Lessons from the Diablo Auction House: Mass Media as Folk Media

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About Erik Hinton

I'm a web developer at The New York Times, where I specialize in next-generation skeuomorphs, disruptive cartographic practices, and alchemy. I'm also the one of the founders of the Moustache Club of America and Penny & Farthing, blogzines specializing in flash fiction and creative nonfiction that I co-curate with university professorOliver Bateman , medical consultant Nathan Zimmerman, and freelance writer Christie Chapman. Follow me on Twitter: ErikHinton


  1. Hiya, so you’re use of Levi-Strauss is a bit problematic. The concept of bricolage is a bit outdated, and also problematic. Levi-Strauss was wicked awesome with a lot of things, but he came from a period that treated indigenous populations as though they were overly-simple and primitive. Heck, he even uses the term “primitive.”

    I get what you’re saying in this article, though. You’re sort of talking about the difference between a grassroots organization/movement/community (bottom – up) versus an official institution (top – down). It’s just, problematic to suggest that indigenous populations only have grassroots type organizations and that more modern societies have somehow gotten rid of them.

    • Erik Hinton says:

      Heather, I do agree that a lot of the Levi-Straussian thought over-simplifies and over-primitivizes. But Feuer is playing on the word, not adopting it wholesale. She re-terms “bricolage” with a touch of irony. It’s not describing primitive communication anymore. It’s describing the engineering of a product to appear primitive. I think that Feuer would agree with your assessment of Levi-Strauss, hence her punning on his vocabulary. Whereas he is describing “primitive” cultures making do with what’s at hand, Feuer is describing Hollywood copying these improvisational products to create an appearance of primitivity.

  2. I don’t know why anyone would complain about how the AH is supposed to function, since it hasn’t fully been working for weeks now.

  3. MediocreMenProject says:

    The stretches between Diablo, musicals, and journalism you make are tenuous at best. You should really corroborate your claim that the mobs are shouting for local journalism because, from the eyes of a fellow journalist, I’ve heard more criticism than support for this idea. Making this point the lynchpin that holds journalism to the rest of this discussion just allows you to wander off into insignificance regarding the problems facing print media. While I agree that assimilating to people’s newfound interests is a must, your solution of using ‘bricolage’ through fast and fun hashtags makes a mockery of what is already destroying the quality of our industry – sensationalist journalism. The problem is nothing new (I’ll get to this in a second), but even your example of the Bin Laden raid shows how distracting this is. Was it crucial that people hear about that right away? Don’t journalists often jump on news to get readers then end up misinforming them in some way (e.g. the Miami ‘bath salts’ cannibal – all the journalists printed that it was LSD at first. They turned out to be wrong, but now the comparison between bath salts and LSD is everywhere despite being incorrect). Your end point seems internecine to your original project: the only reason online ‘bricolage’ helps you is because it will hopefully make the Times more money. Does it improve the quality of news? Probably not.

    The other point I wanted to pass by is that much of this article really ignores history. Broadway has been a highly-produced industry since major musicals started in the 1860′s. You seem to want to talk specifically about Hollywood–a separate issue from that of musicals it seems–yet with all the interesting thoughts, you draw out the most mundane. The ‘naturalizing relationship’ you speak of is no different than the way people watch the NFL or NBA players who are incredibly talented individuals acting out the choreography of the coach. They get spectators because people can hold an identifying relationship with these teams and players. Does this make any of this good, or something that should matter to journalism? Probably not. The other historical point is that of news distraction. The telegraph taught us that if the populous chooses the news, we won’t report on anything important. In Michigan, a post-telegraph newsroom couldn’t even report on their own town being on fire because people wanted to know about the transactions between rich folks in other countries. Will allowing the Twitter community to help produce the news help journalists avoid this pitfalls? Probably not

    If I were you, I’d get a broader grasp of the idea of ‘folk art’ beyond your one academic, seemingly Foucault-like, writer’s perspective. The word seems misused all over the article. Also, sadly, I think your idea is inflammatory to anyone hoping that good investigative journalism will triumph through the changes we’re facing now.


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