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ColoradoGuy
10-17-2010, 04:46 AM
We've had various discussions in here about how language affects thought -- ghosts of Sapir-Whorf (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/relativism/supplement2.html), and the like. Most of the discussion has been value-neutral; we've talked about if this is a reasonable hypothesis or not, rather than if it's a good thing or not (if true). But there are more sinister implications. George Orwell was well aware of these darker possibilities. From 1984:

"The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought--that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc--should be literally unthinkable, at least as far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect method. This was done partly by the invention of new words and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meanings whatever."

All of which brings me to a recent book by Nicholas Carr called The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing To Our Brains (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127370598). (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127370598) (The subtitle of the UK version is How the Internet Is Changing the Way We Think, Read, and Remember (http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/aug/20/internet-altering-your-mind).) His thesis, or rant, is not a new one: the internet is changing how we read, and thus think, for the worse. (He's written similar sorts of things in Does IT Matter? (http://news.cnet.com/Does-Nick-Carr-matter/2030-1014_3-5317417.html)) Like many books of this sort, The Shallows is floridly overwritten in places, but I do think he's pointed out how madly clicking from hyperlink to hyperlink online has changed for many the way they read. Perhaps we're in danger of becoming butterflies flitting from flower to flower. Or perhaps our brains are learning wonderful new skills in multitasking? If so, is that a good thing?

For myself, my 8-year-old son doesn't have a computer at home, although of course he uses them at school. He reads books at home. Will he be hopelessly left behind, or will he be the one-eyed man in the future land of the blind?

college boy
10-18-2010, 04:15 AM
What disturbs me about the Internet is not so much the presentation of the material, but the fact that outright lies appear online unedited and unchallenged. There have always been books and newspapers that diverged from the truth, but rarely did one see such outrageous accusations (especially conspiracy theories) in print as one does online.

entropic island
10-18-2010, 04:30 AM
.

shadowwalker
10-18-2010, 04:51 AM
What disturbs me about the Internet is not so much the presentation of the material, but the fact that outright lies appear online unedited and unchallenged. There have always been books and newspapers that diverged from the truth, but rarely did one see such outrageous accusations (especially conspiracy theories) in print as one does online.

What's more disturbing is how many people will accept these outright lies without question. It's on the 'net, therefore it must be true... :crazy:

Xelebes
10-24-2010, 11:54 AM
What disturbs me about the Internet is not so much the presentation of the material, but the fact that outright lies appear online unedited and unchallenged. There have always been books and newspapers that diverged from the truth, but rarely did one see such outrageous accusations (especially conspiracy theories) in print as one does online.

What of self-published books?

Ruv Draba
10-26-2010, 12:24 PM
The internet does a better job of amusing or exciting than informing. It seems to have taught us the skill of skimming very well, and I don't think that's a bad thing, because it's always been true that only a small proportion print or broadcast media is actually worth digesting. While the information quality of many Internet channels is poor, that has also been true historically in a lot of older media (consider how badly Hollywood misrepresented any country other than England and the US in the 1940s. Did we notice it less then because we had fewer channels to compare?)

Regardless, we need the ability to analyse within an article, and both within and between channels to deal with the challenges of the Communications Age. Book readin' helps us develop the first, but I think we need more media-savvy and world-nous for the rest.

Apsu
10-26-2010, 12:58 PM
This seems like a freedom and personal responsibility thing to me. Freedom without personal responsibility destroys itself. Knowledge is no longer in the hands (minds) of the elites as it once was. Of course they see this as a negative thing. 1984 painted a world where all responsibility was handed over to a higher power. We need to value our responsibility over our own minds.

Trusting an elite group to always tell us the truth, was the old world. And it gave us less power than we currently have. I used to wonder about things I didn't know, and then just let them go, because I didn't have access to the answers. I do now, and I can never blame anyone else for my ignorance.

I have friends who think the internet is nothing more than a gossip mill. All the information here is junk. They get their news from TV, where the real journalism is.

Computer lingo is as much a thoughtless following as it is a self-deprecating joke. I dig that your kid doesn't have a computer in the home. I think the real responsibility lies with parents. Personally, my kids have a balance of both. They have necessary reading, classic literature, popular fiction, comics, manga, and internet. They love them all in their own way, but they know what I read, they know what I respect, and that has an impact on them. But they also know that I can laugh along with a 1337-speak joke. If I make that taboo, I think I reinforce it in the wrong way.

