'A Google ban is not controversial; going to war in Iraq is controversial' - Tara Brabazon (with video)
University of Brighton's media professor on the dangers of Wikipedia-sourced knowledge
Last month, I heard University of Brighton professor of media, Tara Brabazon
speak on BBC Radio 4, while following the #GoodRadioClub on Twitter
. Her students are not allowed to use Google or Wikipedia, said Brabazon, something first picked up by the media in January last year
I expressed my doubts via Twitter, quickly and without too much consideration: something along the lines of 'what is she on?' How can this academic ignore, or enforce a blackout, on such a large cultural factor in our society? Surely her views have been misrepresented here?
Get in touch with her, suggested presenter of the Radio 4 Analysis programme, Kenan Malik
, via Twitter.
That I did, and within a few weeks, I am sitting with her in a Brighton cafe. It wasn't just me who got in contact after the programme - Brabazon says she received over 600 supportive emails the following week from people who don't comment online for fear of being 'trolled' or labelled 'luddites', but were appreciative of her stance.
The web 2.0 environment is confused, says Brabazon: "We think 'create the platform first' rather than 'who's the audience', or 'what message do you want to get across?'"
Only some people can do that, she says. For example, Bob Dylan: "He didn't go to the audience; the audience came to Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan could be ahead of his audience - advertising and PR and serve an existing audience."
And your average blogger? 'With the greatest respect', no, she says. Maybe they think they're Bob Dylan, but they're not.
"Just because they're online and have time on their hands doesn't mean they intrinsically have anything to say," she says.Brabazon
has taught students about online media since 1997 ('which in online terms is when dinosaurs roamed the earth'); and is on Facebook, but not Twitter ('I'm a bit busy to be frank. I'm a bit busy living my life, rather than narrativizing my life.').
She blogs occasionally and plays with Google rankings - it's no coincidence, she says, that Brabazon.net tops her own name's search results
She also runs audio lab projects
, demonstrates her dictaphone knowledge during the interview and uses a Flip video camera to send me a video interview
(after my own recording fails).
"I think we can pretend everyone is a tremendous writer; we can pretend everybody had a great voice for radio; we can pretend everyone can be a rock star - we can pretend everyone can be Bob Dylan. Or, indeed we can say: 'you know what, it's not only talent that's differentially distributed in a culture, but so is education and expertise'," she says.
"Assuming everyone has something to say in a blog is incorrect, and assuming that everyone has an exciting life, that everyone can Tweet endlessly, and that all their followers want every micro-moment of their day is delusional."
This is the crux of Brabazon's argument: "If I have any critique it would be that the web 2.0 environment has been an age filled with assumptions. Assumptions about young people, about writing, about audience - what we actually require is a lot more evidence about who, what, why and when."
So, this Google ban - a controversial statement that has got people talking, I suggest. The ban may be true, but 'my goodness me, we're at war in Iraq - that's controversial," Brabazon retorts.