“Free Ride” author Robert Levine takes on Steven Johnson’s stats and conclusions…
In this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, author Steven Johnson wrote a piece, “The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t,” which ventured to examine the state of creative business in the digital age. Johnson conclusion was that it’s thriving. I have strong feelings on this topic, since I wrote a book that makes the opposite argument. I’d very much like Johnson to be right, since the health of the creative business strongly correlates with my ability to put food on the table. But although I think he’s a smart writer — we worked together, briefly, years ago — I think he’s looking at wrong information in the wrong way. He ends up oversimplifying a complicated subject to make a contrarian point.
Johnson’s premise is that the best way to assess the health of the creative businesses isn’t to look at falling sales or struggling companies but how actual creators themselves are faring. It’s a smart, refreshing approach. But his evidence that creators are thriving is far flimsier than it looks.
READ THE FULL STORY AT BILLBOARD:
A must read from Scott Timberg at Salon.
Musicians, writers, and other creative folk are still scratching their heads over the cover story in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine: “The New Making It” — packaged online as “The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t” — looked at how the Internet economy, instead of destroying creative careers, had redrawn them in “complicated and unexpected ways.” The story’s author, Steven Johnson, is an engaging writer, and the piece is told largely through statistics, which most readers assume to be beyond criticism. So why are so many people who work in the world of culture wondering why the article seemed to describe a best-of-all-worlds planet very different from the one they live on?
READ THE FULL STORY AT SALON:
The NY Times get’s it wrong. Stats Chats takes on the numbers:
The larger category, “Musicians and Singers”, has been declining. The smaller category, “Music Directors and Composers” was going up slowly, then had a dramatic three-year, straight-line increase, then decreased a bit.
Going into the Technical Notes for the estimates (eg, 2009), we see
May 2009 estimates are based on responses from six semiannual panels collected over a 3-year period
That means the three-year increase of 5000 jobs/year is probably a one-off increase of 15,000 jobs. Either the number of “Music Directors and Composers” more than doubled in 2009, or more likely there was a change in definitions or sampling approach.
READ THE FULL STORY AT STATS CHAT:
If we strip away some of the color and simply look at the assertions being made, then the basic structure of the article reveals an important fallacy. First Johnson states that most of the evidence of harm done to creators in the digital age is anecdotal, and this is partly true — although anecdotes from professionals should not be misconstrued as mere random complaining. So, to get beyond the anecdotal, Johnson then cites macroeconomic data, compiled by the Labor Department, most of which suggests a big-picture view that creative people in all media are doing better than they were a decade ago. But, having previously scorned the anecdotal negative, Johnson then cherrypicks bits and pieces of the anecdotal positive — some of which he misrepresents — in order to support his interpretation of the economic data he cites.
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This week’s apology episode from Johnson is entitled The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t — and its one of the most brain dead pieces that the New York Times Magazine has ever published. I’m shocked the Public Editor has not already taken Johnson to task. I won’t go into all the details because David Newhoff has already destroyed most of Johnson’s argument that the Internet monopolies have actually been a boon to the average artist. This is total nonsense as this chart shows.
READ THE FULL POST AT MEDIUM: