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that darn proletariat!

A couple of days ago, CBS News ran an opinion piece entitled Web 2.0 Is Reminiscent of Marx:

Empowered by Web 2.0 technology, we can all become citizen journalists, citizen videographers, citizen musicians. Empowered by this technology, we will be able to write in the morning, direct movies in the afternoon, and make music in the evening.

Sounds familiar? It's eerily similar to Marx's seductive promise about individual self-realization in his "German Ideology:"

Whereas in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic.


Another word for narcissism is "personalization." Web 2.0 technology personalizes culture so that it reflects ourselves rather than the world around us. Blogs personalize media content so that all we read are our own thoughts. Online stores personalize our preferences, thus feeding back to us our own taste. Google personalizes searches so that all we see are advertisements for products and services we already use.

Keen continues on with the Red Scare comparisons, stopping along the way to call Larry Lessig “a Silicon Valley intellectual property communist.”

I’m making fun of their negative comparisons to Marx, but the questions here are, at bottom, worth some discussion. What is our moral obligation to question technological developments? And are we building a machine to destroy or preserve culture?


Doheny-Farina argues that we have a responsibility to question technologies development and use. He believes that it is important to look at the big picture of how technology might impact culture that already exists and attempt not to "impinge on individual and group rights" because "healthy action is stepwise and measured" (p. 186).

I agree that those of us who are "literate" need to ask tough questions about the ramifications of technology and not view it in an entirely utopian manner. I think the biggest danger with technology is that we view it too often as a tool and not often enough in light of the potential cultural ramifications.