Responding some more to Andrew Keen’s anti web 2.0 manifesto

taking on from where Michel left…

2. (Andrew Keen): The digital utopian much heralded “democratization” of media will have a destructive impact upon culture, particularly upon criticism. “Good taste” is, as Adorno never tired of telling us, undemocratic. Taste must reside with an elite (“truth makers”) of historically progressive cultural critics able to determine, on behalf of the public, the value of a work-of-art. The digital utopia seeks to flatten this elite into an ochlocracy. The danger, therefore, is that the future will be tasteless.

Adam: …well, that depends. if you look at the history of taste formation it is true that for first hundred years or so of modern consumer culture (roughtly) ‘good taste’ was mainly dictated by the elites (se Thorstein Veblen’s classic (1899) Theory of the Leisure Class), but form the 1950s and on the creative and consumer industries have restructured to capture the innovation that goes on among non-elite groups. Today ‘good taste’ is largely dictated by trend setting groups like teens our subcultures, or by the participatory judgement of large and complex lifestyle communities (like, for example, in the case of the wine market). And before modern consumer society the there was a radical divide betwen elite and mass markets, with the conesqeuence that elite and popular ‘good tastes’ were largely separate. Popular culture largely following a ‘fashion’ dynamics of its own (see Peter Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe.)

3. To imagine the dystopian future, we need to reread Adorno, as well as Kafka and Borges (the Web 2.0 dystopia can be mapped to that triangular space between Frankfurt, Prague and Buenos Aires). Unchecked technology threatens to undermine reality and turn media into a rival version of life, a 21st century version of “The Castle” or “The Library of Babel”. This might make a fantastic movie or short piece of fiction. But real life, like art, shouldn’t be fantasy; it shouldn’t be fiction.

Well ,every tehcnology has its dystopian implications. Kafka’s writings were inspired by the tehcnological triad of typewriter, telegraph and filing cabinet, which made up the basis for bureaucracy…

8. There is something of the philosophical assumptions of early Marx and Rousseau in the digital utopian movement, particularly in its holy trinity of online community, individual creativity and common intellectual property ownership. Most of all, it’s in the marriage of abstract theory and absolute faith in the virtue of human nature that lends the digital utopians their intellectual debt to intellectual Casanovas like young Marx and Rousseau.

Probably the old Marx is more adequate as a reference, in particular the thesis on General Intellect. Here Marx points at the secular trend within capitalism to promote society-wide cooperation throught he progressive socialization of capital. This is a better way to understand web 2.0. It has very little to do with human nature, and more to do with the stuctural consequences of the ‘real subsumtion’ of society under capital: This process creates extended networks of productive cooperation that reaches far beyond beyond the control of capital and thus contain a real potential for creating alternatives- wait and see what one-laptop-per -child plus wifi meshworks can do..(see my text on Ethics an General Intellect on this site)

10. The cultural consequence of uncontrolled digital development will be social vertigo. Culture will be spinning and whirling and in continual flux. Everything will be in motion; everything will be opinion. This social vertigo of ubiquitous opinion was recognized by Plato. That’s why he was of the opinion that opinionated artists should be banned from his Republic.

..well, Plato’s banning of poets was probably much more related to his struggle to establish the authority of philosophy against the largely oral tradition of the (homeric) poets: to etablish logos against doxa. As Havelock clearly shows in his classic Preface to Plato, homeric poetry was, more than enything else, a moral code, an ethical and practical instruction manual transmitted through (easier to remember) poetry.

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