nettime's_media_asset on Mon, 2 Jun 2003 20:46:56 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> apres nettime-bold, le digest [byfield, jordan]

Re: <nettime> After nettime-bold, the Internet (Andrew Orlowski)
     Ken Jordan <>
     t byfield <>

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Date: Mon, 2 Jun 2003 12:17:05 -0400
From: t byfield <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> After nettime-bold, the Internet (Andrew Orlowski)

i'm afraid i don't have the time to browse the ~1403 articles he's
written for _the reg_ in parcels of 25 (which is how their search 
engine parcels results out), but a bit of URL hacking[1] suggests 
that he filed his first story ~7 june 2000. that's ~1.3 stories/day, 
every day, for just shy of 3 years, which most journos would credit 
as fairly prolific. even a quick scan of his headlines -- and, being
a critic, you might want to do that -- suggests that your assessment 
of his work is Way Off. it'd be more accurate to say that he's one 
of barely a handful of investigative journalists working in the tech 
field. a good example was his exposure of stealthy content-cartel 
efforts to build CPRM ('copy protection for recordable media') into 
the ATA specification, which put an end to that particular species 
of DRM.[2] that was about 6 months after he seems to have started 
writing for _the reg_ -- and it's more than most well-known tech 
journos have accomplished in many years.

historical context: whois says the domain was registered
22 june '99. one assumes that there wasn't much demand for it, since
they were able to do so at the height of run on domains: it was in 
late nov 2000 that ICANN approved the new TLDs (.biz, .info, etc), in 
a process that squeezed US$50K out of 144 suckers -- all of whom were
forced to adopt the most byzantine systems for staving off the then-
much-feared domain speculators. but, more specifically, the TBTF jar-
gon scout (which is about as authoritative as it gets in this realm)
lists an entry of 25 aug '99 for 'blog,' crediting the term to peter 
merholz.[3] if there's one phenomenon in this world that's committed, 
heart soul and loins, to power curves it's blogging: they *crow* about 
it. so, tracing that power curve back from the current situation in 
which bloghards and bloggarts have become a hyperdemic, it's no wonder 
there was no demand for the domain 'blogger': there were, like, two of 
them -- jorn barger (robot wisdom) and dave winer (

you might want to compare your psychological profile of orlowski with 
the double-bind flogged by countless bloggers who (a) damn him to hell 
and back for shining a bit of disinfecting sunlight on the fact that
google (which bought blogger, of course) is the willing executioner 
of their dreams of techno-utopianism _redivivus_, then (b) invite him 
to 'join the conversation.' they use that phrase with a level of reli-
ability that'd turn boeing green with envy. 

so what exactly is this 'the conversation'? markets. the phrase first 
appeared in the 'cluetrain manifesto,'[4] which was mainly written by 
blogogandist dave weinberger ( in it, he and his collab-
orators fell into a 100% made-in-the-USA subjective trap in which all
speech is commercial, and the only True Speech is 'natural, open, hon-
est, direct, funny and often shocking' -- what jackson lears calls the
'cult of bourgeois social transparency' (i strongly recommend his es-
say 'intellectuals and intellectualism' in the _encyclopedia of amer-
ican social history_). now, i'm american, so 'naturally' i think there's 
a lot more Value (as they say) in the CT than most nettimers would allow. 
but markets, and especially networked markets, are much bigger than the 
US of A, so the CT's assumption that markets are a form of americana is 
a big weakness. (and then there's the minor matter that not all speech
is commercial in form, content, or intent...)

and so for bloggers, who -- no one seems to have pointed this out yet
-- are almost uniformly american. it really is an american thing: jot-
ting down idle opinions in an incredibly regimented format, while all
the while seeing if it's selling fast enough, and mistaking it all for 
philosophy. (cf. the US legal system.)

your psychologizing response to orlowski's interrogation of blogging
and google is also quite american: if he doesn't Buy It, then he must
be jealous or be acting out some childhood trauma or somesuch. it's a
bit like how US media treats impulsive mass-murderers: if they're am-
erican it's psychological, but if they're citizens of another nation 
then they're exposing deep social tensions. and so with 'terrorists': 
a pipe bomb just went off at yale law school (huh, how about *that*!) 
but there's no sign that 'terrorists' were involved -- it was just a 
'cry for help.' you could go down the list of 'random' social problems
in the US and find similar dynamics. in a way, google is brilliant be-
cause it reduces 'the breadth of human knowledge' (as yahoo's jerry
yang put it[5]) to a *market* for language. i think feuerbach said 
something about this. what was it? oh yeah:

     But certainly for the present age, which prefers the sign to the
     thing signified, the copy to the original, representation to
     reality, the appearance to the essence...illusion only is sacred,
     truth profane. Nay, sacredness is held to be enhanced in
     proportion as truth decreases and illusion increases, so that the
     highest degree of illusion comes to be the highest degree of

'blog' that.

caveat lector: orlowski's a friend, and we talked about those stories 
before he started publishing them.


