Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Myth of Quality Control

I recently watched this EPIC video about the rise of blogging and computer-generated media (like google news) v. the "quality control," journalistic ethics, and democratic values of traditional news and media (like The New York Times), and then talked with a friend about the whole issue. I know there is something good about the rise of a more diverse media smorgasbord but had a hard time putting my intuitive finger on it.

The key concern is that as people are able to have more control over the information they receive, they will increasingly only be interested in shallow trivia and not deep quality information. Anyone who thinks that institutions or elites are sources of quality control should take a walk through their local bookstore. Traditional media (TV, newspapers, etc.) are no more "quality" than anything else. They produce a product for consumption.

The value of a diverse media arena, even including parody like The Onion, is that individuals can track multiple information sources that filter for different kinds of quality. "Quality" is not a single scale ranging from good to bad. There are many kinds of quality.

Nonetheless, the real point is that if information is a product, tailored by the consumer (the ultimate in individualist libertarianism) then people will only consume what they want and never what they should. The Community is sometimes a necessary leader that needs to point out important things. This is the age-old political theory dilemma of "should the State follow where citizens lead, or should the State lead and citizens follow?"...

... and that is no trivial question.


  • I think it all hinges on the notion of 'truth.' Imagine the Epic-centric (Epicentric? ;-) world of tomorrow in which everyone is jacked in and contributing to the collective narrative. What do you have? A NARRATIVE. It's not true; it's not false. It just is.

    People are contributing facts, falsehoods, opinions, philosophies, biases, beliefs, fears, hopes, etc. to the ongoing datastream. This certainly enriches the stream from a content perspective, but it doesn't bring anyone closer to any 'truth' they're not prepared to accommodate, especially when you're front-ending it all with an ever-more-granular personalization engine.

    "Let me recommend the truth."

    Doesn't compute.

    Epic will happen; whether or not it will deal the deathblow to the 4th Estate is a matter of conjecture. Whether or not that's a bad thing is a matter of opinion.

    When you have to assert that your news is "fair and balanced" as Fox does, you are implying that other news sources are not, and that's an opinion. The news agencies have been at war over an increasingly fragmented audience since the end of the Cold War, so they have devolved into infotainment channels and pulpits for extreme opinions and shock. They have abandoned the truth for good ratings. This system is imploding on itself in parallel with the rise of the collective narrative.

    The old way has to be replaced with something, and that something will also change, evolve, and expire. Epic is not and end-state as much as it is a new frontier, full of opportunity and adventure... and savages who don't wear any trousers.

    By Blogger Matt Berlin, at 9:39 AM  

  • Well, maybe the question is badly stated, my dear Paul. The State and the Citizens should be so interdependent on each other, that neither one leads. If the State truly generates "Public Value" (promotes debate as to what is needed and then creates the services) there is simbiosis between the two. Communities, like you justly point out, are important because they are the intermediary between these agents in the system. Lets remember that, from a complexity point of view, Community is a subsystem of the Nation, just like the State.

    Your Trans-Oceanic Mexican Wet-Back Friend.

    PS: I hope you were not just finding out about EPIC. Man is that a cool video! ;)

    By Blogger P.p., at 8:12 AM  

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