I read another great entry from Emails from Crazy People the other day.
This one attacks an amateur photographer’s pictures (fauxtos as he calls them) posted to a Flickr group as “artsy and cute” but not “real” photography. Funny stuff, but only if you’re not the poor person who received the email.
Reading these emails, I wonder if every mail client should have a state-of-mind filter like Mail Goggles for GMail.
Anyway, beyond the hurtful commentary, this email gets at a point similar to what Andrew Keen has espoused in his, erm, scathing works like his essay on the perils of Web 2.0 and Cult of the Amateur. The central point being, leave the blank to the experts. Fill in the blank with photography, analysis, commentary, journalism, whatever.
New Web has obviously provided easy ways for people to find outlets for their creative, emotional and analytic juices, as well as simultaneously providing them with a potential audience of millions. Aside from citizen journalism, the merit or beauty of user-generated content is solely in the eye of the beholder.
I figure if you’re reading, I can guess which side of the argument you support. So, no need to debate that. What I find interesting is the stance that people’s opinions somehow make them dumber, that somehow there are right and wrong paths.
Say you look at a Flickr group with photos of sunsets from variety of photographers. Most of us know what we like and don’t care what the background of the photographer is. Some people have a trained eye for photography and prefer well-composed shots with great lighting. Those groups probably overlap. What I don’t get is what the harm is in letting people see these professional and amateur photos in the same group?
If anything, the expert work should shine brightly (pun intended) next to the amateur work, right?
Similarly, if I see Techmeme coverage analyzing an acquisition or new product that includes posts from mainstream media (WSJ, NYT), big tech blogs (TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb) and small, insignificant blogs (like this one), what’s the harm that they’re lumped under the same heading?
I suppose the main objection is that New Web doesn’t enforce standards and training requirements that typically equate to excellence in these fields. I can also see that those people who’ve invested their lives into becoming experts would be stung when grouped with amateurs.
Still, I’m a big boy. I can read and form logical or artistic decisions for myself.
I can watch an indie film or a big studio one. I can go see an amateur baseball game or a professional one. My entrainment can be decoupled from the level of professionalism I’m observing. Why, then, should I rely solely on the proclamations of experts and enjoy only the art of masters?
At the core of what feels like a blatantly elitist argument is the warning that we, as a society, will be captivated by our own opinions, where everyone is an expert, simply because s/he publishes content. Yeah, news flash, that’s already the case. So, why not embrace all the voices and let people decide for themselves?
Collecting information and opinions is a natural process in decision-making. People have been making good and bad decisions forever, that’s not going to change. Seems like having more information at your disposal would only help, but even if it doesn’t, who really cares?
Obviously, the experts do. Their objections are rooted in fear of competition. If anyone can do what you do because the barriers to entry are low, you have to raise your game or find another one.
Find the comments and share your opinion. There is no expert moderator here.