But regardless of the different ways we handle it, the important thing is that we take responsibility for it ourselves. The only way we can lose in a world where we have access to more knowledge and more understanding and such a diversity of views, is if we hand over responsibility for our own minds. But that's been a battle we've always faced. I think we've already lost it more times than we've won. I don't think putting knowledge in the hands of the common man is going to make us any less prepared for it, even if the element that doesn't care about language suddenly has a louder voice.

Ruv Draba
10-26-2010, 09:55 PM
All true, Apsu, but equally: a search-engine only recycles experiences and opinions; it doesn't give us new truths.

The Internet lets us rely on one another more for perspective, but we still depend on our elites for insights. It used to be that fact, analysis and editorial were in different places; you'd know where to get them and have some idea how to evaluate them. Now the push to publish bypasses corroboration or peer review, and we're swimming in factoids, infomercials and blogs. This places a huge burden on the reader to work out whose cordial they're drinking, how it was made and what's actually in it.

What is it doing to our ideas of truth?

Apsu
10-28-2010, 07:47 PM
I have a feeling I'm misinterpreting what you're saying.

Where do new truths come from? Scientific research? Personal experiences, insights, awareness? Religious experiences? Philosophical debate? The law and government, and how we as citizens vote?

Are you speaking about something else? I think we have more access to those above, and those above have more access to publication. Granted modern society is in too big a hurry in every regard for my taste, but I'm not sure how that affects what we're talking about.

Again, my point is that the burden of responsibility is on us. It's true that urban legends still happen, as the hunting of the snark becomes scientific fact with photoshopped pictures and everything. But more access to facts = more access to detractors of any and every claim, which means I'm more capable of making my own decisions rather than relying on the elite to tell me what to think.

Ruv Draba
10-29-2010, 01:07 AM
A fact is what happened. A story is an account of what happened, a perspective. We want our stories to be fact-based, but we need them as stories so we can make sense of them.

In the best traditions of journalism it has been the job of elites to piece together factual and balanced stories from high quality information taken close to authoritative sources. To know not just what happened, but the people and motives behind what happened, the causes, the consequences, and the choices we face.

In more traditional media, we found our elites in syndicated columns. We got to know them, to understand their strengths and foibles. We knew that they watched each other jealously and held each other to account. Journalism has had its blowhards, but it's had its sophonts too. Their job wasn't to tell us what to think, but to offer competing accounts that we could pick over and compare. A good newspaper relied on its editors to offer that balance within its pages, and if we weren't satisfied we could find a competing journal with an alternative editorial vision and compare it.

But in the Internet the editor has been replaced by the compere; memes and virality have surplanted research and argument, and one cat-on-a-skateboard video generates a worldful of moggies rolling down suburban drives.

Humanity has a seemingly limitless capacity to transform a frontier into junkpile. What we've done with rivers, seas, atmosphere and low earth orbit we're also doing to the bandwidth and file storage on which the Internet relies.

As readers we are responsible for the quality of what we read, but as publishers we are responsible for what we print too. At the moment the Internet is a trash-and-treasure market, in which gems of insight and eyewitness accounts compete with office gossip and kids playing the Marseillaise on their armpits. We have no editors, no public accountability, and while old mastheads are struggling to stay relevant, newer vehicles are spending nearly all their effort entertaining.

Everyone's trying to be the cat on the skateboard, and I'm wondering whether we're not overlooking an ethical obligation to leave as much intelligence to posterity as three centuries of journalism have left to us.

Apsu
10-31-2010, 01:47 PM
In more traditional media, we found our elites in syndicated columns. We got to know them, to understand their strengths and foibles. We knew that they watched each other jealously and held each other to account. Journalism has had its blowhards, but it's had its sophonts too. Their job wasn't to tell us what to think, but to offer competing accounts that we could pick over and compare. A good newspaper relied on its editors to offer that balance within its pages, and if we weren't satisfied we could find a competing journal with an alternative editorial vision and compare it.

We started out with few of these though, didn't we? I think when I was a kid, we had channels 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, & 13. I was in Los Angeles, so I think we had more than others. I've got to imagine in my father's youth he had even fewer to choose from. There was less competition.

Do you believe we get better product with less competition? Do you think there are zero media sources that fit your description of a good newspaper? Or, easier still, do you think there are fewer media sources today that fit your description of a good newspaper than there were ....pick your decade...?


Everyone's trying to be the cat on the skateboard, and I'm wondering whether we're not overlooking an ethical obligation to leave as much intelligence to posterity as three centuries of journalism have left to us.

