Sturgeon’s Law

Following on from a recent post when I commented on the quality of Web 2.0 ‘user generated content’ I started thinking about the continued validity of Sturgeon’s Law – usually stated as ‘90% of everything is crap’.  When it was first formulated, the vast majority of the consumers of science fiction – the genre to which it originally applied – were protected from most of the crap by the editors.  (Having said that, the magazines of those far off days still contained a reasonable amount of stuff that could be described as ‘less than brilliant’…but that’s another story!!)

In my own view, I think Sturgeon’s Law is slightly out of date now – I’d probably suggest that the figure is closer to 95%, and what is worse is that:

  1. Web 2.0 allows much more of it to come through to the web-using public.
  2. The demand of satellite TV, Cable TV, etc. for new content has again reduced the quality threshold, allowing more stuff through that, to be honest, just isn’t up to the mark.
  3. The situation is almost certainly going to get worse; it’s increasingly difficult to apply any critique of quality to produced media without being accused of being elitist.

Is there an answer?  I certainly hope so; I have a good many years of life ahead of me and I hope that some of the time will be filled with entertainment that makes me laugh, cry and think .  I want to be provoked; I don’t want media to slide down to a lowest common denominator value or simply be inferior re-hashes of past glories.

The bottom line is that, whether we like it or not, we have to reintroduce the old concepts of judging value; of estimating and rewarding quality, even if this means we have to produce material that is regarded as too intelligent or challenging by some.   It may mean that sacred cows are killed – I have frequently commented, for example, that some otherwise excellent scripts of the most recent incarnation of the TV science fiction series ‘Dr Who’ were ruined in parts by the writers bringing in politically correct characters and dialogue that absolutely jarred.  It might also mean that we have LESS content; I for one would prefer to have less entertainment and media of a higher quality and production standard.

The answer is almost certainly not technical; there is too much content produced and we don’t have a technical means of grading material based on such subjective and culturally loaded terms like ‘quality’, ‘taste’ and ‘entertaining’.  maybe we all need to ‘up our game’ and be less forgiving of stuff that just seems slipshod and hastily put together to meet a marketing demographic.  Perhaps we need to have more editorial input on our web forums – there will always be calls of ‘censorship’ and freedom of speech when you do this, but perhaps it’s the first steps on the path to breaking Sturgeon’s Law.

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