Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Here we go again...blogosphere: hierarchical construct or meritocratic free-for-all?

One of my favorite subjects, of course, is The Myth of Meritocracy. I can think of nothing that makes me roll my eyes more than hearing people who are basically privileged to begin with ramble on about how free and open and completely without barriers the Internet is. And I'm not even talking about the digital divide, which is a whole other subject. No, I'm talking about talented folks who are very threatened by the idea that anything might have contributed to their relative success other than that talent. But I don't need to reiterate my own points about The Myth of Meritocracy.

I'm going to point you to an ongoing and interesting conversation happening on the topic instead:

Groundhog Day: What Can't Be Fixed
"By comparison, blogs and blogging appear different. But that changed appearance doesn't equate to institutions or organizations (if we take those terms at their most general, regarding "the blogosphere" as an institution for instance), let alone a world, that is not full of gates and gatekeepers and exclusive territories. The terrain may have changed, but the competition to be heard remains the same. It remains unequal and unfair. Perhaps more cruelly so, because the changed appearance gave many people to believe that it might be so, it might be fairer, it might be more equal."

Ethan Johnson: The Compleat A-List
"A-Listers are viewed (and/or accused) as "gatekeepers", ostensibly filtering out (or actively/passively promoting) Z-Listers. In theory, this can't actually happen because the blogosphere, if not the internet at large is a borderless, undefined virtual space that cannot prevent subversion because there are far too many points of entry. Kind of like trying to "protect" the southern US border with 15 people. However, where there is data, there is analysis, and therefore Top 100 lists are fairly easy to generate based on traffic numbers, contextual mentions, and so forth. This in turn, again, depending on the question, means that certain bloggers will be listed in the critical first five to ten Google search results. If CNN needed an expert on say, user experience for an on-air segment, and you were an A-Lister on that subject, your phone will soon be ringing (or equivalent). It is this "visibility begets opportunity" dynamic that seems to fuel the most distrust and flat-out envy of real or imagined A-Listers."

Susan Getgood: The A-List Follies
"Let's start by forgetting the foolishness that the blogosphere is a pure meritocracy. Sure, merit matters, but so do a lot of other things. Assuming that those at the top are the "smart" ones to the exclusion of the rest is plain and simple stupidity. New bloggers, casual readers, everyone, needs to be reminded of this on a regular basis. If that means we have to have the A-list blog debate every few months, so be it.

Don't sweep the problems of gender/ racial bias and marginalization under the rug. Expose them to the light of day on a regular basis, so people are aware. And perhaps take a little more time to investigate, to dig, to find an alternative viewpoint."

I'm sure I could find many more people talking around this subject, but nasty me, I'm going to link to the ones who said something that resonates with me!

Bonus mention:

Shelley Powers: Eat the Red Couch. Not for the post itself which is one big amusing in-joke, but for the best comment exchange EVER:
"Actually Shelley, the more I read you, the less I think of you a champion of people whose voices don’t get heard enough [women, “D-Listers”, whoever], and more as somebody complicit in making sure they stay that way.

Yes, I’m sure somebody like Seth takes comfort in your words [the writing of which, you obviously have a talent for], but I don’t think you’re doing him any real long-term favors, either. Pity.
Hugh MacLeod — 8:28 pm August 21, 2006

Hugh, I have a headache and I don’t speak ‘cryptic’. Explain your comment, please.
Shelley — 8:32 pm August 21, 2006"

Oh. My. God. I am so stealing "I don't speak 'cryptic'" for my very own.

And PS: Hugh did not return to explain his comment. Seems like he could use the kind of conversation-tracking utility I was asking for here, no?

Go read those other folks. They are smart people saying smart things. Me? I said it all in The Myth of Meritocracy, and I really just like linking to that post again and again, as you can tell!

Thanks for the mention. I had to flush this "A-List" business out of my system, but I trust I'll be back around the maypole soon enough. :-)
The Paradox of Blogularity is that:
the more popular you are on any given day you step into it, the louder and wetter your Mea Culpa must be.
Here is how this works.

I Am Not an A- Lister!
Well, Maybe, but if I am, it is because of hard work, lots of luck, and dispensing oral favors
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