Even if I’m more interested in the World Social Forum 2004 (see also on Rediff), it is worth noting that the World Economic Forum 2004 included a session on blogs!
It is good or bad that this group of people started to speak in public about blogs? We’ll see but I’m very unconfident.
Read more on Whiskey Bar or read some quotes I extracted from the article (since its content is released under a Creative Commons licence, it is perfectly legal to reproduce it here and to share it):
[Joy] Rosen [the chair of the department of journalism at NYU]’s point, I think, is that communications technology may be moving in a great historical cycle. The invention of the printing press — followed by radio and then television — created a progressively more capital-intensive media industry, with an increasing division of labor among reporters, editors, printers, advertising whores, um, I mean, salesmen, etc. The invention of the Internet, however, has shifted the balance back towards the individual writer/publisher, doing his/her own thing, reporting or commenting on events they find through their own research, either on the web or off.
The difference, of course, is that what was once limited to a small literate elite in the 18th century is available to millions of people the world over in the 21st. This is a revolution by anybody’s definition, and could even, in time, spell the end of the mainstream media as we know it. Or, as Rosen put it: “The age of the mass media is just that — an age. It doesn’t have to last forever.”
The net is capable of deciding — in a completely democratic way what topics it wants to explore. In effect, the news agenda is put to a continuous vote, with Google counting the ballots. Everyone and anyone is free to contest the results, but if the blogosphere wants to talk about, say, Dean’s scream, then that will become the metaphorical equivalent of the lead story on page one — until something comes along that attracts more votes. This is what terrifies the mass media: the threat of losing control of the news agenda.
One guy from Business Week was particularly outraged about the whole thing. He waxed eloquent about the importance of the news “filter” (in my day we called it the gatekeeper function) as mankind’s last best defense against the barbarian hordes. I felt like I was listening to a buggy whip manufacturer, circa 1910, talking about the growing threat of the automobile.
Actually, there was a time when I probably would have agreed with the guy — back when I was on his side of the fence and thought journalists played a valuable watchdog role. But after watching the steady deterioration of the profession over the past ten years or so, I have no patience for such self-serving crap. Yeah, there’s a lot of misinformation and just plain nonsense on the web, but a mass media that gives us Bill O’Reilly and Michael Savage on a regular basis, and that devotes more coverage to Michael Jackson’s legal problems than the Iraq War, isn’t in a position to lecture anyone about standards. The truth is that the blogs are getting better and better, and the mass media is getting worse and worse. If the credibility lines haven’t crossed yet they soon will.
The more serious problem, I think, was raised by Le Meur, the French blogger, who argued that blogs have the potential to become for the news media was Napster was for the music industry.
One of the worst moments at the Davos session was when some twinkie from a New York advertising firm stood up and described how her firm has started turning first to blogs to place ads for certain products. “What I don’t understand,” she said, “is why the big media companies don’t swoop in and buy up some of these blogs while they’re still cheap.”
But if the thought has occurred to her, it’s probably already occurred to others. Just the fact that blogging showed up on the agenda at Davos this year is probably a bad sign. I can’t shake the suspicion that the golden age of blogging is almost over — that the corporate machine is about to swallow it, digest it, and regurgitate it as bland, non-threatening pablum. Our brief Summer of Love may be nearing an end.