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Friday, February 17, 2006

Silicon Valley Communists

Andrew Keen writes in the Weekly Standard (also available at CBS News) about the technology-driven utopian bullshit that serves as currency for some here in Silicon Valley:

Just as Marx seduced a generation of European idealists with his fantasy of self-realization in a communist utopia, so the Web 2.0 cult of creative self-realization has seduced everyone in Silicon Valley.
A typical passage:
The entrepreneur, like me a Silicon Valley veteran, was pitching me his latest start-up: a technology platform that creates easy-to-use software tools for online communities to publish weblogs, digital movies, and music. It is technology that enables anyone with a computer to become an author, a film director, or a musician. This Web 2.0 dream is Socrates's nightmare: technology that arms every citizen with the means to be an opinionated artist or writer.

"This is historic," my friend promised me. "We are enabling Internet users to author their own content. Think of it as empowering citizen media. We can help smash the elitism of the Hollywood studios and the big record labels. Our technology platform will radically democratize culture, build authentic community, create citizen media." Welcome to Web 2.0.

Buzzwords from the old dot.com era — like "cool," "eyeballs," or "burn rate" — have been replaced in Web 2.0 by language that is simultaneously more militant and absurd: Empowering citizen media, radically democratize, smash elitism, content redistribution, authentic community … This sociological jargon, once the preserve of the hippie counterculture, has now become the lexicon of new media capitalism.

Yet this entrepreneur owns a $4 million house a few blocks from Steve Jobs's house. He vacations in the South Pacific. His children attend the most exclusive private academy on the peninsula. But for all of this he sounds more like a cultural Marxist — a disciple of Gramsci or Herbert Marcuse — than a capitalist with an MBA from Stanford.
It is a worthy read but if you can't spare ten minutes then the "cliffs notes" version will do: read The new narcissism on Nick Carr's blog. As Carr puts it:
Beware of those who come with money and influence and pretty-sounding abstractions and who are utterly unaware that what they so joyfully seek to impose on the world is their own reckless banality.

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