Tuesday, August 09, 2005

What's next? Microserfs 2?

Signs that we have hit dot-com boom number 2:

-Variety, for the first time in several years, lets its tech reporter (yours truly) write a full page article in the newly revived cyberbiz section. What's it about? How the big media companies (News. Corp, NBC Universal, Viacom, etc.) are all excited about the Internet again and starting digital media divisions for the second time. Most of them started one in the late '90s and shut it down in 2001 after losing hundreds of millions or billions of dollars. (article here. you'll need to watch an ad or have a subscription to read it)

For the past few years Variety has minimized its tech coverage after the company lost its shirt on a very ill timed dot-com spinoff called eV that launched in late 2000. But we've slowly been building backup and now we have our (probably semi-regular) cyber section back.

-Wired Magazine lets co-founder Kevin Kelly write a 5,000 (or so) word opus on how the Internet is changing EVERYTHING. Here's a representative quote: "There is only one time in the history of each planet when its inhabitants first wire up its innumerable parts to make one large Machine. later that Machine may run faster, but there is only one time when it is born. You and I are alive at this moment. We should marvel, but people alive at such times usually don't." It goes on from there, calling current tech developments a "discontinuity," an "axial phase," and "the largest, most complex, and most surpriving event on the planet."

We haven't seen pompous grandiose techno-chest thumping like this in the pages of Wired since the mid-90s (or so I have heard; I didn't actually read Wired in high school). Of course, the dot-com bust seemed to have tampered the excitement of Kelly and his fellow tech-worshippers. But now he can interpret that event as merely a hiccup in what's basically (dare I say it) a Marxist view of history with technology replacing politics. I mean seriously, read this last sentence sweeping away the dot-com bust and try not to laugh: "After the hysteria has died down, after the milliosn of dollars have been gained and lost, after the strands of mind, once achingly isolated, have started to come together - the only thing we can say is: Our Machine is born. It's on."

The Wired article is part of a section timed to the 10th anniversary of the IPO of Netscape (kicking off the first dot-com boom). Which is incredibly instructive, despite Kelly's quasi-religious pretensions. It's all about money, baby. The reason Wired is willing to print the tech equivalent of a Bapist preacher's sermon is people are willing to believe in the dot-com world now that they're making money again. The Internet undoubtedly has and continues to change affluent socities in profound ways (note to Kelly: the "world" encompasses billions of people who can't afford broadband Internet and don't have a MySpace profile). But people only get beyond financial concerns when they're making money.

That's why sometimes it's refreshing to write for Variety. There's plenty to criticize in our work, but at least we're much more upfront about how the tides of the business world largely drive our coverage.

1 comment:

chrisyc37tfbrooks said...
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