Rational exuberance from Dan Gillmor

Dan Gillmor's Sunday column is full of rational exuberance for a tech and morals renaissance.

CUSTOMERS AWAKEN: Everyday people are starting to realize that they are not just "consumers" but customers — that is, they are becoming serious participants in the marketplace of goods and services. This is a crucial distinction.

A consumer's role is limited to ordering what's on the menu and paying for it. A customer wonders what's not on the menu, asks for something he or she actually wants and then negotiates the terms.

This awakening takes many forms, but a common one is the customer's empowerment. Technology is the catalyst.

Prospective customers ignore press releases and product pitches. Instead, they are heading to Web sites where they can research the reality and see what current customers have to say.

Journalism organizations watch, mostly dumbfounded, as weblogs and other multidirectional media bring new voices to the conversation. They offer new choices to what I call the "former audience," the people who are now becoming part of the journalism process itself — to the ultimate benefit of everyone.

Even the all-powerful "intellectual property" regime is feeling the heat of customer-ism as opposed to consumerism. Customers are starting to understand that copyright owners are stealing customers' rights — legal and traditional — with laws and software designed to capture absolute control over distribution of music, movies and, I fear, even words.