It's not every day you find yourself trapped in an upstairs room of a phenomenally posh pub with only one of the founding fathers of cyberpunk/steampunk to chat to.
But such was my fate last night, and as I'm rubbish at standing around with a drink in my hand playing at Who Can Say The Cleverest Thing, I instead chose to ask Bruce Sterling whether he thought that blogging might - in the immortal words of Ned's Atomic Dustbin - kill your television.
Anyway, the man from Austin/Belgrade/Viridian Design he say yes, blogging (and Flickr and digg.com and YouTube and last.fm) *is* the new television. Unless you're a woman, or poor, or uneducated, in which case you're probably still slumped in front of the telly mindlessly absorbing the output of the Murdoch empire. Well. I can legitimately claim to be at least one of those things, but I haven't watched any telly (GW notwithstanding), for the last eight months. Perhaps that means I'm an honorary man. Not sure.
Prior to this conversation, Bruce had been preaching to the assembled crowd (which mainly consisted of educated blokes) about the New Social Revolution that is 'Web 2.0'. For the uninitiated, Web 2.0 is a handy term that's being applied to any web-based technology where the users get to create the content - like blogging, or putting photos on Flickr, or tagging things, or putting your band's music on myspace, or contributing to Wikipedia (pace Chuffy!).
Photo courtesy of Tom Armitage at Infovore
According to Bruce, this whole culture of mass participation means that there are 'no consumers any more', as we've stopped mindlessly buying/reading/watching stuff and started making it instead.
It's the Why Don't You? paradox made flesh!
While there are clearly gaping holes in this argument (like, you generally have to buy computers and stuff to even get on the internet, and there's ample evidence that the 'mindless consumer' never existed in the first place, plus there's the fact that 'Chairman Bruce' is still selling his books in ye olde paper format, presumably because that way they actually make him money), I do find it all terribly exciting.
I mean, when has it ever been this easy to be a revolutionary? In the old days you had to wear scratchy coats and rush about half-starved on battleships in the freezing cold, probably being shot at. Now all you have to do is post up a picture of two men kissing and a couple of sentences about getting on a train to Southampton, and suddenly you're the Great Destroyer of the Culture Industry. Brilliant!
As I haven't done this subject any kind of justice whatsoever, I recommend you get the proper lowdown on what Bruce Sterling said about Web 2.0 (and the threat of climate change, and futuristic RFID torture devices) by downloading his talk and the subsequent Q&A session as two podcasts here:
Bruce Sterling May 15 2006 podcasts
NB: This post has been brought to you by Tunng's splendid folktronica cover of Bloc Party's 'The Pioneers', which you can download for your aural pleasure here:
Tunng - The Pioneers (mp3) - courtesy of Lonesome Music
tags: bruce sterling | web 2.0 | tunng