Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Digital Emperor Has No Clothes

The Digital Emperor Has No Clothes
Associations Now Magazine - Publications and Resources - ASAE

So, yes, association leaders, defend your lonely forts! Like the physical book, expertise is intrinsic to our human identity. Don’t be ashamed by the educational accomplishments, the meritocratic exclusivity, the hard-earned authority of your associations. Don’t lower your drawbridge to the undercredentialed and veropinionated masses. Don’t compromise with the mediocrity of the ill informed. Protect Associations 1.0 to the death!

Leaders of associations need to take note of such successful online publishing ventures as the Guardian and professionally curated search engines such as and Associations need to resist the siren song of the digital utopians, with their seductive promises about the democratization of
expertise. Rather than apologizing for their exclusivity, association managers should recognize that their networks of experts will be the next big thing. No guilt required: Expertise is about to become very sexy.

And, of course, Web 2.0 is actually a wonderful platform for associations. Separated from the distasteful utopian ideology of its more radical Silicon Valley boosters, the
internet’s latest self-publishing technology actually offers traditional associations a rich array of publishing tools with which to arm their members. Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and videocasts are, in themselves, neutral tools (blogs don’t kill culture; bloggers kill culture). In the paws of noisily opinionated amateurs, these tools are culturally corrosive; put them in the cultivated hands of traditional experts, however, and these instruments of self-publishing can be incredibly valuable ways of articulating and disseminating credible information about science, technology, and the arts. Rather than a fort, these tools can be pedagogical and informational bridges for experts to the outside world. Better still, they can be used to create significant revenue for self-employed experts in everything from high school tutoring to online classes about massage, cooking, or home improvements.

Nor does social media necessarily have to become an agent of cultural flattening in which networks inevitably degenerate into the adolescent narcissism of MySpace or Facebook. Associations can and should establish their own exclusive social media networks in which members can communicate with one another within a secure environment. But there is no reason to make these networks open to any digital Tom, Dick, or Harry. Association managers certainly shouldn’t be intimidated by the open-source pietists who assume there is something intrinsically just about the digital commons. The privacy of property—physical or virtual—is the cornerstone of our free-market economy. Just as I don’t want uninvited strangers tramping through my house, there’s no reason why you should want the uninitiated or the unskilled wandering into your association through your website or blog.

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