Web 2.0’s role in economic crisis

May 11, 2009

I think the pundits have it all wrong. It wasn’t just the bad mortgages that brought about the seizure and near-collapse in the US. economic system. It was – and is – Web 2.0.

Yup. That’s the conclusion I’m drawing, after reading The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture by Andrew Keen (link to newer edition). As you can tell by the title of this earlier edition, Keen’s premise is not really an economic one, though it is about what he sees as the moral and spiritual bankruptcy of our nation and culture brought about by Web 2.0.

What he points out – in a book that was published in 2007 – a year before the big economic meltdown – is that the free and freewheeling nature of Web 2.0 means that  anyone can create content. That means the death of the “expert” – which in turn, is really the death of many many experts. And entire industries.

Let’s look at the media. The massive layoffs and closures of large city newspapers, to a great extent, can be attributed to the growth of online media. To cite one example from Keen: Craigslist, which at the time of Keen’s writing, employed just 22 people, is essentially a free online classified ad service. But Keen points out – it is not free. It has cost us all. Each “free” ad takes money away from a local newspaper, and eventually, it takes away jobs. A San Francisco Chronicle VP believes Craigslist single-handedly depletes the Chronicle and other Bay newspapers of $50 million a year. Multiply that across the country for all the other large and small cities, consider that advertising revenue is a major part of the income needed for newspaper operations, and it is easy to see the domino effect of just one website – and a mere 22 people – upon the economy. In 2006, nearly 18,000 people lost jobs in print journalism.

And that is only one example. Granted, I’m not “blaming” Craigslist, nor do I dare to propose or suggest that it is single-handedly responsible for all of those job losses. That would be ridiculous. The point that Keen makes, is that job losses in the “real world” are not being replaced with job creation in Web 2.0. The 22 people of Craigslist stand in for thousands of people who worked in advertising at newspapers all throughout the country. Because ad revenues are down, that creates layoffs in the news department. And on it goes.

The example can be multiplied across any of the media formats – TV, radio, bookstores. Increasingly, these industries are losing jobs at a frantic pace. And “replaced” by virtual megastores, like Amazon.com, or user content like You Tube. User content sites like You Tube, obviously, won’t hire as many people as the movie industry in Hollywood or the news and cable stations throughout the country.

It’s easy to say “so what” if newspapers fail, or the millionaire Hollywood big shots and movie stars feel a little economic pinch. But all of these industries are made up of many many ordinary people. From the “go-fer” on the sound stage to the subscription order taker at the newspaper and many many others. Their jobs – if they still have them – remain at risk.

Keen worries that the proliferation of content by amateurs (I include myself in that group) not only “dumbs down” our culture, but may in fact threaten our democracy itself. Who, Keen asks, will do the hard-hitting and important investigative journalism that brought about Watergate, or any of the other major important news stories that help maintain and uphold the Constitution? Does any single blogger have the clout, skills, knowledge or power to do this? It is only businesses and industries that have this capacity.

I don’t entirely hold to all of Keen’s premises, but I do believe that much of what he writes about the economic consequences of Web 2.0 is very real – with frightening consequences.

Keen’s book now is available in a new edition, which I haven’t read, but it looks like it could provide some additional insights, judging from the subtitle, which explicitly includes the economy as one consequence of Web 2.0.

© writingreading, 2009

Creative Every Day – February

January 25, 2009

I just recently discovered this site, but I like what I see. It is called Creative Every Day, by Leah Piken Kolidas and each month has a “theme.” Although her blog is more for visual art, she makes it clear that CED is for everyone – not just visual artists, but writers, creative homemakers, cooks, and anyone who wants to use, cultivate, or discover their creative gifts.

The upcoming theme for February is “Words” – so I think I’m going to sign up to join in. I’m not sure what I’m in for, or even how it will work – or if anything I post here will be related to prompts she posts there. But I’m going to give it a try. Maybe you should too! :-)

© writingreading, 2009

Kindness of strangers

January 12, 2009

I’ve only been blogging for about six months, but I have to say the kindness I have found in the blogosphere is amazing in its generosity.  To those who’ve read, and commented, and especially those who have had such encouraging words when I have written about my (off-line) writing difficulties – battling the pesky culprits of procrastination, discouragement and others – THANK YOU!!!! You all have given me exactly what I needed, when I needed it. And I am happy to say I”m back in the writing “groove” again.  Thank you for offering words of encouragement, hope, and inspiration. This writer has much to be grateful for!

© writingreading, 2009

Random Writing Prompts

January 7, 2009

I came across a “blog game” or “tag you’re it” kind of thing, and unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the blog I originally found it on – but I followed a link from that one and ended up at Anna Nowicki’s blog, so you can see her results, there.

The “game” goes like this:
* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence along with these instructions in a note in your BLOG.
* Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual… Use the CLOSEST

Here’s what I got:
“And if you think the warrant isn’t true, you’ll deny that the reason supports the claim, because it’s irrelevant to it.”

