In response to this week’s Newsweek article Revenge of the Experts suggesting the expert is back and user-created content is on the wane, columnist Tom Regan offers this in today’s Christian Science Monitor: Credible Web? It’s where we click most. Expertise is essential online, but the Internet’s real ‘killer app’ is choice. (Jay Rosen and I are quoted in the piece.)
An expert in the Newsweek article said, the world is "too dangerous a place for faulty information." People can deal with vetting information in two ways: rely solely on experts and authority figures. Or become a fact-checker, treating unverified information with skepticism and consulting multiple sources to get at the truth.
I’ve seen very little evidence that the sweeping cultural shifts we’ve
seen in the past half dozen years show any signs of retreating. This is just a bit of wishful thinking on the part of traditional media folks.
As Doc Searls likes to say, this is or thinking, when it should be about and thinking. Experts and amateurs will continue to offer useful, reliable news and information.
tech-savvy people in particular now typically rely on social networks that they’ve
fashioned to take cues from their friends on which movies to see,
books to read or vacation destinations to target. And didn’t Lonely
Planet Guide successfully explore this terrain for travel and Zagat’s for dining
back in the ’90s?
The old guard will forever sniff at the likes of Wikipedia, but young people have learned to trust ourselves rather than
relying exclusively on a caste of experts. Most of us are experts in one subject or another. The dissolution of information monopolies at the local level spells trouble for
professional journalists at hundreds of U.S. newspapers that will vanish in the next decade.
Millions of cell phones now are capable of capturing fairly
high-quality video. Just this week I learned of a new site, Qik, that
will let any of these devices stream live video, further speeding the
obsolescence of professional reporters on the scene of a news event.
Hardly a day goes by that I
don’t receive an email from a newspaper reporter asking for job leads
in the tech startup world. That doesn’t bode well for the cult of the
To be sure, too many readers are still too credulous about what appears on the Internet. (The latest video hit piece on Barack Obama making the rounds is testament to that.) We need to
fine-tune our B.S. meters and do a better job in figuring out that not
all sources are created equal.
In the end, Web 3.0 will not be about turning back the clock to the era of elites and experts. It will be about
making this hyperconnected global social network more relevant to our lives.