Winer’s Front Porch: Rossetto Responds

Date: Thu, 3 Jul 2003 21:28:19 +0200
Subject: Re: You and Dave Winer
From: Louis Rossetto

You are mischaracterizing my position in order to create a dichotomy with Dave Winer’s. For me, the Web was not only a platform, it was a new medium. New thinking for a New Medium, remember? A way to think about what it means to convey information and meaning to others. The platform wasn’t the point, the new leaders weren’t the point, the new medium was the point. The Medium is the Message, remember? The new medium had its own dynamic, was inherently revolutionary and destabilizing, was going to create new leaders because the old leaders just didn’t get it, couldn’t adapt, etc.

Dave’s comment about my wanting to turn the medium into “those that came before” is plain wrong. That wasn’t my position. My position is that it wouldn’t be like anything that came before, and that we had to discover what its dynamic really was. Dave’s position is that it was like a front porch, literally, that you put out some virtual potted plants, and people would come visit. That is indeed a pretty quaint idea. You have to wonder whether if Winer was around at the time of the building of the Interstate Highway System he would have argueed that the arrival of highways was going to encourage the creation of kid’s lemonade stands, and won’t that be a fun revolution? When, in fact, the revolution was in subverting the railroads, building a car industry, changing teenage mating habits, creating the suburbs, etc. etc. etc.

The blogosphere proves that the medium is open and allows access to new voices which are subversive to old institutions. Those new voices acquire audiences like any performer or analyst — one at a time. They develop reputations, they get linked to, they become “stars,” or magnets. They disaggregate old Media, undermining the vaunted commentators, and subjecting the medium to the kind of scrutiny it never had before. The people who put up valued blogs are not creating front porches. They are becoming trusted sources of meaning.

And no everyone doesn’t have a blog, anymore than they have a website. And 99 percent of the blogs and 99 percent of the websites aren’t trafficked, not just because nobody can find them, but because no one wants or needs to find them.

The Web became just one facet of a totally public world, a feature of every person’s inescapable visibility. Your “front porch,” as Dave had it, is open to everybody, and Uncle Moe is a public character. At least that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately, as I’ve been browsing lots of other blogs, starting to maintain this site, and examining my own sense of privacy.

Winer’s “front porch” idea had nothing to do with this phenomenon. We said it at the time in Wired: there are no secrets in the global village. Meaning that like the small village where everyone knew everyone’s secrets, so, too, in the global village.

Coppola predicted the development of reality television. In a world where the suspense of fiction is now trumped by the suspense of real time, big media’s last stand is reality programming — news, war, reality television. Again, this has nothing to do with people putting virtual rockers on their front porch.

These days, if you google somebody and nothing comes up, you wonder about them. Maybe the debate over the future of media was a sideshow that distracted us while the idea of private life disappeared.

The point for me was always to try and figure out what life in an increasingly mediated world was about. What distracted us wasn’t investigating that, it was the pursuit of money.

Private life has been disappearing since the first radio mast went up and we could project ourselves beyond the physical limits of time and space. What you are perhaps confronting is the loss of _your_ privacy — some would point out the exquisite irony of the usurper of privacy suddenly feeling himself exposed.

Because, in reality, questions about privacy are the sideshow. Questions about the meaning of life in this mediated world — which may be the same as saying questions about the meaning of life — remain.

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