Freebie Culture

Search engines put so much information at our fingertips that we’re getting accustomed to getting it without paying, computer industry consultant Josh Greenbaum said at a Cybersalon in Berkeley last night. “We are proceeding on the premise that information is free,” he said.

Greenbaum’s remark was an interesting aside during a discussion that looked at how blogs and other Web technologies are challenging elite — as in mainstream — media. Panelist John Markoff, a New York Times technology reporter, said he was an unlikely person to represent MSM because his research specialty long ago had been power structures. He voiced his own conundrum — at a time when everybody has a voice why is political participation down?

Not everyone in the audience of a 100 at Berkeley’s Hillside Club agreed with Markoff’s take. “Anybody here from MoveOn,” shouted Cybersalon hostess Sylvia Paull. But it resonated with me. Yes, this is an age of self-expression but for the most part I think people are expressing their culture — photo-sharing and social web sites — not civics.

But I am distorting the thrust of the conversation based on my interests, and I should acknowledge that moderator Andrew ( Keen tried to keep the talk on topic. Lisa Stone and Jory Des Jardins, co-founders of the BlogHer, discussed how bloggers brought real-world expertise that mass media reporters often didn’t have and how online writing was more liberating than MSM style. And computer industry commentator Steve Gillmor said he didn’t see any difference between MSM and the blogs, but since I see that he blogged the event this morning you can see what he recalls.

I came with my older son Julius, who is just shy of 17, and on the way out I was surprised to hear him say that he thought the blogs were a weak challenger to MSM because they are too opionated, not edited or at least not well edited, and too careless with facts. The thrust was that we need reliable, factual, neutral information. I found that interesting coming from a young person who shows no fondness for his father’s authority, and feels free to download any and everything under creation. We didn’t talk about how the future world would pay for this fact-checked and edited information that he thinks we need.

Tom Abate
‘Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media

P.S. Tom ( SiliconValleyWatcher) Foremski had a nice writeup with buzz ( “I hear Mr. Markoff is about to become a blogger for the New York Times”) that I missed because I also took my two-year-old and she chattered so loudly I had to leave early.