TED Conversations

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 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.

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