The New Gatekeepers

To read the headlines, or the Bloglines, one might get the sense that the bloggers have arrived on the scene to challenge the “gatekeepers” of the big media. This is an essay in eight parts to examine this theme.

I will argue here that gatekeepers are inherently needed by the architecture of the blogosphere– as it has evolved, since 2001, into public consciousness. This architecture has been developed out of certain values, and those values are the ones espoused by those same thought leaders. That is not to say that there are other architectures, values, or leaders present; merely that this is the dominant form for the moment. (That there are other types of blogs with minimal involvement of the public interest, I have covered this at length in Blogger Archetypes.)

This builds directly on the central thesis of Lawrence Lessig’s important 1999 book Code and other laws of cyberspace. Seth Finkelstein recently called the book “an intellectual beacon… the significance of its importance cannot be overstated as a standards-bearer,” and I share his enthusiasm. Lessig challenged the conventionally flouted wisdom that values arise sui generis out of the architecture of the Internet, without any human intention. Instead, its values were very the result of human decisions.

The Internet of that time was a mishmash of mailing lists and USENET and MUDs (multi-user dungeons) and websites, corporate and personal– each with their own unrefined value systems. Today the most advanced developments on the Internet are happening around the more refined structures of weblogs and related technologies. Thus we need to once again consider which values are being asserted.

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