Read this and you are contributing to mass ignorance and to a pervasive culture of digital narcissism.

Portsmouth Cathedral. (South Door)

Portsmouth Cathedral, South Door. (c) John Callaway 2008

So here I am, just a few days after publishing my first post, listening to Iconoclasts on Radio 4. Check out Andrew Keen‘s assertion that postings such as mine undermine “conventional talent and…replac(e) the wisdom of traditional experts with the innocence of online amateurs”. Cultural chaos, economic catastrophe and moral decay is but a mouse click away. (Hope some of you appreciate the subtle irony of providing a link to Wikipedia for Andrew!)

Sorry Andrew, for having thoughts and ideas above my station. Please accept my guilt for the temerity to hold a worthless opinion. Look away now if you find my photographs not to be of merit, worth or beauty. My guess is, judging by the traffic that reaches (or doesn’t) this blog, or indeed my website, that some do and some don’t. Some care not a jot, and some don’t even know that my poorly articulated and worthless opinions are “out there”.

Ignorance is indeed bliss. Without recourse to the internet, I would never have been able to recall verbatim your soothing words of wisdom and sagacity, brought to me through the wonders of FM radio. Only now can I ask the question, “did he really say that?”, and print part of what you said again here, within the context of my own rough hewn prose…

So we are led to believe that “Knowledge and truth are both being turned upside down by today’s Internet. Mainstream media was once a place we went to in order to be educated by disinterested experts about an impersonal world outside our immediate experience. But today’s Internet has become an extension of that familiar personal realm, where we go to broadcast ourselves to friends instead of learning from strangers. Rather than Marshall McLuhan’s dream of a global electronic village, the web is fragmenting society into a billion intimate hamlets, dragging it back into a discordant pre-Enlightenment dark age where all truth is personal and all knowledge local”.

Well I’m really sorry to let you know Andrew that in my 49 years of existence on this planet,prior to the existence of the internet, I absorbed information from a variety of different sources. I read widely, though in truth selected ideas from “the meritocracy of proven experts” which tended to support my world view. ( I shan’t produce “lists” as it is so reductionist!!). Disturbingly, I did sometimes partake of knowledge which hadn’t come from a “reputable” source. But you know what, I managed to construct ideas of my own from time to time. Sometimes people listened, sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes my ideas were nonsense, sometimes they weren’t. Can you see a pattern…..? So no, I don’t support the view that  “…rather than a democratic utopia of creative amateurs, this self-broadcasting Internet revolution is actually leading to mass ignorance and to a pervasive culture of digital narcissism”. But just in case, enjoy the attached photograph I took which may or may not have its own intrinsic meaning….

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3 responses to “Read this and you are contributing to mass ignorance and to a pervasive culture of digital narcissism.

  • Julie Cook

    On the subject of information – what are you reading? Have you looked at stephen shore’ s work and the nature of photographs?. I would be interested in your thoughts. Please credit your image clearly -is there a title – how does it relate to your writing? Stephen Shores way of looking could help you with this

  • johnnyc1959

    Current reading material: Roland Barthes: “Rhetoric of The Image” pp 114-125 in “The Photography Reader” (Ed. Liz Wells) Routledge (2003) among others… but this kind of ‘explains’ (maybe) what I was thinking about the photo I used….

    It’s one of mine. It’s actually a detail from the South Door of Portsmouth Cathedral. When I took it I was going through a phase of looking at the ‘image within the image’. It’s a door Jim, but not as we know it…

    I don’t know whether it was intended by the artist who made the door, but I quite liked the fact that with some close cropping you could create a cruciform within the iron work…

    Anyway, back to Barthes. He posits three messages contained within an image:

    The Linguistic Message
    The Denoted Image
    The Rhetoric Of The Image

    The throw away last line of my post … ” but just in case, enjoy the attached photograph I took which may or may not have its own intrinsic meaning”…was an invitation to the viewer to consider whether this really was digital narcissism on my part, or whether there was some other meaning attached to the image.

    After all, as the Manic Street Preachers once said. “This is my truth, now tell me yours”.

    Yep, read the Shore article, but think it probably requires a separate post which I’ll do over the weekend.

  • Julie Cook

    Your post is interesting and I enjoyed it but it would just be better if it focused more on how the internet has affected photography – for example how has it changed how we consume photography and then relate it to you own choice and use of image. The use of the internet and the line between amateur/professional could be expanded on with specific examples ie flickr becoming part of getty.
    Regarding the reading I just want to make sure that you are covering some of the content of the lectures. Stephen Shore wrote a great book – The Nature of Photographs which starts by looking at the formal reading of photographs (lots of different photographers and not just his own work) and ends with ‘mental modelling’ that reflect our understanding of the world. We are discussing Roland Barthes Studium and the Punctum ( explained in Camera Lucida) this week.

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