I'd like to hear your suggestion on how to manifest anything from "an ethical obligation to leave as much intelligence to posterity as three centuries of journalism have left to us". I agree with the sentiment, I strive for it in my own work, but I don't know how to make it a compulsory element of anything beyond my self and family.

I think the responsibility lies with the individual, and specifically with parents.

These trends in popular news existed before the internet turned into what it is now. The genocide in Rwanda was overshadowed completely by the O.J. Simpson case in the '90s. We're in the same situation, with the same mentalities vying for our attentions. It was up to us as individuals during the O.J. case, and it's up to us now. The only difference is, we have more choice. If the O.J. Simpson case happened now, it would be the same as Michael Jackson's death and every other recent glamour story. I would have ignored it and found real news, maybe paid it attention as a side bit of fluff to see what all the talk was about. But at the time, it was pretty much the only thing I knew was going on.

RandomJerk
10-31-2010, 05:18 PM
We started out with few of these though, didn't we? I think when I was a kid, we had channels 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, & 13. I was in Los Angeles, so I think we had more than others. I've got to imagine in my father's youth he had even fewer to choose from. There was less competition.

While I'm not very well-versed in this and don't know the specifics, I believe that you are making an incorrect assumption. More channels does not necessarily mean that there's more choices. You've got several channels that run the same thing. You've got half the channels trying to rip off programming from other channels that are pulling in ratings. You've got the restrictions of what corporation can own how many media outlets in which areas basically completely gone. I'd argue that if you had a dozen independently-owned channels, you'd get much more variety than the hundred-plus channels that are owned by what, four corporations now?


Do you believe we get better product with less competition? Do you think there are zero media sources that fit your description of a good newspaper? Or, easier still, do you think there are fewer media sources today that fit your description of a good newspaper than there were ....pick your decade...?Same thing. A few corporations own the major papers, and they have the slant that they want to push.


I think the responsibility lies with the individual, and specifically with parents.Yes, yes, oh yes! However, we the people have a hard time voting with our wallets. And we certainly don't want to do too much work. There are some people and some groups that run "alternative media news" outlets. However, many people don't really know about them, and the major media sources have them labeled as fringe weirdos.


These trends in popular news existed before the internet turned into what it is now. The genocide in Rwanda was overshadowed completely by the O.J. Simpson case in the '90s. We're in the same situation, with the same mentalities vying for our attentions. It was up to us as individuals during the O.J. case, and it's up to us now. The only difference is, we have more choice. If the O.J. Simpson case happened now, it would be the same as Michael Jackson's death and every other recent glamour story. I would have ignored it and found real news, maybe paid it attention as a side bit of fluff to see what all the talk was about. But at the time, it was pretty much the only thing I knew was going on.Agreed, and you're one of the few that can turn off the nonsense "news" that is put on television and whatnot. Real news is often buried under the safe stuff, the stuff that goes along with the character arc of the country.

Apsu
10-31-2010, 09:18 PM
One of my daughter's friends just shouted out I.D.K., literally in initialism form, and I found myself drawn back to this discussion.



While I'm not very well-versed in this and don't know the specifics, I believe that you are making an incorrect assumption......I'd argue that if you had a dozen independently-owned channels, you'd get much more variety than the hundred-plus channels that are owned by what, four corporations now?.....Same thing. A few corporations own the major papers, and they have the slant that they want to push.

I agree entirely. I'm personally a big fan of radio. I've never really owned a TV with a cable connection as an adult. It's always frustrated me that Clear Channel owns so many of the stations.

However, I think you're missing the details of this discussion. The original post above bemoans the influence of illiterate 1337-speak over the minds of the masses. An influence that didn't exist before the internet. I think he, and others lower down, are adding blogs and youtube and every other kind of "new" media that runs without the checks and balances of the old system.

That's why I used the word media. What used to be in a few channels, on a few radio stations, in a few magazines and newspapers, is now also taking place on the internet. And if you include all the new sources of information we have, I think it's easy to see that we have more than ever before. The question I asked was do we have as many with integrity as we had in past decades (to sum up, the question is asked more specifically above).



There are some people and some groups that run "alternative media news" outlets. However, many people don't really know about them, and the major media sources have them labeled as fringe weirdos.

If that's the case, then I don't think the OP has much to worry about. If that's the case, then it's the same status quo it's always been.

