Monday, September 11, 2006

Part 5. Distortions in Truth & Reality and a Crisis of Credibility

This is Part 5 in a multi-post series on the topics of Participatory Media and Consumer Generated Content.

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The last ten years have been hard on the ideals of truth and credibility. In our striving to get ahead, outperform and affect change some of us have bent the rules a little too far.

In corporate America, Enron and WorldComm set new benchmarks for going astray.

Potential conflicts of interest involving Haliburton continue to raise eyebrows.

Americans are increasingly questioning whether or not they were mislead about reasons to enter the war in Iraq. It isn't an accident that so many people believe Saddam had something to do with 9/11.

Bill Clinton wasted his second term in office and a ridiculous amount of resources were squandered over his sexual impropriety and lies.

Scandals at the New York Times involving Jason Blairand at the New Republic with Stephen Glasshave tarnished the profession of journalism. It appears the US government has been New scandals are popping up all the time.

It appears the US government has been paying journalists to write anti-Cuba propaganda.

Image Manipulation
Controversies about image manipulation first came to the fore with O.J. and are becoming more frequent as well. Here is a great C/Net feature called Pictures that Lie. It includes this latest example with Katie Couric.

The consensus ruling on this is: fake. I'm not certain.

People expect a level of manipulated "truthiness" in the context of advertising and marketing. After all, we are being "sold" so we adjust our filters accordingly. The problem is that we are now being sold in every context and it has taken precedence over credibility and the construction of authentic brand voices.

I started to have a sense that reliable reviews and a spirit of journalism had escaped the magazine Rolling Stone around the time that the magalog concept was taking off. Magalogs are designed to look like a magazine but are really just catalogs of product without an editorial perspective. It was about this time that I felt that everything had become a magalog, everything had become a sales tool without ambition for anything higher.

It is in contrast to this cultural context that participatory media and citizen journalism have risen as a counterpoint and proven themselves most valuable. There is a sense of true authenticity to the content produced by people and shared on the internet. There is a spirit of passion on the pages of blogs, a feeling that the words you are reading are truly believed in by someone. They may not be professionally written, they may be half-baked, perhaps painfully, totally wrong, but they are believed and in a culture that has sold everything else out for a quick dime, that may be our most precious resource.

This is what the criticisms of wikipedia printed in the pages of traditional media are so oblivious to. It is stupid to think that professionals, incentivized by a freelance rate are going to produce better and more accurate work that the collective power of passionate people. What we can count on from professionals these days has proven itself to be truly disappointing.

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On Participatory Media and User Generated Content. A multi-post series.

Part 1. Talking to Ourselves
It's what people do!

Part 2. What Are We Talking About?
Defining the terms and context.

Part 3. Its Gotten Personal
The points of connection are now directly to, and between, individuals.

Part 4. The Relative Value of Content (is Dropping)

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