THOUGHTS ABOUT JEFF AND SYLVIA

I’ve had a ton of provocative, sometimes even angry responses to my Weekly Standard/CBS News piece about the Web 2.0 movement. One of the more civil came from my friend Jeff Ubois, one of the organizers of Berkeley’s monthly Cybersalon, an authority on digital video and a blogger himself. Jeff wrote:

Good to stir things up, and good to call Web 2.0 on the dangers of utopianism, and on narcissism. I'd add that the lack of historical  sense is disturbing. But some of the other generalizations are more  questionable, e.g:

"The purpose of our media and culture industries--beyond the  obvious need to make money and entertain people--is to discover, nurture, and reward elite talent. Our traditional mainstream media  has done this with great success over the last century."

There's the rub; talented people sink without a trace, but Britney is  all over.  Arguments for elitism are ok with me, provided there is something like a meritocratic system. Turn on the tv: are you  seriously going to argue that's a meritocracy?

yes, Jeff, that's a fair point. I'm concerned, however, that there is a lot more pornographic and offensive content on the internet than Britney and that we might, in the not-too-distant future, look back at the traditional media age (and even Britney) with great nostalgia.

I'm not a passionate supporter of tv culture, but the traditional network news shows are a lot more restrained and responsible than CNN or Fox. And the blogosphere is even more irresponsible with blatantly incorrect or biased information than either CNN or Fox.

Meanwhile, my friend Sylvia Paull, the other brains behind Cybersalon, and a social and business networker par excellence, sent me the briefest of notes:

nice piece, Andrew, although I disagree with almost everything you say.

Thanks, Sylvia. I understand that I’m breaking ranks with many of my old friends and colleagues in Silicon Valley who still are believers in the long-term benefits of digital technology. I understood, too, that many technologists in the Bay Area will see me as a traitor to the cause – regarding me with the same sense of bitter betrayal that was directed toward my friend Paulina Borsook when she wrote Cyberselfish, one of the most prescient and heartfelt critiques of the Web 1.0 euphoria.

Orwell is my inspiration here. He went to Catalonia in 1936 as a political idealist and returned as a battle weary critic of communism.  There is a straight road from Orwell's experiences in Catalonia to his Animal Farm and Ninety Eight-Four. I arrived in Silicon Valley in 1995 as a believer. After eleven years, however, I’ve had enough of both the theory and practice of technology utopianism. The great seduction is no longer seducing me. Not only is the Web 2.0 movement intellectually fraudulent, but it is also leading us into a culturally impoverished and impoverishing world. I therefore have a duty to speak out against it.