RandomJerk
10-31-2010, 11:03 PM
Apsu:You mean I have to read the thread? This is an outrage! ;)

My mistake, sorry. Should've backtracked. So, reading the O.P., here's a random thought. And I didn't read about the book cited, so feel free to ignore me.

While there certainly is a problem with distraction and concentration, I doubt that's entirely new. More obvious, maybe. But I recall kids in my classes "back in the day" having real trouble centering themselves, and they weren't SMSing in the '70s and '80s. In my mind, the webbernets and various forms of connectivity are simply tools, like anything else. It reminds me of good ol' whassisname, who proclaimed that writing would be the downfall of civilization. No one will think anymore! No one will have to remember anything! Socrates maybe?

On another note, I've heard a report reported (reportingly) that children are pretty unlikely to use l33t-speak in formal settings. They know some level of boundary. I see some disgraceful use of English used by long-time professors from well-respected colleges, and that wasn't fostered in AOL chat rooms.

Another report that you won't hear about (since it's not negative) showed that with the rise of SMS and various social networks, more kids are writing much more than any other time in history. I'd call that a step in the right direction.

Apsu
11-01-2010, 01:17 AM
Apsu:You mean I have to read the thread? This is an outrage! ;)

...so feel free to ignore me.

No, I can't ignore you, now. :poke: I think once we clear up the details and define our terms, you and I agree.

gladspooky
11-01-2010, 04:25 AM
As someone who grew up on the internet (my earliest memory is playing BBS door games), I take issue with the mentality that the internet is detrimental.

Though I do have twelve tabs open right now to different articles/videos/pages to check later, so maybe he's right.

I do think it's strange to assume in his study that whatever is being read is not being comprehended because the reader is distracted, rather than the thing being read simply not being interesting enough. People learn to be discerning when they've got as many options as they have thanks to the internet. They're going to put more concentration in when they're reading something that speaks to their interests rather than, say, Timecube.

Ruv Draba
11-01-2010, 09:58 AM
Do you believe we get better product with less competition?It depends on what they're competing for. All things being equal, a free market gives us a profusion of whatever we'll tolerate as cheaply as possible, but it's up to us to decide what we'll tolerate.

The only difference is, we have more choice.We have more channels and more content, but with the amount of news syndication (and the fading transparency of media sourcing) I'd question whether we have more choice in quality of information. Imagine supermarket shelves with 57 brands of breakfast cereals, but nearly all of them processed food. I think something similar is happening to our journalism.

Seem unlikely? Well consider...

Media is a value-added channel -- a network connecting content providers with consumers. It's an info/entertainment broker, not a source. Each channel is differentiated only by who it connects with whom, and volume of transmission.

Content producers and consumers care about the quality of content, but the media middle-man does not. They care primarily about channel utilisation. So in a free market they primarily measure reach (how much attention they're getting) and impact (how long the attention lasts). Since impact is normally fleeting, there's strong incentive to purchase content with lowest common denominators of interest and biggest emotional impact, because they have the biggest bang for buck. So we can get a profusion of channels segmenting the market demographics (by age, gender, social status, ethnicity) and each seeking to provide a lowest common denominator sensationalism to each segment.

But importantly, producers and consumers are not static -- they adapt to opportunity and react to one another. So if media companies can entice consumers to lower their standards (e.g. by offering lower quality information but higher levels of entertainment and convenience), then producers will follow the money down the quality slope. Likewise, if consumers settle for that, then they grow dumber and allow producers to drop the quality another notch until it reaches a plateau where even the dopes are no longer happy.

The reverse can also occur. If consumers switch off low quality then the media notice and that affects what they buy. So consumers can send price-signals back through the media, but only if they act collectively.


Do you think there are zero media sources that fit your description of a good newspaper? Or, easier still, do you think there are fewer media sources today that fit your description of a good newspaper than there were ....pick your decade...?I think it varies by factors including the skill and education of content providers; the education, culture and standards of consumers, and the size and influence of media companies. There's no simple formula for it. Generally I think we're worse off in journalistic standards than we were forty years ago, say, but I think we're still better off than we were eighty years ago.

The trend I'm seeing is for journalistic standards to be eroded by the desire to entertain, sensationalise and deliver low-value information instantaneously at the expense of source-quality and analysis. Its humour aside, the recent Rally for Sanity is illustrative. As Jon Stewart recently said, "If we amplify everything, we hear nothing."

