Power to the people, or only certain people?

From mass media to juried art to “me media”, who determines quality or beauty, and how, in each of these areas? Last week, I was at Guidewire Group’s (a.k.a., Chris Shipley’s) new Fall Leadership Forum. In a user-created content session, the hot debate was about “quality” going down as more users contributed. Some people held a strong view that moderation (by other users or experts) was necessary; others that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”… anything else would be elitism.

This reminded me of a debate on Fast Company a few months ago, “Anyone can be a designer — and should be“, and a post from my colleague Adam on Threadless and the “burden” of their popularity. Of course, this is an age old debate on who should be the arbiter of beauty.

I have to admit, I’m surprised that this debate is going on in these circles. These folks are on emerging edge, and, IMHO, this debate feels like we are going backwards… not appreciating and embracing that we now have the Internet, which can help deliver true “me media”… whether I want my “me” delivered based on what the masses want, what experts see, or from my set of defined judges. Why don’t we talk about how to provide the tools and capabilities to let people find their own definition of beauty quickly? Who cares if there are lots of choices, if I can find “me” quickly?

We should inspire and support people in creating things they themselves find are more and more beautiful. And, then, if they are the only ones seeing the beauty… what’s wrong with that? I think on my shirt today would be this related question:

Do you ever doubt your doubts?

So, what do you think? Where are we going with all of this user-created content? Have you thought through your position on this? And if so, did you question your position?