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Matt Hare

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Has the internet and user-generated media killed the critic? If so, what are the repercussions for modern culture?

Critics have always defined artistic standards. However the internet has eroded the authority of traditional critics and replaced them with 'the everyman' opinion on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. With the internet’s democratization of creativity, everyone is now an author. We live in a new age of cultural populism, where everyone is entitled to their opinion and encouraged to share it. When the 'worst song ever' gets 29m views after going viral (Rebecca Black - Friday) one can't help but think our creative standards are at an all time low.
Do we still need critics? Is the age of the critic over? Do critics still set the standards/ Did they ever?

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    Apr 3 2011: I love being alive right now at this time in history. No one is alone with their own sense of being unusual or weird and everyone can find like minded people on the internet. While this might have some bad ramifications (eg pediphiles find each other more easily than every in history) - it usually has great effects. I totally disagree that standards are at an all time low. I think they are higher than ever (except maybe in humour) and there is a big difference between what people take a curious peak at and what they love.
    New influences are able to take root and mature and perhaps have a future because no one in the person's immediate vacinity is putting it down without a decenting or encouraging voice on the internet. Obscure artists with quality work have the chance of shining world wide.
    Critics have always been people proclaiming one opinion that was widely read and thus might influence many more people than it deserved to influence. Many of the great composers' works were filed for many years because of a vocal minority who did not understand or take the time to aclimatize to the change.
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    Apr 11 2011: The question at it's base is flawed. It hasn't killed the critic, it's made millions of them. The internet has paved the way for new forms of creativity to be shared on a global scale where even nobodies like Ted Barnes can give their two cents. To address another point in your topic, our creative standards are far from an all time low. The problem I see is distributors running out of ideas to successfully market and make profits from others. It comes right down to the systems at heart. The internet and its open sourcing babies are in direct conflict with the profit motive and capitalism. That's why we see the App entities always trying to compartmentalize the internet in order to market and control what we see and hear. Anybody can be expert with the vast knowledge freely available and anybody can become famous. This limits the impact so called experts and critics have on culture.
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    Apr 5 2011: "Critics have always defined artistic standards."

    Wellllll... For variable values of the word, "always." That is, the first art critic I can think of in the modern sense would be Diderot in France in the 18th century. I'm fairly sure art existed well before then.

    Even after that, I'd say patrons/buyers "defined artistic standards" much more often than critics have. I mean, think of Ingres and David selling so much more than the Impressionists during the 19th century. For that matter, consider that "impressionism" was a term of derisive dismissal by critic Louis Leroy.

    What's as remarkable in our time as that anyone can *write* about art is that so many can *afford* art, if they want it. Mind you, that's probably why art turned into the dead-end street of Modernism around WWI, from which it has yet to recover. It's all primate in-group/out-group posturing, limiting the size of the audience not by wealth or considerations of beauty, but by education and taste -- but that's probably not the discussion you wanted to raise.
    • Apr 5 2011: Or by the conspicuous flaunting of powdered wigs and nosegays.
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        Apr 5 2011: Or sumptuary laws in general. But yes.
  • Apr 4 2011: The critic will always provide something that your average user does not. Depth. Critics analyze and dissect every aspect of a given work, while the 'everyman' will usually just give you their brief opinion. While the Internet has led to a decrease in the utility of the critic, their ability to provide superior detail and insight will continue keep them relevant and necessary to some extent.
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    Apr 10 2011: I found this topic/question superb for my web-culture since I do produce user generated content and I do criticize a lot.
    A few moments ago I watched a TED video of Noreena Hertz talking about experts.
    That pretty much rounded up to a connection between this question and that video.
    New Media supports Opinions’ stands.
    Even in the year of 2011 in my country newspapers still attack the anonymity of blogs [therefore their ability to create opinions].
    Yet things r getting on a challenging wave.
    A terrible video gets millions of views not because of a good opinion neither of a bad one. It spreads because the mass will always feel superior infront of stupidity on a media “object”. So, I find that irrelevant with the critics issue.
    Secondly, criticism grabs its value through trust [social media’s keyword of buzz] and arguments. Arguments meet the walls of every individual’s logic. And every individual’s logic is being cultured through test&fail; process that is one of the huge catalysts of web.
    So, answering the question “If so, what are the repercussions for modern culture?” I can easily say that :
    1.we learn to hear a critic [expert or not]
    2.we learn to check the arguments [interactivity helps us on that]
    3.we learn to be more “serious” about what we r talking about [the seriousness of a critic is proportional to the amount of personal exposal; huge issue when it comes to user-generated content]
    4.we teach ourselves not to conflict but to collaborate with the different opinion [or at least, that’s what we should do]
    5.and finally we do realize that anyone can criticize; but not everyone can justify it’s ability to influence through time.
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    Apr 7 2011: I went to an art museum with a special exhibit of 'moving art'. I saw nothing that inspried me as much as I have seen on the Internet. For example, there was no fractal video - how can that be in this age of increasing power to go deeper and deeper?

    Critics (or our curators) still have a place, but the field is so huge, I think their job is much harder.
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    Apr 7 2011: It depends on the subject.
    Within U.S. politics, the critic is still very much alive.
    With media, the critic has given way to mass opinion. The analysis of an expert, albeit more detailed and researched, gets lost in the volume of a digital audience.
  • Apr 5 2011: The critic of yesteryear was a product of the internet of the day,namely, newspapers and various periodicals. There existed a huge lag time between the heralded event and the general public's awareness. Authority of various sorts could be inserted in this lag time, much like a new part on an linear assembly line. The old -style art critic had much in common with the present day academician. Information and expertise was viewed as centralized, exclusive, and driven by a sense of propriety.
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    Apr 5 2011: The 'new' populist internet critics fall into two categories, as I see it. The first is feel-good criticism. Many people hate negativity and give gushing reviews even to awful performances. On any TV talent show like Dancing or Idol, the audience boos any judge who gives negative imput, even if its obviously justified. There is a widespread meme: "Don't judge me". I don't pretend to understand it. Perhaps its from the generation that was raised with unending praise.

    The second populist critics throw nothing but venom. Nobody is good enough, in fact, everyone is terrible. This negativity is as equally as absurd as the all positive group.

    I don't listen to any populist criticism. Almost none of it is balanced. You can still find some great critics in the usual places - NY and LA Times, et.al.
    • Apr 8 2011: The self-esteem generation Clay, there are no losers your the last winner your artwork isn't bad it's special like you, until they enter the work force and their boss says your not special your fired you loser. The critic produces nothing yet thinks he's qualified to judge those who possess the talent or skill that they themselves don't have therefore I personally find it hard to trust any of them.When I hear great musicians,chefs etc judge their contemporaries I'm more inclined to listen to their point of view.
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    Apr 4 2011: Critics are to art as shadows are to the sun. They depend on it to exist and they are insubstantial even when the sun is shining it's brightest. Traditionally, they probably boned up a lot more than your "average Joan" on the subject they were appraising, but there are a lot of fanatical fans out there with a lot of specific knowledge.

    People have always had opinions. Being able to publish them to a (alleged) global audience doesn't make them right, wrong or any different. More people ignore what anyone says on the internet than listen/view/click it.

    Just because a lot of people gawk at something, doesn't give it any substance other than it was an entertaining piece of footage. Why it is entertaining is probably not that easily answered.

    In the 21st Century, 15 minutes of fame is a career . It seems in these days of wires and words, your opinion is obsolete before it's finished uploading.

    So, no. Critics never had anything to do with artistic standards. "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." R. Zimmerman.