I'd like to hear your suggestion on how to manifest anything from "an ethical obligation to leave as much intelligence to posterity as three centuries of journalism have left to us". I agree with the sentiment, I strive for it in my own work, but I don't know how to make it a compulsory element of anything beyond my self and family.The essence of sustaining ethics is not that they should be compulsory -- they must reside with the individual, or else they'd just be laws. So how do we foster ethics without forcing them?

I think that the quality of journalism is depends on a dynamic system involving the skill and ethics of producers, the knowledge of consumers and the size and ethics of media. The question then is how to arrange those things so that strong ethics and strong quality become self-sustaining, rather than deteriorating. With so many variables there should naturally be more than one solution, but equally we can't reasonably imagine that any sustainable improvement will involve playing with just one corner of the triangle and ignoring the other two.

The idea of "it's the consumer's responsibility; let the market look after itself" is likely to be as futile as to say "blame the media" or "fund better programs". I would suggest that developing a rich infosystem of large, medium and small, coupled with strong regulations against egregious abuse and excessive monopolism, coupled with a social commitment (in schools, homes and media) to education and not just entertainment, coupled with methods that help consumers rate information quality (and not just popularity), could all help -- but the balance of these things is up to society as a whole.

Impossible? I don't think so. Mrs D and I were strolling on a beach in French Polynesia last year. It was full of twentysomething young adults relaxing, and while the girls were sunbathing topless, the guys were reading. [I]Reading. Not staring at girls, or watching vodcasts on their cell-phones. Reading books. For pleasure. The world is whatever we make of it.


I would have ignored it and found real news, maybe paid it attention as a side bit of fluff to see what all the talk was about. But at the time, it was pretty much the only thing I knew was going on.I'm a bit allergic to bad info; I'd rather have silence than be lied to, bombarded or manipulated. I'm more likely to read Al Jazeera than watch commercial TV news, and part of that is personal taste and part is professional standards -- my writing-head recycles whatever it eats and I'd rather it ate a variety of whole foods. :) I don't pretend to think that everyone would feel the same, but I also think that we should all know by now that palatable convenience foods are not quality nutrition. :D

LaceWing
11-01-2010, 11:09 AM
On topic, but going sideways with it: when I have a response to something online, I have an urge to immediately give back. When I have a response to a book, I can let it linger, hold it in mind. There is a lot more space between me and books than between me and online material. And I think it's simply the perception that an online author is available, whereas the author of a book is occupying their private space; which, by example, invites me to do the same.

Ruv Draba
11-02-2010, 12:40 AM
As someone who grew up on the internet (my earliest memory is playing BBS door games), I take issue with the mentality that the internet is detrimental.I've been using the Internet since it was a research tool for academics. I don't think it's detrimental; it enhances whatever else I'm doing. But I also think it requires us to rethink our ideas about literacy, communications and information quality. That shouldn't be surprising though; newsprint, radio and television made us rethink too.


I do think it's strange to assume in his study that whatever is being read is not being comprehended because the reader is distracted, rather than the thing being read simply not being interesting enough.Yes, and it's that definition of "interesting" which is under scrutiny. It's a Youtube adage that a videoclip holds attention for only 30 seconds. I think it's only a headline and two paragraphs for Internet print. That's enough for us to process something familiar, but nothing like enough time to digest the unfamiliar.

Literature has been called the fiction of ideas, as compared to theatre as the fiction of relationships and cinema as the fiction of images. With TV we started demanding that all words had pictures. With the Internet we channel-surf like never before. If we're just skimming for sensation -- if all our news comes from digg or fark.com will our thinking suffer? Will our ideas grow more shallow? Instead of (say) trying to understand the Middle East in its own terms, will we reduce everything to a Beavis and Butthead caricature?


On topic, but going sideways with it: when I have a response to something online, I have an urge to immediately give back. When I have a response to a book, I can let it linger, hold it in mind. There is a lot more space between me and books than between me and online material. And I think it's simply the perception that an online author is available, whereas the author of a book is occupying their private space; which, by example, invites me to do the same.Yes, there are some kinds of thinking I can't do at a computer screen. Instead I go for a walk or lie on the couch and stare at the ceiling. Different bits of my mind engage depending on whether I'm taking stuff in, or digesting it.

Apsu
11-02-2010, 01:51 PM
Please forgive me if my post comes across acerbic or overly populated with typos. It's late and I'm a bit caffeinated and tired at the same time. Plus, the internet stopped, and I had to paste this all into Notepad to put up at a later time. (I'll try and make it prettier.)



