September 09, 2003
CLAY SHIRKY ON WHAT THE UNITED NATIONS DOESN'T GET:
The PDF description invites us to think of the internet as a highway for ideas! And, we are told, the creators of the HelloWorld project believe that "The power of words can overcome dissent." and "Information technology can strengthen the voice of every person, worldwide." (Working out the byplay between those two ideas is evidently left as an excercise for the reader.)
I used to have to deal with clients who talked like this all the time:
Client: We want community.
Me: That means letting people talk to one another.
Client: Oooh, that's bad. Can't we just have them send testimonials in, and we'll post the ones we like?
Me: I thought you said something about communi...
Client: I know! We'll call it the "ACMEŽ RocketSled Testimonial Community!"
I used to think I had to have these conversations because advertisers were stupid, but now I recognize that most organizations work this way. Faced with the idea that they could end up hosting unfiltered conversation, they will instinctively opt for "Letters to the Editor"-style control, and then label it community (and themselves progressive.)
So here we have a governmental organization and an artist collaborating on something they call dialogue, but is in fact just the 1996 Joe Boxer billboard, now with new laser beams!
And no underwear models.
UPDATE: Michele Catalano says that IndyMedia has a similar problem:
Indymedia has the potential and the reader base to be something important and powerful for the left. By moderating it down to specific ideologies (which not all on the left follow) and dismissing anyone who does not fall in line with ANSWER type activism, IMC is doing a great disservice to those it purports to serve.
My suggestion is to open it up a little more, let people speak their minds and stop making room for every conspiracy theory in the world while censoring posts that are just reporting facts - even if these facts are not ones that you want to hear.
And some underwear models would be nice.