In The Age Of The Internet, Are Critics Still Relevant?

By: Bryan Faux

Who reads critics anymore? It’s a question asked rather frequently in the age of the Internet. Perhaps this is because technology has made everyone a critic. Every piece of media or pop culture is dissected instantly, and opinions are broadcast widely online.  Everything is either terrible or amazing; there is no middle ground. The current narrative is that traditional cultural journalists and critics are becoming obsolete. But the need for professional cultural criticism is greater than ever.

It could be argued that the amount of content being produced means that more critical voices are needed to sift through everything.  Strong writing on well-circulated media platforms can highlight obscure artists. The very best shows on television are actually made by Internet streaming services. People you’ve never even heard of are making the best music. YouTube affords anyone the opportunity to be a filmmaker. Consumers are overwhelmed by how much there is to read, watch and listen to and technology has made it possible for anyone to become a producer in the same way it is possible for anyone to be a critic.

Any laptop or desktop keyboard, along with access to the Internet, puts power in the hands of the average consumer. Services like WordPress, Square Space, Blogger, or Wix, allow anyone to self-publish their work. Photo by Bryan Faux
Any laptop or desktop keyboard, along with access to the Internet, puts power in the hands of the average consumer. Services like WordPress, Square Space, Blogger, or Wix, allow anyone to self-publish their work. Photo by Bryan Faux

So why do we still need critics? Because nothing is entirely awful or entirely perfect.  Writing critically requires detail and nuance, something a tweet about The Avengers being overrated cannot provide. That’s not to say a tweet about The Avengers being overrated is invalid.  It’s just not substantial. Nuanced opinion can be confounding in the modern Internet age. People simply want to know if something is good or bad. This is why professional criticism won’t die. Criticism sparks discussion.  Reviews, think pieces and features are companion pieces to a work of art. They can provide a deep dive into the culture of the moment and provide meaningful insight. Art needs coverage because it defines us as human beings.

Clearly in-depth criticism still has readers because there are an infinite number of thriving websites devoted to dissecting American popular culture. Some cultural critics have a background in journalism, which instills fairness and objectivity, something an ordinary citizen starting a blog might not consider. Does this mean the average person should stop trying to share opinions with the worldwide web? Of course not, but make sure whatever you post is worth reading.

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