Tuesday, August 18, 2009

is the commons expanded by the death of newspapers?

An article in The New York Review of Books takes an in depth look at the shift in power away from newspapers and towards blogs. It's a shift with very nuanced and complex connections to the Commons.

In some ways the idea of democratizing the process and opportunity for disseminating analysis, opinions, news, etc., seems right up the alley of proponents of the Commons. Knowledge has the potential to be less proprietary on the internet, to be shared more widely. Bloggers emphasize their independence from the corporate-controlled media and break or elevate news that the mainstream media missed or ignored. So there could be benefits to the Commons created by the rise of online reporting and blogging.

But it also seems that there could be costs to the Commons. Because the internet is designed to be tailored to individual tastes, online news is much more fractured. People now get very different news -- or slants on "the news" -- depending on which individual blogs and bloggers they choose to follow. So the democratized distribution of news online may not strengthen our democracy or sense of holding things in common. Instead the phenomenon of web-based news could reinforce divisions by falling into opposing camps of "polemical excesses."

As is often the case, life isn't either/or. So, the Commons is probably being strengthened and expanded while also being undermined and endangered by the demise of newspapers and traditional news media. The challenge for the ascendant online news-makers is considering how to serve the common good; not through a return to a milquetoast news media, but so that some commonalities are enhanced and cultivated not just animosities and misinformation.

No comments: