Two good articles in the Guardian today on the role of critics in the world of social media.
Once upon a time, critics could close that breach through a process close to cultural brainwashing. They could get people to see and love The Social Network, to read Freedom, to watch Boardwalk Empire. Now they can’t.
And then the critics respond, which, though touches on the classic elitism vs popularity debate, also sees the critics react positively to online debate.
The reason why professional critics agree a lot is that they tend to be of a type. They’ve often had a go at what they’re reviewing (they went to art school or were in a rubbish band or tried acting), they like writing and they’re a product of their age… But that’s because we all want our culture to do the same things. We have similar taste. The big difference Facebook and, especially, Twitter has made is that it is easier for critics to hear other people’s opinions. Even then, though, you tend to hear similar views to your own
I was talking about the other side of this – promotion – with my US editor on the phone the other night. We both said that it seemed difficult for anyone to make a splash in the blogosphere anymore (unless you have a fat pile of marketing cash, which is why you saw many bloggers wanting to talk about The Passage). There’s so much white noise out there, to be heard (of course, as an author you’re interested in your book being talked about) is increasingly difficult. Now you want to have your book discussed in big venues – newspapers, for example, or Publishers Weekly – so that people might hear of you.
It struck me then: with so much white noise, people tend to look for opinion beacons. So I’d say that the former (genre) institutions of value that have survived web 2.0 – SFX magazine, the Guardian review section (no matter what people think about it) (as well as the bloggers who started off years ago, stayed at it solidly and who now have a great following) – may find themselves with greater influence once again. Given how forward-thinking SF fandom is, we’ll probably start seeing this being repeated in other forms of media soon.