Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Barbie and Bellwhether

What Benkler was seeing back in the early 2000s, we now know, was not the popular networked information economy. He was seeing an early version of the networked information economy that was skewed to the atypical sensibilities of the web’s pioneers. What we see today is a much truer version of a “democratized” information economy, which turns out to be bland, homogenized, and infused with a consumerist ethic. The contested Barbie has been pushed back into “feminist-criticism symposia and undergraduate courses” — back to the offline and online margins. Slee was not quite right when he said that the more recent Google searches for Barbie are “owned by Mattel.” They’re not. They’re owned by us. The distinction, though, is trivial.
Nicholas Carr's contra-Benklerian Slee-esque slaying on the online de-contestation of Barbie reminds me how marvelous and prescient and abiding Connie Willis's veeery nineties sf novel Bellwhether was. Read both of them.

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