Thursday, January 27, 2005

Very smart piece by Jack Shafer puncturing some of the blog hype at "Blogging, Journalism and Credibility" conference at Harvard.
The premature triumphalism of some bloggers indicates that they haven't paid attention to how Webified journalists have become. They also ignore media history. New media technologies almost never replace old media technologies, they merely force old technologies to adapt and find new ways to connect with their audiences. Radio killed the "special edition," but newspapers survived.
When television dethroned radio as the hearthside infobox and cratered the Hollywood box office, radio became a mobile medium, and Hollywood devoted itself to spectaculars that the tiny TV set couldn't adequately display. The competitive spiral has continued, with cable TV, VCRs and DVDs, satellite TV and radio broadcasters, and now Internet broadcasters entering the fray. The only extinct mass media that I can think of is the movie house newsreel.The danger of fetishizing a new technology (the Porta-Pak) or a new media wrinkle (the blog) is obvious: In the rush to define the new new thing and celebrate its wonders, the human tendency to oversell kicks in. Am I the only one who remembers how John Perry Barlow, drunk on the Web nine years ago, issued his ridiculous "Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace"? In hyperbolic fashion, Barlow wrote, "We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before." Lenin subscribed to this sort of technological moonbeamism when he declared that socialism plus electricity would equal communism, and we know where that led.
I couldn't agree more. As someone who got burned on hyper-idealism for new technology, I don't intend to get fooled again.