You Are Not a Gadget : Jaron Lanier

Critics used to be very important people, a fact we tend to forget as newspapers die their slow death. The very idea of criticizing a cultural product — a service that we used to take for granted from critics and reviewers — has been almost seamlessly replaced by marketing and public relations and Yelp and Facebook-likers.

And yet what requires criticism, even more than the latest platform for the merchandising of plastic junk under the guise of a movie from Disney, is our tech-laden world itself. Who cares if computer animation is any good? Are the latest computers making our lives any good?

Lanier is a musician but I am unaware of his music. I am impressed, though, with his perspective as a wary artist situated both in the heart of the tech beast as a mover and a shaker, and also just outside it as a sometimes baffled observer.

Especially welcome and refreshing is Lanier’s unhappiness with mashups and social networking and wiki mania which, like any good new thing, has simply gone too far. Individual creativity drowns in the online swamp of appropriated culture. There are too many aggregators and slash fiction writers and blogs of blogs of blogs. What we need are some fresh, fundamental ideas and expressions of those ideas, and they by definition cannot originate in remix culture.






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