Slate takes a look at Grady Harp, Amazon’s no. 7-ranked book reviewer, and finds the amateur-driven literary culture there to be a much grayer area than expected:
Absent the institutional standards that govern (however notionally) professional journalists, Web 2.0 stakes its credibility on the transparency of users’ motives and their freedom from top-down interference. Amazon, for example, describes its Top Reviewers as “clear-eyed critics [who] provide their fellow shoppers with helpful, honest, tell-it-like-it-is product information.” But beneath the just-us-folks rhetoric lurks an unresolved tension between transparency and opacity; in this respect, Amazon exemplifies the ambiguities of Web 2.0. The Top 10 List promises interactivity – ?”How do I become a Top Reviewer?” – ?yet Amazon guards its rankings algorithms closely…. As in any numbers game (tax returns, elections) opacity abets manipulation.