsiders writing about what’s clear to the outsider, uncomfortable to the insider, and the mental tension is resolved by dismissing the outsider as “doesn’t get it”.

    The story about people putting in with their hobbies is a human-interest story. It’s reported, but doesn’t make a big spash by its very nature. The big social trends story, the What It All Means piece, is likely to be widely discussed. But, really, it’s not that bloggers are some new breed of cat that the old dinosaurs just can’t get because they’re too unhip – that’s flattering oneself too much.

  4. Seth, it’s not that they aren’t capable of understanding it, they just choose not to. I’ve read, heard and watched essentially the same news story reported with exactly the same pissy condescending tone over and over for years. The dismissal of those who aren’t garnering big media sized audiences is real, consistent and a fundamental misunderstanding of the basic force that drives citizens to create media.

  5. Dave, stories denigrating various hobbies are eternal. Just ask a Star Trek (or earlier, Science Fiction) or comics or anime fan what they have to put up with. Bloggers are not special in this regard, not some sort of avante-garde secretly hated for their freedoms. The pissy condescending tone story is familiar to any hobbyist, and frankly, some fan communities have been suffering it for much much longer.

    It would be nice if people, especially reporters, were always respectful of what others chose to do with their life. But there’s no deep revolutionary significance in mean-spiritedness.

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