It depends on what they're competing for. All things being equal, a free market gives us a profusion of whatever we'll tolerate as cheaply as possible, but it's up to us to decide what we'll tolerate.

...

We have more channels and more content, but with the amount of news syndication (and the fading transparency of media sourcing) I'd question whether we have more choice in quality of information. Imagine supermarket shelves with 57 brands of breakfast cereals, but nearly all of them processed food. I think something similar is happening to our journalism.



57 versions of anything composed of the same ingredients may seem like competition to you, maybe if you imagine the ingredients arranged in different ways. But I would, and do, go to a different market. Assuming that we, as consumers, are unable to find an alternative, unable to afford an alternative, or too lazy to find an alternative, ignores the subject we're discussing. The subject is that the alternatives are making us dumber. We have to have, and be using, alternatives for that to be true.

The 57 brands of cereal with the same ingredients was the five o'clock news.



I think it varies by factors including the skill and education of content providers; the education, culture and standards of consumers, and the size and influence of media companies. There's no simple formula for it. Generally I think we're worse off in journalistic standards than we were forty years ago, say, but I think we're still better off than we were eighty years ago.

The trend I'm seeing is for journalistic standards to be eroded by the desire to entertain, sensationalise and deliver low-value information instantaneously at the expense of source-quality and analysis. Its humour aside, the recent Rally for Sanity is illustrative. As Jon Stewart recently said, "If we amplify everything, we hear nothing."


I don't have a trend-analysis spreadsheet to look over for data. I just know I had three 30-minute-before-shows news channels, two newspapers, and a couple of radio stations (one primarily talking sports) to get information from as a kid. OK, I'm fudging the numbers a bit because I was a kid and wasn't really looking for information, but I can now get direct video footage of both houses of congress, websites devoted to political candidates, news feeds from around the world, news collected and regurgitated to fit my personal political perspective, brief introductions to subjects with references to further research, encyclopedias, dictionaries, video feeds from around the world (historical, scientific, cultural), and intelligent places to debate issues such as this, etc, etc, etc (really, I'm summarizing to be specific but brief). Hell, my son hangs out on a board specifically dedicated to talking math. He gets information there I never could have found as a child.

There's no question that there are more accurate, easy-to-find, and helpful sources of information now than at anytime in our known history. Add this information to news alone, and (whether it starts with a capital and ends with a period or not) we as humans are more capable of making intelligent and knowledgeable decisions about our lives and our world than ever before.


The idea of "it's the consumer's responsibility; let the market look after itself" is likely to be as futile as to say "blame the media" or "fund better programs".



It becomes less and less futile as the consumer becomes more and more capable. You're triangle, as I assume you know, is more of a water balloon than any polygon. You keep trying to hold down one end and the other expands. We can not achieve total domination over this triangle. We can make improvements, but we can not control our world. We can empower ourselves to better deal with it as it is.

Ruv Draba
11-02-2010, 10:03 PM
Please forgive me if my post comes across acerbic or overly populated with typos.It's not acerbic, and typos require no more forgiveness than hayfever does. :)


57 versions of anything composed of the same ingredients may seem like competition to youMy argument was that many think that brand diversity is choice, but it's not. Brands can and do compete for the customer's purse but sometimes the only diversity this produces is in packaging. (The cause for that by the way, has a lot to do with who controls processing and distribution networks.)


I would, and do, go to a different market....which will serve you well, provided that you can find the right market, that its quality is suitably regulated, that it's organised enough to help you find what you're looking for, that producers are required to say exactly what it is they're selling and where it came from, and that you're educated enough to know what that means. But that's not presently the Internet -- or at least, not quite.

It might be worth a bit more definition here. To my mind, a "market" is a set of structured channels between producers and consumers. When consumers choose supermarkets (or farmer's markets etc...) they choose by (principally) which producers they're connected to. Likewise when producers choose to distribute to a market, they choose by (principally) which consumers they can reach.

The Internet however is not a market any more than the airwaves are. A market is something you put on top of the Internet -- it's essentially a subscription service (you pay to enter, or pay a premium on top of the producer's pricing, or advertising pays for the market). A market requires organisation, structure and regulation.

AW is a writer's infomarket, for example. Producers and consumers (and as writers we're both), pay an (optional) subscription to meet each other and exchange info (e.g. ideas, techniques, gossip and writing products). We measure AW by the kinds of people it connects us with, and the kinds of services they provide; that's what a value network is about. AW has policies on who can be here, and how they can transact. In the same vein, Youtube is an infomarket, Digg and fark.com are infomarkets.

