Digital Vertigo and the Cult of Authenticity


When status quos collapse, for whatever reasons, are their replacements necessarily better? Does the demise of traditional media powers mean that new media powers will lead to more Democracy? Will cultivated professions which require years of training and mistakes and experience – such as Medicine – give way to amateurs who can succeed in creating appearances of Authenticity?

Last century, not everybody could publish their thoughts without expending some form of considerable energy. Now, with Twitter, anyone can tell the world what s/he thinks at virtually zero expense (save the time value of their tweets). This is no doubt a radical shift in communications and publishing and connecting.

It’s easy to call this democratizing. But is it? Or is what’s happening a radical shift from one era of power dynamics to another: one where those who accumulate the greatest amount of social capital emerge as the major powers, powers which will dominate and rule over a new kind of oligarchic imperialism? One where a few hold sway to enormous influence while the many busy themselves in self-reinforced delusions of democratic liberation, confusing technological connection with the human kind?

Real-time media like Twitter sure do give off the seductive appearances of level playing fields where I can connect with you and you me. But what are the essential realities of the evolving Web? Are they balances-of-power? Or are they in fact towers-of-power, new status quos which create a condition of what Andrew Keen calls Digital Vertigo?

Here is the Antichrist of Silicon Valley himself discussing the dangers of the  Real-time web and Power.

We are living through the inflection phase of technological evolution. It’s hard to see beyond the exponential curve rising above our heads. Today’s gifts may be tomorrow’s sorrows. With Twitter, I can tell a friend something that makes her day. In the not-too-distant future, though, someone else just might detonate a bomb with a tweet. And then we can say Goodbye to Twitterville.

Is the Web bringing forth more opportunity than danger? Granted, it can’t be stopped at this point. But: may one promise of the Web (Democracy) eventually be betrayed by one danger (Tyranny)? Are we truly creating a Digital Level Playing Field or might we in fact be creating the conditions for chronic Digital Vertigo complicated by the illusion of Authenticity?

What do you think?

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Where’s the Money in the Real-time Web?

For all the talk about social media and the Real-time web, very few ventures have made a dime from the services they provide. Raw real-time streams by definition offer no immediate curation – and if they do, it’s you who does the curating. Paying yourself isn’t a business model. So where’s the money? Ironically,  Twitter helped to reveal a simple map:

  1. Data is infinite.
  2. Information is scarce.
  3. Wisdom is rare.

There’s no money in #1 or #3. Nobody pays for freely shared data and wisdom is selfless.

#2 is your only chance. Invest your efforts there.

Money is information, information is money. Both are hard to come by unless you’re lucky – and good luck, like wisdom, is rare.

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Rethinking Time in the Real-Time Web

Image representing FriendFeed as depicted in C...
Image via CrunchBase

This post is a bit of an experiment in what could be called expansive blogging. I’ve been thinking about the so-called Real Time Web: what it is, what it means and how it will impact the way we do business, collaborate and lead our daily lives. In a couple of weeks, I will be talking about how the Pharmaceutical and Biomedical industries can leverage real-time communities. What I’ve been thinking about lately is the time component of the Real Time Web. Time is something we take for granted: but there’s more to its history than we realize. Time for re-think.

Rather than devote a complete traditional post on the matter, I’ve decided to embed a  FriendFeed riff that I started earlier. Feel free to join (the link is here if the embed isn’t viewable):

As I mentioned earlier on this blog, I’ve been investing a little more time with FriendFeed because I think it offers a great community-enhancement to the kinds of activity that take place on Twitter. I will write more about what I’m up to soon.

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