The end of the middle

20080219_valley_graphic190The New York Times' John Markoff tells us that Silicon Valley is "in danger of creating its own digital divide." Markoff (whose paper last week announced the axing of 100 editorial positions) cites the 2008 Index of Silicon Valley, "middle-wage" jobs in the Valley fell from 52% of workforce to 46%, while lower-wage jobs rose to 27% from 22%. Not a huge fall or rise in themselves -- but symbolic, nonetheless, of the structural shift in wealth within the digital economy.

Technology, it would seem, it making us less rather than more equal.

This shift is symbolic too of the massive reallocation of wealth that is taking place within the broader media economy. For all the glib pieties about the "democratization" of media, the truth about the Web 2.0 economy is that it's anything but democratic. That vast sucking sound you can hear is Google, YouTube et al gobbling up obscene amounts of wealth from the rest of the media business. The core economic truth about the Web 2.0 revolution is the causal -- albeit complex -- relationship between the rise of a user-generated-content economy and the fall of the traditional media business. "Middle-wage" jobs in the traditional (ie: human labor centric) media economy -- those of journalists, editors, recording engineers, cameramen -- are fast disappearing, to be replaced by...

By YOU! By the amateur writers on the blogosphere and the amateur videographers on YouTube. The only problem is that Google doesn't pay us for our search engine wisdom, YouTube doesn't reward us for our intellectual labor, Facebook doesn't pay us for our revelations about our taste.

Yeah, it's a blatant scam, perpetrated by a brilliant group of multi-millionaires in Silicon Valley who have discovered the holy grail of media -- convincing all of us to create content for free and then sell advertising around that content. But this Web 2.0 revolution is about as "democratic" as the enclosure of 6,000,000 acres of land in 18th century England.

So when is the left going to wake up to this? When will people who care about maintaining the economic value of human labor come to grasp that Web 2.0 is the worst news for the "middle-wage" creative class since...