Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Is Media Personalization Bad for Society?

I subscribed to Nicholas Carr's Rough Type last week after reading about it over at Lorcan Dempsey's weblog. Carr's most recent work is Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google.

While the first part of Big Switch has been drawing the most attention (describing how the Internet is transforming computing into a centrally supplied utility), I found Carr's comments in an interview about blogging /citizen journalism more interesting:
"user-generated content does not exist in a vacuum. It competes with other content, and because it's cheap to produce and usually given away free it has a big market advantage. You have to ask yourself what's going to be crowded out of the market - what good stuff are we going to lose. A lot of people seem to think that new digital media represents a break from mainstream mass media. I don't see it that way. I think new media represents a continuation of mass media and a further amplification of some of mass media's worst qualities.

"I think what we're going to see is greater personalization in search and other filtering and navigation tools, and in time that will tend to further reinforce biases and push people to have less sympathy for views that are different from their own. I think media personalization is good for search engines and advertisers. I don't think it's a great thing for society.

"I think the best way to learn to write well is to read a lot, particularly when you're young and impressionable. If you want to write for a living on the web, your best bet is to find a niche market that's attractive to advertisers, start a blog, and then work like hell. You'll still probably fail, but you never know."
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