Time's Lev Grossman writes that "an explosion of productivity and innovation" is under way as "millions of minds that would otherwise have drowned in obscurity'' become participants in "the global intellectual economy." Grossman continues:
"Who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I'm not going to watch 'Lost' tonight. I'm going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I'm going to mash up 50 Cent's vocals with Queen's instrumentals? I'm going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the union or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?"
"The answer is, you do. And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, Time's Person of the Year for 2006 is you."
There are, however, essentially no reins on the Web -- few means of control and direction. That is good, but vitiates the idea that the Web's chaos of entertainment, solipsism and occasional intellectual seriousness and civic engagement is anything like a polity (a "digital democracy"). Time's bow to the amateurs who are, it strangely suggests, no longer obscure, and in the same game that Time is in, is refuted by a glance -- which is all an adult will want -- at YouTube's most popular videos.
Time's issue includes an unenthralled essay by NBC's Brian Williams, who believes that raptures over the Web's egalitarianism arise from the same impulse that causes today's youth soccer programs to award trophies -- "entire bedrooms full" -- to any child who shows up: "The danger just might be that we miss the next great book or the next great idea, or that we will fail to meet the next great challenge ... because we are too busy celebrating ourselves and listening to the same tune we already know by heart."
The fact that Stengel included Williams' essay proves that Stengel's Time has what 99.9 percent of the Web's content lacks: seriousness.