Time’s person of the year

Is You.

America loves its solitary geniuses—its Einsteins, its Edisons, its Jobses—but those lonely dreamers may have to learn to play with others. Car companies are running open design contests. Reuters is carrying blog postings alongside its regular news feed. Microsoft is working overtime to fend off user-created Linux. We’re looking at an explosion of productivity and innovation, and it’s just getting started, as millions of minds that would otherwise have drowned in obscurity get backhauled into the global intellectual economy.

Who are these people? Seriously, 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 nation 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.

In other words, they went with “Web 2.0”.

I have to admit, they got this one mostly right. In considering the question myself, I’d come up with Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert. The defining moment of the year, in my humble opinion, was Colbert’s speech at the White House Correspondent’s dinner. He stood up that night and spoke truthiness to power; but the most amazing thing about that night was the dissonance between how the mainstream press covered it (they mostly didn’t, or else claimed that he bombed) and the way the blogosphere covered it. It was at once symbolic of the political shift which culminated this November, as well as the technological and cultural shift that Time did wind up acknowledging.

Ironically, Time’s choice has been met with almost predictable cynicism from the very blogosphere that it awarded. In fact, I looked, and I couldn’t find any bloggers that actually had a positive outlook on the thing.

I applaud the choice though. After all, even in the case of Stewart and Colbert, where would they be without Youtube, and the millions of people who link to those videos? Would George Allen have lost the Virginia Senate race had his infamous “Maccaca” comment not spread in the same fashion? After a false start in the 2004 election cycle, this was really the year that the propagandists and marketers lost control of the message, where the people, collectively, took control of the political discourse. I lost count of the number of times in the past year that the mainstream press followed the lead of the blogosphere – the long tail really is wagging the dog now.

So, especially given how sucky Time’s choices have been in recent years, I’m willing to give credit to Time for giving credit to something deserving this year.

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