The crisis in criticism

We have seen a great deal of public hand-wringing in recent years over the so-called death of criticism. In an age of instant access to the internet, everyone’s a critic. Who wants to think about anything in depth when 140 characters—reductionist thinking in a virtual nutshell—is all you need to get an audience? On Book Tok, the readers’ corner of the global social media app, a fifteen-second clip of a book “review” by a school-age “influencer” can vault books to the top of the best best-seller lists.

Mainstream print and broadcast media, flailing around to find their footing and their market in the shifting digital landscape, and acutely aware of the need not to alienate real and potential advertisers, are less and less inclined to allow specialist critics the room they need to do their job. In the past decade more than half of all arts journalism positions have been eliminated in North American newsrooms. And what arts coverage there is today is dominated by puff reporting and personality news.

How do we react to this? Do we throw up our hands and lament that technology has fostered an anti-elite, anti-intellectual society where people feel that professional criticism is not necessary? (The cynic might point out that anti-intellectualism is nothing new.) Or do we find ways to adapt, new ways of responding?

This blog will provide a forum for ongoing discussion of the crisis in criticism, and will feature original commentary as well as links to interesting posts elsewhere. Contributions and comments are welcome.