sxswi talk: Bruce Sterling’s End-of-Conference Rant

I will not be able to do this talk justice with my notes, but tried to capture some of his topics. Yochai Benkler’s peer production seems very relevant to the work we do at eBay.

On New Media

  • Old vs new media- there is no convergence, broadband eats everything
  • Viacom suit- Old media fighting but the teens are coming and care nothing for the old media and their offering
  • Richard Stallman
  • Google age- info is free, strange to a journalist who’s used to gathering info being a strenuous process
    • Professional journalism is not a business anymore
    • Demeaned to the level of a wikipedia contributor
    • How make a living?
  • Need more aesthetic honesty
    • Mashups are vogue/ novelty, but not lasting. An epi-phenomenon, but not a cultural advance
    • Fan art terrible
    • Digital tools melting media down to slum
    • It’s a world of laptop gypsies
  • Blogs… “Like watching you get beaten to death by croutons”
  • No good, shared vocabulary for describing what’s good and bad, can’t give real website critiques
  • What kind of medium allows for 90-95% spam? What if you turned on the TV and someone immediately tried to rob you?


  • Broadcast TV is for the semi-educated, is an evil medium, debase even the poverty stricken who watch it
  • Reed Hundt
  • Should use the TV spectrum instead for internet
  • Using police, fireman, and other securities to pull muscle with congress
  • “Get us some damn broadband”

On Commons based, peer production

  • Sterling offers Al Queda as a scary, but good example of this (“existence proof”)
  • Computers are platforms for self-expression, NOT well behaved appliances. This is why they are a good medium for commons-based, peer production

Closing poem

  • Sterling ended with a poem by a polish writer, Czeslaw Milosz
  • Serenity and self fulfillment

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