As a writer, I’ve always believed in the power of knowledge and in the importance of truth. The influence the Web has had, and will have, on our culture is by no means clear, but there are already signs that Web culture is eroding the forces of consumerism and populism that have had such a strong hold over North Americans.
The online market isn’t governed by shelf space, page cost, or seconds; which means that more products and content will surface. This creates a culture where producers can thrive. In The Long Tail, Chris Anderson writes about democratizing the tools of production: “Today, millions of people publish daily for an audience that is collectively larger than any single media outlet can claim.” Anderson points out that there is currently a shift going on in the culture. People are moving from being “passive consumers to active producers.”
With such a selection of content, people are discovering artists, writers, and musicians that were never before accessible. The result is that new writers and musicians are sprouting up, either with blogs or online music, and attracting followers. This creates a much more competitive culture in professions such as writing, composing, and film making. The amateur can compete for eyeballs on the same platform that the professionals are now forced to work on. No longer do status or position get in the way, and the best artists are rising up.
When it comes to writing, I’ve noticed that many professionals – who previously had exclusive positioning in the media industry – are slowly losing their footing on the podium. I find something refreshing about that.
Let me explain: When I first started out as a writer, the only way to get published was to print my own newspaper – and it was only after I had published a few issues that I was given the opportunity to write for an established publication. I quickly learned that “who” I knew mattered more than “what” I knew.
Today, anyone can publish her ideas; the online market provides a podium. What I have noticed is that the art of writing seems to be winning out. Amateurs with skill and practice can, and often do, create better articles and columns than the professional writers, who seem to be turning out words just for a pay cheque.
I’m not sure if it is my Anglican heritage, but I’ve always connected consumerism with greed, opulence, and over-indulgence. For decades, the markets have encouraged spending and buying, and shopping malls and huge box stores have developed to give consumers the ultimate shopping “experience.” But now there is an alternative to simply consuming products. More and more people are using their time to produce and share their ideas.
Sarah Thomson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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