Alexander van Elsas posted an entry about problems faced by, and possible future of, content aggregation; summing up nicely the questions that I myself trying to answer (though without putting it all into the context of a model of public sphere).
If content is aggregated using people, then we get a “democratic” version of the web. It filters out the stuff that the community likes best, leaving the more obscure or less liked stuff behind us. But I’m no[t] so sure that the stuff that comes up this way is always the best stuff. If anything, democracy principles to select information, also lead to predictable and similar content. There isn’t room for obscurity or weird stuff. The people that are in such communities will end up selecting only part of what is out there, governed by themselves and the social community they are part of.
This might of course be true – at least in some cases -; what I’m working on is to find some evidence confirming or refuting this claim, focusing rather not on “obscurity and weird stuff”, but on the appearance of competing views.
Anyhow, in Elsas’ view, aggregated content is becoming just as overwhelming as non-aggregated content; and to make sense of it, we won’t need better filters or meta-aggregators, but inspiration; meaning in this case influential, wise and insightful personal… guidance?; or as he puts it, “storytellers.” Well I’m not exactly sure what he means by this, but he promised to elaborate on the topic later.
[Update: He did.]
In not really related news, The Economist seems now certain that Barack Obama will (or at the very least, should) pick up the presidential nomination of the Democratic party. They are not the only ones; polling firm Rasmussen came to the same conclusion, and just yesterday the campaigns of John McCain and Obama have announced that the two are thinking of holding a series of informal debates in the summer, which strongly suggests that McCain’s staff is also convinced that Obama will pick up the nomination.
I’m sure it will be interesting to see how the patterns change on “my” social news sites once we officially know who the Democratic nominee is.