[1] < > 
     -- and substitute a multiple of 25 where x > 25 and < 1425.
[2] < >
[3] < >
[4] < >
[5] < > (Mon 06/02/03 at 01:22 AM -0400):

> Caveat lector: The Register is a decent pub, but everything written by  
> Orlowski is only useful as virtual toilet paper. Since he started  
> writing for them he's been focusing so specifically on attacking the  
> blogging world that I have to wonder if there's some personal history  
> there, or maybe just a sense of exclusion left over from a difficult  
> childhood. All his stories seem to be in some way fixated on taking  
> down the blogosphere, whether coining the term "googlewash" or painting  
> the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference as some elitist cabal. (You  
> can be sure that in the piece below, when he says "techno-utopians", he  
> means "bloggers".) On top of that, a lot of his writing has this odd  
> tone of unintentional paranoia that makes me wonder if he maintains an  
> enemies list.

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Date: Mon, 02 Jun 2003 11:25:41 -0400
Subject: Re: <nettime> After nettime-bold, the Internet (Andrew Orlowski)
From: Ken Jordan <>

>> Lessig is more subtle, but points us the same way.
>> "When the content layer, the logical layer, and the physical layer are all
>> effectively owned by a handful of companies, free of any requirements of
>> neutrality or openness, what will you ask then?"
> This is no different to any other media. Provided that anyone can set up a
> server, the fact that MOST material might be controlled by a few is
> neither here nor there. MOST of everything has always been pretty much
> effectively controlled by a few. (People talk about the demise of the
> local family shop, but for people who lived in that village, without a
> car, they didn't have any choice, so the fact that there were thousands of
> family shops made no effective difference to their lives).

I'd question this for two reasons:

* Historically, media ownership has never been as concentrated as it is
today. Why does that matter? Because it allows a handful of people to
control the *distribution* of information. It's simply not true, in terms of
media, that "MOST of everything has always been pretty much effectively
controlled by a few." Relatively speaking, perhaps. But only a generation
ago, a good number (perhaps a majority) of major media outlets were family
run businesses. In most cases, media companies either published books, or
made films, or ran radio stations, etc. - but they didn't do all at once.
Sure, there were a few huge conglomerates, but they were a minority in the
market, a market whose culture was determined by smaller, independent
businesses. Not that the media was ever even close to perfect; I'm not
lamenting a long-gone "golden age" of media ownership. Far from it. The
major media has always been owned/controlled by a *relatively* small number
of people, who ally themselves politically with the folks in power.

But the situation today is so much worse, it has become a crisis. Because in
the past, these companies considered themselves (and acted as) independent
players. They took risks that media companies today do not. They stood by
controversial positions, at least on rare occasions, whereas today any
meaningful controversy is almost unthinkable (Nixon was brought down in the
70s at least in part by a media that openly challenged his administration's
dishonesty. Such active confrontation by the media is now unthinkable --
unless the subject is sex.)

* The difference between the family shop and Wal-Mart may not seem a big
deal. But when it comes to media "product," the difference is significant.
Because when you had small(ish) family businesses at the retail end of the
media distribution chain, there was a much greater opportunity to distribute
a wider variety of media products to a mass audience. Every one of those
little stores had it's own buyer, a person with his or her own tastes and
proclivities. So a book or magazine that might not be available in one store
could make it onto the shelf of a shop across town, or in the next town.
Today, one person in New York decides which new non-fiction titles will be
on the shelves of every Barnes & Noble store across the country. If that one
buyer isn't interested in a particular subject (say, post-9/11 Afghanistan),
then that book simply has no chance of reaching thousands of stores. Having
sold books to the major retail chains, I can assure you that important books
get killed in this way all the time.



Ken Jordan

"Be as if." - Andrew Boyd

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