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August 2015

wisdom of the crowd

The ‘wisdom of the crowds’ is the conviction of modern marketing managers. The argument is simple: this wisdom is the statistical average of all individual opinions and choices and rules out the extremes. It is therefore a safe bet: a product that is being liked by a large number of persons must be a good seller and an improvement of such a product must even be a better seller. The wisdom of the crowds has a dark side however: it is the psychological bandwagon effect and the individual’s need to belong to a group. There is yet another aspect: repeat a story hundreds of times and read an opinion everywhere on the internet and you automatically assume that this is right: not only by brainwashing (you read it anytime), but also by argument: all those people cannot be wrong, can they?
The wisdom of the crowd would never have agreed on a theory of evolution that Darwin developed and Galilei was threatened with torture for having the correct opinion, but indeed against the wisdom of the crowd that believed otherwise. The list is endless. Even within the Leica history we see this phenomenon: The Liliput camera would not succeed was the crowd’s wisdom and it was the crowd’s wisdom that the R8 would become a success. The wisdom of the crowd said that the T will be a great success-story if you believed the glorifying reports, but the T has already been neglected by the crowd. Now the Q has the honor of being praised by the crowd, and it is just too awful to think what might happen if or when the crowd is wrong which is not unlikely.
Capa was a great photographer and his D-Day pictures are the greatest war pictures ever taken. It is a pity that some stupid lab assistant ruined the pictures and, yes, Leica still claims that some iconic pictures by Capa were made with a Leica. All three are wrong, but conventional wisdom thinks otherwise. Capa did not take his pictures with a Leica, but with a Contax and a Rolleiflex. The D-Day pictures are not ruined: Capa simply did not take more pictures because he was, understandably, paralyzed by the inferno on the Normandy beaches.
Was he a great photographer? I do not think so. Much better war pictures were made by Don McCullin, but he has a less powerful lobby.