What us wants

In announcing its Person of the Year yesterday, Time heralded the arrival of “a new digital democracy,” in which “you, not we, are transforming the information age.” The citizen-journalism crowd welcomed Time’s condescension, but argued that the magazine didn’t go far enough in abandoning its legacy as a gatekeeper of the news. The fact that “the cover didn’t say ‘Us’ instead of ‘You,'” wrote Dan Gillmor, head of the Center for Citizen Media, “was a vestige of the magazine’s traditional, royal thinking wherein they told us everything they thought we needed to know (and what to think about it).”

With exquisite timing, Google today released its year-end Zeitgeist report, revealing “our collective consciousness” as expressed through our searches. The list of our top-ten news searches of the year provides a delightful preview of what we can expect when those dastardly news editors finally stop filtering the news and let “us” decide what we need to know:

1. paris hilton

2. orlando bloom

3. cancer

4. podcasting

5. hurricane katrina

6. bankruptcy

7. martina hingis

8. autism

9. 2006 nfl draft

10. celebrity big brother 2006

You might have been under the impression that there were big stories coming out of places like Iraq and Darfur this year. That only shows how brainwashed you’ve been by the mainstream news media.

There is one encouraging note in Google’s report. The movie that attracted the most searches for showtimes during the year was Idiocracy, Mike Judge’s prophetic film about a future America where the leading newsweekly is called Hot Naked Chicks & World Report.

6 thoughts on “What us wants

  1. :)

    It’s one diatribe after another with you… post after post predicting the collapse of the cultural infrastructure because joe nobody can create his own content and ignore you if he wants. (or in my case, write you and be ignored by you if I want) You might just as well have said that market driven journalism already has been the death of culture. For it is certain that mainstream media has had plenty to do with the notoriety of the Paris Hiltons and various hot naked chicks of the world.

  2. Nick Carr

    Actually, I’m a great believer in joe nobody. Last time I checked joe didn’t want anything to do with “us.”

  3. Scott Sutherland

    I would assume that for any particular “standard” topic covered by the “smart elite” that the sources of coverage would be well known. Hence, the collective searching of the masses excludes things that are relevant today as “news” because they are already inundated with sources and opinion.

    If I would like to read the latest information about Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, or Israel and Lebanon; I don’t have to go to google. I have the BBC, USA today, NY Times, LA Times, Detroit Free Press, Kansas City Star, Chicago Tribune, etc., etc. All of those outlets are name recognized. Over time, I might have all of them in an RSS or ATOM feed which just collects all the news for my perusal.

    As a corollary, if the phone company’s information service released “search statistics” for people calling them it would appear that everyone was looking for Johnson and Smith. However, that doesn’t really tell us much about what people are using their phones for.

  4. Doug Lay

    I’m not so sure that list is a sign of moral decay, #1 choice notwithstanding. Topics 3-6 and 8 are all pretty serious, no? Perhaps we’re looking at a pretty good work/play balanace here.

  5. Nick Carr

    I don’t see it as a sign of moral decay, either. I see it as a warning against romanticizing the news-editing skills of the crowd and demeaning the news-editing skills of professional journalists.

    In other words: Be careful what you wish for.

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