A new book urges us to reenvision the online promise of a more participatory culture
The People's Platform:
Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age
by Astra Taylor
$27.00 List Price
It’s hard to believe, but just five years ago one could still make a good living by pontificating about the growing chasm between the experts and the amateurs. Who cares today whether we can trust Wikipedia? Or—to take what seemed the most burning question of the last decade—whether bloggers are journalists? That particular debate has petered out for reasons that are primarily economic rather than philosophical: The contemporary consensus seems to be that if your “content” attracts “eyeballs,” you will probably have a job in the media business. Whether you call yourself a blogger or a journalist is no longer the existential question it once was. In fact, the odds are that someone at BuzzFeed has already explained, in seven pictures or less, why this is so.
But some questions persist. What, for example, should we make of a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter? It’s laudable that artists, designers, and other creative types can now bypass the much-disliked intermediaries and appeal directly to their fans and customers. But can we be so naive as to believe that, in these times of austerity, the existence of crowdfunding platforms won’t be invoked to justify cutting government funding to art and letting the market decide where the money should go? And wouldn’t this move stifle some innovative, dangerous, risky projects that might not appeal to a broad audience yet?
A central argument in Astra Taylor’s The People’s Platform is that Web-enabled innovations like crowdfunding make for wonderful add-ons to, but very poor substitutes for, existing cultural institutions. We have
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