Elton John — Internet Researcher

Bloggers are having fun with a report in The Sun that Elton John reportedly ‘wants the Internet closed down’ because it is distracting individuals from real communication, and creativity, such as writing music at the piano. What he is actually reported as saying was: ‘I do think it would be an incredible experiment to shut down the whole [I]nternet for five years and see what sort of art is producted over that span.’ Impossible, yes. But he does capture a key research issue in communications.

As media like the Internet become key infrastructures of everyday life, it is exceedingly difficulty to examine their societal implications. Some of the best studies of the social impact of the telephone, for example, were opportunistic studies of areas where telephone services were blacked out for a period of time. One of my own favourite studies was the impact of the Galaxy IV pager blackout across the USA. [Dutton, William H., Anita Elberse, Traci Hong, and Sorin Matei. “‘Beepless in America’: The Social Impact of the Galaxy IV Pager Blackout.” Chap. 1 in Access Denied in the Information Age, edited by Stephen Lax, 9-32. London, U.K.: Palgrave, 2001.]

In short, Elton John is expressing a very prominent view of the degree that the use of electronic media might substitute for, rather than complement, traditional activities, and proposes one hypothetical quasi-experimental design to test it. Impossible to conduct, but an interesting thought experiment nonetheless.

2 thoughts on “Elton John — Internet Researcher

  1. Isn’t there something else going on here Bill? Elton John is expressing a nostalgia for a world in which creativity is the activity of the few and cannot conceive of an environment in which kids find communicating with each other more interesting and than listening to pop music or whatever. Why is making pop music more creative than using Halo to create machinima or developing a guild with e-friends in Warcraft?

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  2. […] I would still need more to be convinced than the infinite monkey metaphor though. So what does he want exactly? Would he rather amateurs not have cyberspaces, like Elton John wants the Internet closed down? I must admit I expected more sophistication from the author than “poor countries have rosy ideas about the Internet because they haven’t experienced online porn and gambling yet” or ”kids brought up to Web 2.0 culture wouldn’t be able to tell advertising from actual content like we do in the old media where there are clear commercial breaks“. I think I will stick with Ronda Hauben’s take on this matter for now, which is that it’s not about amateurs replacing professionals but it is an extension of who is able to contribute to what is considered as media content. (I don’t think Keen would ever see this post, but I guess this makes me to him “an IP commie” [Apparently he once called Lawrence Lessig it], who doesn’t have enough online experience.) […]

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