Wednesday, November 12, 2008

books, the internet & the how we think thing

A lot of the ideas suddenly breaking out are interesting because they reflect the slow but sure realisation among those who work in any form of communication (as journalists, editors, educators, strategists, politicians, PR) that things have changed forever - and the certain empirical knowledge that the internet is the ultimate brutal, unsubsidized, marketplace. Perhaps it took the Obama election win (and the superb digital strategy); perhaps it is newspapers visibly withering on the vine (and newspaper editors and proprietors increasingly whiney response to the market); perhaps it is the shift from the textural to the visual, from wiki to youtube....Below is one such new exchange. You should read all the pieces.

"On or about December, 1910," Virginia Woolf once wrote, "the world changed." Sometime during the early aughts of this century, it changed again. The Internet leveled our cultural landscape. There was an epistemological free-for-all, a paradigm shift. The pyramid of media hierarchy flipped - top down became bottom up - and people-powered content started to change the way we think.

Beau Friedlander in the LA Times.

Books require a different sort of communion with one's subject than the Internet. They foster a different sort of memory - more tactile, more participatory. I know more or less where, folio-wise, Eliot gets nasty about the Jews in his infamous 1933 lecture series "After Strange Gods," but I always have to read around a bit to find the exact quote, and the time spent softens the bite of his anti-Semitism because the hateful remarks were made amid smart ones. For literary works, books are still, and most likely always will be, indispensable.

Nicholas Carr gets involved.

For all its convenience, Google's snippet-view of information flattens knowledge, erasing context. Sometimes truth lies not in the needle but in the haystack.

And here's a response to Nicholas Carr:

That's part of a very messed up serious of re-defining that the net has been bringing us. "Privacy" means preference settings in a central database that's regularly mined for views of the private. "Friend" means a database entry that control various database access features. It also means a "point" in a scoring game. "Reputation" means database entries where people rate you from 1-5 or similar. "Collaboration" means enriching a corporate entity, along with other customers, by contributing free labor. "Freedom" means your right and duty to do so. "Production" means using investment to gather up "collaborators" and sell their accounts to Google or Microsoft.

I guess it's just natural that "knowledge" should be re-defined as "that which can be obtained from Google nearly instantaneously."

by Tom Lord.

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