Down the drain....
Yesterday, I got sucked into a twitter discussion (if such a thing is possible) with Shira Lazar, the new host of CBS's What's Trending, Steve Rosenbaum, author of Curation Nation and a few others after I posted a blog here excoriating the whole concept of a TV show talking about what we are already talking about - the basis of What's Trending.
Let us put aside, for a moment, the sheer impossibility of having a rational discussion in 140 characters (it isn't possible), and instead focus on the core issue, at least as I see it, of a 'Curation Nation'.
Curating, for those of you who don't know the argot of the moment, is the idea, first proposed by Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do, that the future of journalism is in curating - that is, assembling and ordering the vast volumes of content that the Internet produces.
While there is certainly value to curating, I don't see it as a foundation of journalism, culture, business or entertainment. In fact, I see it was the opposite. It is a limitation, as opposed to a liberation.
The whole power of the web, indeed, the whole of what we are talking about here at nyvs, is the notion of the 'democratization' of the media. The concept that anyone with an idea now, for the very first time, has the power to produce and publish that idea with no restrictions.
"Curation" is restriction.
"Curation" is having a new gatekeeper.
And a TV show based on 'Trending', which is reflective of curation, is a TV show based upon, as I said before, 'talking about what we are already talking about'. We are rapidly on our way to becoming a nation of naval-gazers.
What you encounter on the Web should make you think. And often making people think means making them feel uncomfortable. It means confronting them with something they don't necessarily want to see. It might be something that does not make them feel good - ineed is should sometimes make them feel very bad.
'Trending' doesn't do that. It doesn't expose us to things we had not thought about. It does not make us uncomfortable. It simply tells us what the rest of the herd is up to so we can join in.
It is, I think, the way to dusty death - intellectual death.
There is no point to Free Speech if everyone is going to say the same things.
Once, we complained that institutions like The New York Times or CNN were the gatekeepers of information. That they were limiting what we were exposed to. And that is true. Now, it seems, algorithms are going to become the new gatekeepers, and they don't even have the moral drives of the editors of The NY Times.
This is what 'curating' is all about.
This point was very strongly driven home to me in a TED talk by Eli Pariser this week:
There is an irony here.
In a world of more and more information, we are in fact being exposed to less and less.
The whole point of the democratization of video (for example) is not to continually focus ourselves on fewer and fewer subjects, but rather to expand our world.
The whole point of any medium, where it is video or writing or painting or film is to expand our thinking and expose us to new ideas, not repeat the same ones over and over ad infinitum.
So Shira, please, don't tell me what is 'trending'. Tell me what I don't know. Tell me what I never even thought about before.