martes, julio 10, 2007

Web 2.0: el fin del fundamento

No es difícil preguntarse si la web 2.0 será la manifestación más contundente de la teoría de Foucault sobre la realidad concebida por los discursos. Si asumimos que la red está llena de mentiras, manipulación y distorsiones alambicadas de la realidad, qué tipo de mundo se construye en la cabeza de los cada vez perturbados usurarios de Internet. Esta es la pregunta que se hace Andrew Keen en el libro “The Cult of the Amateur”, que por hoy ya es la Biblia de los que critican esta segunda generación de consumidores de la red y que tienen el poder de participar en casi todas sus dimensiones. Los disparos del autor –que obviamente se ha ganado el odio de los blog´s emprendedores- van desde Youtube hasta Wikipedia, pero en el fondo el investigador apunta a un solo gran tema: el fin del fundamento. Sin duda, que el planteamiento de Keen es interesante. La sociedad podrá reconocerse con sólo visitar la red durante unas horas al día y al mismo tiempo preguntarse qué tipo de verdades horizontales estamos desarrollando. Los pequeños ejemplos que hoy existen sobre mitos urbanos creados por la red pueden ser grandes fundamentos mañana. Pero el problema de Keen es que desconoce la pericia y sensibilidad de las audiencias. Los diarios que hoy son “garantes” de la verdad en EE.UU comenzaron como planfletos cargados de mentiras e instrumentalizados por sus dueños y autores...En fin, este es un texto publicado en el NYT sobre el libro de Keen.
Mr. Keen argues that “what the Web 2.0 revolution is really delivering is superficial observations of the world around us rather than deep analysis, shrill opinion rather than considered judgment.” In his view Web 2.0 is changing the cultural landscape and not for the better. By undermining mainstream media and intellectual property rights, he says, it is creating a world in which we will “live to see the bulk of our music coming from amateur garage bands, our movies and television from glorified YouTubes, and our news made up of hyperactive celebrity gossip, served up as mere dressing for advertising.” This is what happens, he suggests, “when ignorance meets egoism meets bad taste meets mob rule.”

This book, which grew out of a controversial essay published last year by The Weekly Standard, is a shrewdly argued jeremiad against the digerati effort to dethrone cultural and political gatekeepers and replace experts with the “wisdom of the crowd.” Although Mr. Keen wanders off his subject in the later chapters of the book — to deliver some generic, moralistic rants against Internet evils like online gambling and online pornography — he writes with acuity and passion about the consequences of a world in which the lines between fact and opinion, informed expertise and amateurish speculation are willfully blurred.

For one thing, Mr. Keen says, “history has proven that the crowd is not often very wise,” embracing unwise ideas like “slavery, infanticide, George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, Britney Spears.” The crowd created the tech bubble of the 1990s, just as it created the disastrous Tulipmania that swept the Netherlands in the 17th century.

Mr. Keen also points out that Google search results — which answer “search queries not with what is most true or most reliable, but merely what is most popular” — can be manipulated by “Google bombing” (which “involves simply linking a large number of sites to a certain page” to “raise the ranking of any given site in Google’s search results”). And he cites a recent Wall Street Journal article reporting that hot lists on social networking Web sites are often shaped by a small number of users: that at, which has 900,000 registered users, 30 people were responsible at one point for submitting one-third of the postings on the home page; and at, a single user was behind 217 stories over a two-week period, or 13 percent of all stories that reached the most popular list in that period.

Because Web 2.0 celebrates the “noble amateur” over the expert, and because many search engines and Web sites tout popularity rather than reliability, Mr. Keen notes, it’s easy for misinformation and rumors to proliferate in cyberspace. For instance, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia (which relies upon volunteer editors and contributors) gets way more traffic than the Web site run by Encyclopedia Britannica (which relies upon experts and scholars), even though the interactive format employed by Wikipedia opens it to postings that are inaccurate, unverified, even downright fraudulent. This year it was revealed that a contributor using the name Essjay, who had edited thousands of Wikipedia articles and was once one of the few people given the authority to arbitrate disputes between writers, was a 24-year-old named Ryan Jordan, not the tenured professor he claimed to be.


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