Economist and cultural critic Tyler Cowen is well known for his blog Marginal Revolution. I just got done listening to a fascinating discussion he had with Russ Roberts on the podcast EconTalk. It was ostensibly about his new book, Create Your Own Economy, but it was mainly about what is happening to us as consumers of culture in an age of internet.
Cowen sees the fracturing of culture into a streams and small experiences as a good thing. While he’s a big fan of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, he feels it is just as valid and enjoyable to assemble an experience that provides music and story and comedy and pathos from multiple sources, as many of us do now using the internet.
He also feels the internet is unleashing our inner autistic with the ability to machine-sort information and to delve deeply into the mechanics of a specific topic. Far from reducing the amount of authentic interaction with the real world, Cowen feels like our dependence on internet culture requires us to increase the amount of time we go out an have real world experiences, or at least makes those experiences more valuable. What’s losing out is other types of distanced media experiences — mostly television — that can’t compete with the interactivity of the internet.
The podcast is an hour long and full of stimulating ideas. Also of interest to filmmakers will be Cowen’s thoughts on how movie characters can make us cry, even though we know they aren’t real.
While Cowen and Roberts do talk some about economist Adam Smith, I don’t think there’s anything here that would scare people away who don’t like economics. It’s much more a discussion about the future of media. I highly recommend it.