The tacky techie conundrum


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Our Culture (high and popular) is usually created by people who are happy with the systems the world has given them. Magazine editors don't spend a lot of time wishing for better technology. Opera singers focus more on their singing than on microphone technologies. Novelists proudly use typewriters.

Sure, there are exceptions like Les Paul (who developed the electric guitar) and Mitch Miller (who invented reverb) but these exceptions prove the rule: often, culture is invented by people who are too busy to seek out new technology.

(The bottom left corner of the grid shows the tech-phobic culture-phobic contingent. Not relevant to this discussion so much, but scary nonetheless).

If you take a look at this chart, you can see the danger anyone who introduces new technology faces. While you'll attract Les Paul and the 37Signals guys, you're more likely to attract spammers, scammers, opportunity seekers and others that will bring our culture down as easily as they'll bring it up.

The challenge is in designing structures and transparency that will attract the good guys while burying or repelling those that seek the new technology (because they can't find anywhere else to go). In other words, you either need to move the top left to the top right (not easy, but possible*), or educate the bottom left of the grid in how to contribute to the culture (really difficult indeed). The best new media (like blogs and possibly twitter) open doors to people who didn't used to have a voice. The worst ones (like blogs and possibly twitter) merely create new venues for scams and senseless yelling.

*The much-anticipated folding of Gourmet magazine is proof of what happens when the top left refuses to move right. Most of the Conde Nast empire is facing the abyss of this problem right now.