Historically, newspapers and TV networks have been infomarkets too, and when they port themselves to the Internet, they still are. However, traditional TV, radio and newsprint infomarkets were regulated by the jurisdictions in which they published, dictated by geography of distribution. But on the Interwebz things are a bit different. If an American producer publishes content for global consumption through a Russian-owned infomarket domiciled in the Virgin Islands, who is responsible for the content and in what jurisdiction are those responsiblities defined?


Assuming that we, as consumers, are unable to find an alternative, unable to afford an alternative, or too lazy to find an alternative, ignores the subject we're discussing.Actually I think it hits the subject exactly. It picks up market identification, regulation, product quality assurance and consumer education.

Infomarkets aren't new. We've had them since the days of gossip at the village well. But our print-based informarkets gave us the ability to archive and search into posterity, which is why newspapers have called themselves "journals of public record". We also have oral-tradition records through visual and spoken media which are also valuable, but a lot harder to search (to see why, try and find the two seconds of important quotation in the half-hour speech you watched three years ago by that professor guy whose name you can't recall).


The Internet is very different to traditional print, radio and TV markets in that:

It serves an odd mixture of oral and print information (and consumers are showing a growing preference for oral information, just as more people watch TV news than read newspapers);
Its markets aren't always clearly defined;
Its jurisdictions are unclear and therefore its accountabilities are too;
Ihe sheer volume of publication defies policing. It's easy to create the equivalent of a Thieves' Market and markets of utter tosh and make them look respectable;
It's unclear what the archival responsibilities of Internet markets are (or how they'd ever meet them); and
While it's seeing traditional markets migrating and new markets emerging it is not clear that uneducated consumers will automatically be better off for that in the medium to longer terms.

I just know I had three 30-minute-before-shows news channels, two newspapers, and a couple of radio stations (one primarily talking sports) to get information from as a kid.Much as I did... But each of those channels had regional audiences, a clear region of domicile, a clear regulatory jurisdiction and clear regulatory requirements. They may not always have been honest or competent but you knew exactly what they were, where they lived and could hold them to account.

Now, by comparison, we may be getting daily visits from amateurs, pirates, hucksters, vagabonds and confidence-tricksters of no fixed abode. We have a few seconds in which to decide their honesty and competence (on what criteria?) and then in all probability we'll never see them again.


I can now get direct video footage of both houses of congress, websites devoted to political candidates, news feeds from around the world, news collected and regurgitated to fit my personal political perspective, brief introductions to subjects with references to further research, encyclopedias, dictionaries, video feeds from around the world (historical, scientific, cultural), and intelligent places to debate issues such as this, etc, etc, etc (really, I'm summarizing to be specific but brief).Yes, I have an odd set of subscriptions myself, including the Encyclopedia Britannica, New Scientist, a few local Aussie newspapers, trade journals, expert blogs, a bulletin board of street gangs, and another board for Pakistani expatriates (I'm not a gang-member or Pakistani but I was researching for various stories. :D).

Here are some questions: by what criteria do you decide what you subscribe to? How do you evaluate how a channel (or "market") meets those criteria? Where did you learn those infoquality-management skills? How do you review and evaluate them?



There's no question that there are more accurate, easy-to-find, and helpful sources of information now than at anytime in our known history.True, and perhaps that's partly because we can recognise traditional, respectable sources of fixed geography and known regulatory jurisdiction (like Encyclopedia Britannica and New Scientist, and traditional print/TV channels). On the other hand:
In an environment where infopiracy isn't even called plagiarism now, what's to keep these guys in business?
What's to keep them guys honest when these days a domicile is barely a post-box and jurisdiction is arbitrary?
We've both grown up in a world of regulated infomarkets; we carry that experience with us. But what are kids' experiences when much of their info is not via regulated markets, and what is it teaching them?
You and I have already paid the price to get very very good at reading. It's a sunk cost, so we'll continue to use our reading skills. But in a world where you can have almost any information in oral, multimedia form, why would you bother learning highly-developed reading skills?

You're triangle, as I assume you know, is more of a water balloon than any polygon. You keep trying to hold down one end and the other expands.It's expanding, but it's not amorphous or anarchic, just badly organised and weakly regulated. We saw something similar with newspapers in the 19th century, but by the mid 20th century newspapers had saturated, markets had consolidated, news had become far more regulated and the newsprint world had matured. The Internet looks infinite, but it's not. However the policy decisions on what sort of info/entertainment/commerce/personal communications tool we want it to be (and how we'd most like to use it) haven't really been addressed. So it's a laissez-faire frontier, but it won't stay that way.

