The blogosphere’s ideological bias

Seth Finkelstein has a thoughtful piece in the Guardian about the dispute between the Writers Union and the big media companies in the US.

The conflict is a stark measurement of how little the hype for “user-generated content” affects professional entertainment. Evangelists might argue they never seriously claimed professionals would be entirely supplanted. But the inability of the producers to use citizen-scabs for replacement material, and the interesting fact that such supposed competition is not even part of the studio’s bluster, shows how content like this is not taken seriously as real product.

Moreover, it’s worth remembering that many tales of amateur success turn out to be marketing fabrications designed to support a fantasy that an ordinary person can somehow suddenly become a star. For the foreseeable future, copyrighted content, mediated through large distributors of some sort, is going to be a major business model. The fight ( is over changes in the specifics of implementation.

And there are fundamental structural matters at stake. Writer and blogger Mark Evanier, who has chronicled the strike strategy (, has said: “Delivery of entertainment via [the] internet is a new frontier. There are undoubtedly those who dream of settling that territory without unions and labour getting a real foothold.”

There’s a trace of old-style push-media thinking here, but Mr Finkelstein also highlights an important point about implicit bias.

Ideology is really just a fancy name for beliefs one takes for granted. In that sense, the prevailing ideological mood in the blogosphere seems intrinsically hostile to any form of sustained, organised collective offline activity. There’s an important difference, for example, between what trade unions do and what ‘flash mobs’ can achieve. The roots of this ideological bias are complex, but they certainly include technological determinism (the abiding sin of technophiles) and an instinctive hostility to ‘old economy’ forms of organisation, whether in the form of music industry cartels or trade unions trying to protect what are regarded as obsolete practices or trades.