Sometime between the moment my RSS reader got his latest post and I read it on his blog, Nicholas Carr apparently edited his description of me. It was: “…intones the blogosphere’s resident philistine, Jeff Jarvis.” But then he abandoned his color and descriptive juice and kept only his Thesaurus-happy said-synonym. It became: “…intones Jeff Jarvis.” Drat, I was rather enjoying the title. I would be willing to call Carr the blogosphere’s would-be resident curmudgeon if he’d call me its resident philistine.
But then, Carr goes on to be a sort of philistine in his own right, for in his curmudgeonliness, he refuses to hear the value in individual voices — like his — empowered by the existence of blogs; he refuses to see the benefit of discovering those voices in conversations just like this, without the need to produce and deliver and sell and recycle expensive books and slick magazines. Not that you can’t produce paper, I say, but why stop there when new possibities for being heard abound?
Carr giddily quotes fellow curmudgeon John Updike lashing out at Kevin Kelly’s NY Times magazine story about digitizing books. And then Carr concludes:
It all comes down, I think, to two different visions of culture. One is a vision of integrity – of the integrity of individuals and their works. These are the building blocks of culture. In combining them, you do not destroy their integrity, or erase their edges. It’s their edges that give the entire construction its form and its solidity: edges butted up against other edges. The other is a vision of disintegration. It devalues the individual and his work, cherishing instead a dream of a communal higher consciousness that dissolves all edges. Culture becomes a formless liquid, an “Eden of everything,” as Kelly puts it. But an Eden of everything is also, inevitably, an Eden of nothing.
The web is where culture goes to die.
How incredibly closed-minded can one be? In his final line, he’s playing off my kicker, that “print is where words go to die.” I said that, lamenting that books fall off store and library shelves and into recycling vats and that the ideas and words on them are lost when they could, instead, live on and be found forever if only they were digital and available. I mourned the loss of that culture and urged the use of technology to prevent such death. Carr, on the other hand, simply dismisses the ability of the very web he is using to bring out individual voices, to value the individual more, to place more power and attention at the edges rather than at the mass-market center. To say that the “web is where culture goes to die” is just trying too damned hard to be the web’s would-be resident curmudgeon.
: LATER: Oh, Jeesh, now fellow would-be curmudgeon of the blogosphere, Scott Karp, equates me not with Philistine but with the U.S.S.R. in Carr’s comments:
Nick, you know you’re going to get your ass handed to you for this one. But here’s a consolation:
In the early 20th century, there were people who really believed that communism would work. It took a century of unfortunate history (Stalin, etc.) to demonstrate that an ideology that devalues the individual is fundamentally contrary to human nature.
This too shall pass.
Huh? And just who is the Stalin of the blogosphere? Do tell.
And it’s such a relief that the web shall pass. Tell David Carr and those poor, depressed newspaper sods, would you?
(Pity. And I thought we were getting along so well.)