(from Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Research Papers…etc.)

Yes, it grieves me that that is the closest book I have, but it is sitting right here next to the computer.

But, if I look around – for instance, on that same page, if the option was for sentence # 3 I would have:

“That might baffle you.”

And – it does. Because I have no idea what the first sentence I posted (which is actually sentence #5) means!

But I tried this with a couple of other books:

from: The Civil War in Louisiana

Well, OK. there’s not even 5 sentences on that page. But if I go w/#3 again, I get:

“Could he be trusted?”

And then in another book, I get:

“As the coffin was lowered into the ground, the surgeon ‘with the most solumn air said in broken English, ‘This is the first time that this man was buried in Virginia and D–n me (throwing in dirt) if I ever bury him again.”

I’m thinking – what a great writing prompt technique! Just open up a random book, pick a random page, and pick one – only one – sentence — then run with it.

The last example I gave above is actually from a Civil War book, too (Reid Mitchell’s Civil War Soldiers) – but if you ignore that fact – think about the different ways you could take that one sentence.

hmmmm… a surgeon burying someone. Odd.

And he’s saying he’s burying him for the first time – does he anticipate having to bury him again?

Wonder if the surgeon is the body’s estranged brother, and he’s burying him in Virginia but maybe later he’s going to come back, disinterr the body, and take it back with him to his homeland overseas? And where would that be?

And let’s work backwards. My 2nd example. Oooooh!!! Isn’t that sentence absolutely delicious for a starting point? “Could he be trusted?” Wow! Is it a crime drama, a rocky relationship, gambling, a compulsive liar? Goodness – so many things! What a great way to start some writing piece.

And OK, going back to my original. The one from Turabian. Well, good heavens, I certainly don’t know what to make of that one, but with some effort I could probably make it into something. A legal case or something.

Anyhow, I like this simple idea. And if I ever need a prompt – just grab a book and start with a single random sentence. Enjoy!

© writingreading, 2009

Blogging as an Act of Faith

May 12, 2008

I’m not much for faith or religion of any kind. I tend toward the existential, skeptical, doubtful and cynical. That’s where I feel the most comfortable. Among the questions, not among the answers.

But I realized today that what I’m doing by creating a blog, as both a practical matter and from a more philosophical point of view, is in fact an act of faith. And in many ways.

Faith in myself –

  • That I will “commit” to myself (and to others, if there are others) to post often enough to sustain my blog and my readers. That I won’t neglect The Blog to the extent that it becomes a dead carcass.
  • That blogging helps me to create and maintain the discipline I need as a writer (even if drawing time away from my Primary Mission – offline writing!)
  • That I have something to say, even when I think I don’t. Dare myself to try. (and not just “fill space” – nobody wants that!)

Faith in the Web of the universe –

  • That “if I build it, they [readers] will come.” I’m not out to be a Big Blog – that’s obvious enough. But I do hope that I will have some visitors who stop by for a spot of tea now and then, maybe like what they see, perhaps tell another soul, and grow a small but interesting group of readers.
  • That although my blog is still in its infancy, with its features unformed, its voice still a shrill squeal, and uncertain of its bearings, that over time, it will grow and mature to learn, have fun, and eventually take its place in the larger society of the blogosphere.

Like in the real world, I often have my doubts. “Does it matter? (does anything matter?)” “Is there meaning in what I’m doing? (is there ever meaning in anything?)” And sometimes, even if I answer “no” – I still keep searching, and asking the same question(s) again. By asking the very questions, repeatedly – I reaffirm my doubtful faith that surely there must be some purpose, some meaning, some reason…for everything…for anything…for something, even just one thing. For me. For all of us.

Even though I say “There is no reason. Never has been. Never will be. It is just a farce to think there is a reason, and if I didn’t believe it, or try so hard to find one – and just accepted the absurdity of it all – I’d be a lot better off.” And yet I find myself asking the same question(s) again, all over again. My persistence in Asking must indicate I have at least a microscopic mote of Faith in Purpose, and an equally microscopic element of Doubt in my Doubt.

I know from my work with archives and history and similar resources and materials, that it is often not the single “valuable letter” that makes a collection of materials special, unique, or important. It is the accumulation of materials relating to daily life – letters written about the crops, the weather, Aunt Betsy’s hat – that are often of more interest and significance to historians – precisely because of their everyday ordinariness. Just a single letter about Aunt Betsy’s hat might not be all that interesting – but taken in context, within the larger whole, it may gain in significance…because you later find out that her hat marked her involvement in the suffrage movement, for example – and then you get a whole lot more out of it! It is the accumulation of things that marks its significance, not a single item (or post).

In a similar way, I have to have faith that my occasional labors in the blogging world will someday be of interest not only to myself, as a retrospective, but to others, and that as my blog begins to grow – so will I.

I have the Faith – skeptic tho I am!

©2008 writingreading