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November 20, 2008

Luddites Maybe, But Not Here

John writes, a couple of posts back, about the Slow Journalism panel I led at USC earlier this week, and I want to take issue with his concluding thought:

Either way, it is very much the opposite of the honorable, salutary, quaint or Luddite aspirations of the slow folk.

Yes, I did compare the "Slow" movement to the internet, but in a very specific way. Joshua Viertel, president of Slow Food USA, was making the point that a big part of the slow food movement was about accountability and dispersal of power. In a Fast Food model, production and distribution is controlled by a few large players. This makes the food chain anonymous, and it leads to lettuce from Chile, peas from China and potatoes from Turkey. It also leads to highly processed, anonymous food that may or may not be safe, and lack of accountability for the conditions under which food is grown and processed. Slow Food values the local producers and elevates the accountability of suppliers, dispersing the power of the large producers among many.

I observed that this is precisely what the internet has done; that in traditional models of information-sharing, gatekeepers managed the flow of information. The internet model has no choke points, no centralized places through which all information had to pass. Instead, the network has millions of possible paths for passing along information. So gatekeeping passes into millions of hands. As a subset, this has also happened to journalism. One no longer has to count on a small number of sources for news and information, and virtually anyone can broadcast whatever he or she wants. As John observes, this might be a good or a bad thing. I think it's a good thing. But it wasn't the point I was trying to make with the internet observation.

November 20, 2008 7:48 AM | | Comments (0)

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