One of the very few positive consequences of the current financial miasma will be a sharp cultural shift in our attitude toward the economic value of our labor. Mass unemployment and a deep economic recession comprise the most effective antidote to the utopian ideals of open-source radicals. The altruistic ideal of giving away one’s labor for free appeared credible in the fat summer of the Web 2.0 boom … . But as we contemplate the world post-bailout, when economic reality once again bites, only Silicon Valley’s wealthiest technologists can even consider the luxury of donating their labor to the latest fashionable, online, open-source project.
Let’s dissect this for a minute. Mr. Keen is essentially saying that the current economic crisis will be so bad that leisure time, for all intents and purposes, will cease to exist. Everyone will be so cash-starved and desparate for income that the very the idea of spending 10 minutes blogging about a politician, or contributing to the information in Wikipedia will be inconceivable.
First, let me say that if the economic crisis is so bad that leisure time disappears, I think it’s safe to say that 5 billion people will starve to death. Almost everyone who writes or pontificates for entertainment/educational purposes will be included in that holocaust. So if he’s right, the entire concept of “professional media” will go extinct.
But perhaps he’s not saying that. Perhaps he’s simply saying that people will start to value their time far more than they do now. And thus, in Keenworld – no rancid amateurs spewing half-ignorant opinions like so much trash across their country-bumpkin lawns.
This might be true, if people currently valued their own opinions as something close to $0. But most people would refuse a good chunk of money in order to ‘just shut up and stop blogging.’ They value what they have to say far more than $0. They value sharing knowledge. They value reaching out to the uniformed. To many of them, it borders on a sacred duty to let the world know about X, Y or Z.
To put it another way – how much money would you have to give a Jehovah’s Witness to get them to stop prosyletizing altogether? If they think they’re doing important, Godly work, probably a lot more than $0.
And lastly, this ignores the class of people who consider blogging/sharing information to be something that will economically help them in the future – building credibility, building a track record, in preparation for a potential payday down the road.
It’s rare that I get to see someone so prominently attempt to wrestle reality into conforming with their personal agenda. Well, outside of politics. Let’s slip back to the Great Depression for a moment. Did missionaries stop preaching and converting? No. Somehow, despite the fact that they were struggling to find enough food, they still found time to spread the word of God. Did people stop listening to the radio or going to movies? No – they actually watched a lot of movies. They had lots of leisure time. If Mr. Keen is correct, there’s no way that someone would have “wasted” their leisure time listening to the radio when they could have been doing something productive. But yet they did, in record numbers. If Mr. Keen is correct, no one campaigned for politicians. No one agitated for a law passed, or for better working conditions, or equal rights. Because none of those things paid money. And during a deep economic crisis, that’s the only thing people cared about… right?
People value their opinions very strongly. They value sharing those opinions even more. If the choice is between starving to death, and making sure that everyone knows just how fascist Bush is, I’m willing to wager there’ll be more than a few skeletal corpses lying face-down in the dirt with Bushitler signs clutched in their emaciated, clawlike hands. And an equal number of people who would use their last dying spurt of energy to push ‘publish’ on their personal Anti-Obama screed.
Bottom line, Mr. Keen is attempting to strap Logic to a table, tilt her head back and vigorously waterboard her in order to get her to agree with any conveniently a priori-supporting fancy that plops into his gelatinous head. Alas, Logic is made of far, far sterner stuff than that, and has absolutely no desire to be made Keen’s bitch.
Slink back to your cave, troglodyte, and weep as your effete , aristocratic “professional media” sandcastles continue to be worn away by the innumerable tides of the great unwashed.