Monday, April 13, 2009

The Power to Enable

The enabling capacity of the social media; good or bad thing? This might sound like a ridiculous question, but as with any good conversation, there are invariably opinions from both sides to consider. As we are all well aware, the social media has afforded each and every one of us an electronic voice of our very own. Whilst the early days of the Internet prevented the majority of users from actively engaging in content creation and distribution, the advent of 'Web 2.0' and the technologies associated there with have enabled each of us to convey our innermost thoughts on pretty much everything; from the tools and technologies themselves, to politics and personal reflections. The ease with which platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Blogger allow us to convey ourselves online is incredible; no wonder there are in excess of 175,000 new blogs created on a near daily basis. The question is though, does this mountain of information benefit the society into which it is received, or is it simply impeding our ability to develop our understanding?

Amateur vs. Expert
One of the most vocal opponents of the present era of expression is one Andrew Keen. Keen's book 'The Cult of the Amateur' highlights his concern that expert opinion is slowly being overwhelmed by the ever more voluminous content produced by the 'noble amateur'. As our capacity to locate and consume professionally produced information is increasingly 'undermined' by ever larger mountains of amateur content, there is invariably a threat posed against our ability to adequately and accurately understand a subject; a concern mirrored by Google's own Eric Schmidt back in 2008. Can 1000 passionate amateurs really offer a level of subject insight equal to or even greater than that offered by a single seasoned expert? Debatable, however I can see the point which Keen is attempting to convey.

A Time of Empowerment
The ease with which such content can be produced does indeed mean that the amount of information available to us will increase. The volume of 'misinformation' contained therein will similarly rise. The importance of approaching this information with an objective mindset is, however, nothing new. Whilst the accuracy of the content will at times be questionable, it is our responsibility as intelligent beings to gauge the reliability thereof and to draw our own conclusions appropriately. Can a near universal capacity to create content ever be perceived negatively? I think that's a matter of personal opinion. What is undeniable though is that an ability to express one self to a broad audience is no longer exclusively the domain of the rich.

What do you think? Should Internet users ever be restricted from creating content to prevent the spread of misinformation, or is any such discussion a breach of our human right to freely express ourselves? As always, thoughts, criciticms and complaints are welcome!

TLR

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