Good reads – 02 14 11 (on “digital feudalism” and its potentially corrosive implications)

In the wake of AOL’s $315 million acquisition of the Huffington Post (which many people have already criticized from a business point of view), quite a few media commentators are shivering at the thought of the dynamics that lead thousands (and across the web hundreds of millions) of people to generate content for free that competes for attention and advertising expenditures with what’s produced by paid professionals:

1. Here’s David Carr of the NYTimes talking about media companies build “on a nation of serfs” (that’d be you and me).

2. Athony de Rosa of Reuters, whom Carr cites, calls it “digital feudalism”.

They are having a bit of an autonomist moment, concerned about exploitation of immaterial labor by insidious networks, what a friend of mine in a nice phrase has called “loser generated content.”

I take the point (both of Carr et al and the autonomists–though I think it is rather overblown to call your average Facebook user or even HuffPo blogger a “serf” and I find the phrase “digital feudalism” hyperbolic).

From here on the debate only gets more confusing, even without getting into the discussion of whether the satisfaction that comes from sharing and expressing oneself outweighs the direct and indirect costs of becoming dependent on various “social media”–

3. Nate Silver argues that the unpaid bloggers on HuffPo don’t actually drive that much traffic, whereas Frederic Filloux in a couple of posts here and here have offered a pretty vehement criticism not only of the price AOL paid for HuffPo, but also the potentially corrosive “model” it is supposed to represent.


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