How effective is democracy on the Internet?
A few weeks ago, I challenged Jeff Jarvis, one of Web 2.0's most fervent democratizers, to debate my forthcoming book Cult of the Amateur. Jarvis, who regards me as the digital anti-christ and a "Stalinist", wasn't sure if he wanted to debate me. So he instigated a debate about the debate on his Buzzmachine blog. This debate about the debate turned into a debate about the debate about the debate.
Meanwhile, no debate. The chaotic mechanics of pure web democracy tied Jeff in knots. Alas, the Internet was deprived of an intellectual exchange between two people with diametrically opposed ideas about the value of citizen media.
So where is Joe Stalin when we need him most?
Fortunately, however, not everyone that I challenged to a debate was as indecisive as Jarvis. I am very proud to have been involved in a really energetic and intellectually arresting debate with Kevin Kelly, which is being published all this week on Jewcy.
Kelly is no less critical of my ideas than Jarvis. But at least he was able to make the decision to debate me independent of the crowd. The Buzzmachine debate about the debate debacle reveals that pure democracy on the Internet works better in theory than in practice. Sometimes even radical democrats like Jeff Jarvis need to make their decisions independent of the crowd. If you are going to debating with Stalin, it makes sense to make bold decisions like Uncle Joe too.