Friday, May 2, 2008

Wikipedia is the Kill Your Television of the 00s?

Clay Shirky's post on the death of the sitcom reminds me of a piece of advice I encountered in Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. To wit:

I am, when you stop to think of it, a member of a fairly select group: the final handful of American novelists who learned to read and write before they learned to eat a daily helping of video bullshit. This might not be important. On the other hand, if you're just starting out as a writer, you could do worse than strip your television's electric plug-wire, wrap a spike around it, and then stick it back into the wall. See what blows, and how far.

Just an idea.

King is basically saying "kill your television," but just because something's been said before doesn't necessarily mean that it doesn't need to be said again. Lately I've been in favor of killing the Internet as well, but Shirky points out an important difference between that and the TV: on the Internet, people can make their own contributions.

Okay, yeah, sure, the vast majority of those contributions are going to be nothing much; Sturgeon's Law had not, last I heard, been revoked, and an awful lot of Wikipedia's content is about TV, suggesting that if we all did as King suggested Wikipedia itself would be a lot poorer content-wise. On the other hand, a lot of them are going to be worthwhile, and some of them are going to be downright brilliant.

A friend of mine recently started a blog for photographers. Amateur photographers, specifically. Like herself. The point being, that one needn't be paid for something to be good at it (though it is one of the great satisfactions in life to be paid for something that you're not only good at, but that you would do whether someone was paying you for it or not. One of her entries reminded me of something that, as a lifelong French speaker, I ought to have remembered: the origin of "amateur" is "lover of".

Hear that, Andrew Keen? It's not enough that Cult of the Amateur gets a couple of pretty important facts wrong; it might well be that it's also mistaken in its conclusions.

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