The Perils of Microcelebrity

30 November 2007 at 12:23 am Leave a comment

| Peter Klein |

I was pleased to learn that I might be a microcelebrity: someone “extremely well known not to millions but to a small group — a thousand people, or maybe only a few dozen.” This definition comes from Clive Thompson, who suggests in the current issue of Wired that anyone with a blog, a Facebook page, a Flickr account, or a similar web presence can be a microcelebrity in this sense. “Odds are there are complete strangers who know about you — and maybe even talk about you.”

Okay, in my case perhaps “nanocelebrity” is the better term. The broader point, according to Thompson, is that in today’s highly transparent, densely networked, web 2.0 world in which more and more of our personal information ends up preserved for posterity in the Google cache, people may be reluctant to say or do anything that could be controversial.

Blog pioneer Dave Winer has found his idle industry-conference chitchat so frequently live-blogged that he now feels “like a presidential candidate” and worries about making off-the-cuff remarks. Some pundits fret that microcelebrity will soon force everyone to write blog posts and even talk in the bland, focus-grouped cadences of Hillary Clinton (minus the cackle).

As a university professor I worry about this from time to time. Will some off-hand remark made in class end up on a student’s blog? Some students record my lectures on their mp3 players (usually, though not always, with prior permission). Will audio clips — or, heaven forbid, video clips — of me fumbling and stumbling over some difficult concept end up on YouTube?

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Institutions, Teaching.

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