In a post called "Sigh," Jeff Jarvis complains about the whiners:
I’m thinking of writing my Guardian column this week responding to
some because I’m tired of having to answer the same complaints over and
over. I sometimes despair at being able to advance the discussion about
the opportunities of the connected age, as someone in the room will
inevitably say: “Yes, but there are inaccuracies on the internet.” Or:
“Most people watch junk.” Or: “There are no standards.”
And then I got email for a panel discussion at NYU on Oct. 21 called
Crossing the Line, which asks these questions: “Are there any ethics on
the web?” “Should bloggers be held to journalistic standards?” “Who
makes the rules — the media, the courts or YOU?”
The implied answers, of course: The web has no ethics… Bloggers have
no standards…. The wrong people are making the rules (if there are
To hash over these weightless questions they have nothing but the
products of big, old media: David Carr of the NY Times, Liz Smith of
the NY Post, Jim Kelley of Time, Judge Andrew Napolitano of Fox News,
and Sherrese Smith, counsel for WPNI.
Mind you, just across campus, NYU has at least two of the country’s
greatest thinkers on the internet and its implications for society, Jay
Rosen and Clay Shirky. But they’re not on that panel. New York is thick
with great practitioners of new ways on the internet, but they’re not
Same old questions/objections/complaints/fears. Where is the talk of new opportunities in our new reality?
Here is the comment I posted over there. I confess my mood was a little cranky, but I still stand by this…
Sighing over the questions and calling them “weightless” doesn’t
answer them. Maybe they keep getting asked because the pat answers
people give (on either side) aren’t good enough and some people are
hungering for deeper analysis.
For example, asking the question “Are there any ethics on the web?”
does not imply the questioner is assuming “the web has no ethics,” just
as I assume your response is not simply “the web has ethics.” (And the
other common response, which I’ve heard Shirky give — that the web has
the best and the worst — doesn’t cut it either.)
I get your point in the first part of the post and agree with you —
it’s a disservice to you as a speaker when people don’t hear you
because they can’t think past simple/closed-minded objections. My
problem is with you dismissing the NYU panel for the same reasons. I
don’t know anything about those speakers’ qualifications, but on the
face of it the panel sounds worthwhile.
Jarvis's sigh reminds me of danah boyd's similar post a while back called feeding quasi-"legitimate" trolls in an attention economy, which I wrote about in a previous post: The Tender Ears of the Blogosphere.
By the way, I finally read The Dumbest Generation (one of those troll books) and I think Boyd is wrong — it's a serious critique that deserves attention, though I certainly don't agree 100% with Bauerlein, and I think the book's title is ridiculous.
One of the points that Bauerlein makes is that there's no funding to study really fundamental questions about technology in education like "does it work?" Danah boyd, Clay Shirky and the Berkman Center are all doing fine and important work but a lot of it presupposes that the internet and technology are beneficial, wherever they're applied. It bypasses fundamentals and goes straight to studying what kids are doing with the technologies, how it's empowering them, and what else technology could do for them. (For example, see this talk abstract danah boyd posted Thursday.) It's no surprise that a lot of funding for these researchers comes from industry. Again, I'm not saying this isn't important work, but it's not the whole story.
Update: Jarvis's promised Guardian column is now up (and is mostly straw-man silliness): Once and for all.