I think we have yet to face the full range of moral, ethical, policy and regulatory questions posed by Internet information delivery. Rather than shutting our eyes and reciting the hopeful mantra "the market takes care of itself", I think it's worthwhile to try and think about the multigenerational impacts of those changes and consider what legacy we'd like to leave.

benbradley
11-02-2010, 11:44 PM
What disturbs me about the Internet is not so much the presentation of the material, but the fact that outright lies appear online unedited and unchallenged. There have always been books and newspapers that diverged from the truth, but rarely did one see such outrageous accusations (especially conspiracy theories) in print as one does online.
A website is a LOT cheaper than a printing press. There's even lots of places you can get a website for free, and that's been true since earlier times of the Web. The late Geocities comes to mind, and I think Angelfire is still around (though I understand these older sites now have a reputation for hosting malware), and nowadays there are blog sites (which are just pre-packaged webpages oriented mostly toward text articles) galore.

But even some conspiracy theorists used to ban together and buy/rent printing presses. I first saw a chain letter in high school circa 1974. The Internet just makes it a lot easier to disseminate information, whether "good" or "bad." The reader, admittedly moreso than ever, still has the responsibility to sort out the worthwhile from the crap.

I'd be sad if there weren't. Sure, they're terrible and stupid. But as long as they're not by professional institutions, we all have freedom of speech. That's a good thing.
What? Professional institutions don't have freedom of speech?


It's a double-edged sword, but I'm just glad that we do have freedom of speech and if nothing else, that's what the interenet proves. And forums like this prove there is freedom of intelligent and intellectual speech, as well.
That's true - after years of hanging out on Usenet, I had been starting to wonder.

What's more disturbing is how many people will accept these outright lies without question. It's on the 'net, therefore it must be true... :crazy:
That's just lack of a critical mind. It might as well be that "A man in a suit and tie said it, it must be true."

Now you know why salesmen wear suits and ties.

On topic, but going sideways with it: when I have a response to something online, I have an urge to immediately give back. When I have a response to a book, I can let it linger, hold it in mind. There is a lot more space between me and books than between me and online material. And I think it's simply the perception that an online author is available, whereas the author of a book is occupying their private space; which, by example, invites me to do the same.
But even there, there's the word we used to think of as a big river, but now it's an online site that sells books. You can put your thoughts up as a review on Amazon.com and read others' thoughts on it. As if Amazon weren't enough (it's usually the only source I go to for reviews - people who write reviews elsewhere often post them on Amazon anyway), there are book-specific social networking sites such as GoodReads and LibraryThing.

Perhaps the most telling reviews I've read are of a long-awaited popular science book, "A New Kind of Science."

There's more stuff along philosophical lines I could or may add to this thread, but I should save my typing for NaNoWriMo.

Rufus Coppertop
11-03-2010, 10:17 AM
For myself, my 8-year-old son doesn't have a computer at home, although of course he uses them at school. He reads books at home. Will he be hopelessly left behind, or will he be the one-eyed man in the future land of the blind?

He'll be fine. He'll be more than fine, in fact.

Apsu
11-03-2010, 02:10 PM
My argument was that many think that brand diversity is choice, but it's not.

I understand what you're saying. But, if you argued that alligators have pointy teeth, and I responded that many people believe alligators to be aliens, what effect would it have on your argument that alligators have pointy teeth, other than to define your term to what we both already know?

People are reaching out to new sources for information. The author of the book has issues with the quality of the information given by the new sources and how that information is shaping our future minds. Arguing that the new sources for information are offering the same information erroneously believed to be new information because of new packaging, says nothing about the quality of the new information, except that it is not really new information. And arguing that it is really not new information, negates any concerns that the new sources of information are detrimental in any way (to any but those who profited from their previous monopoly).

Really, before we get to the entirety of your latest post, I need to figure out what you're thinking.

Do you believe we have new sources of information?
Do you believe we have the same sources of information in new packages?
Do you believe we have new sources of information giving us the same information in new packaging?

You said:


We have more channels and more content, but with the amount of news syndication (and the fading transparency of media sourcing) I'd question whether we have more choice in quality of information. Imagine supermarket shelves with 57 brands of breakfast cereals, but nearly all of them processed food. I think something similar is happening to our journalism.

You equated quality to ingredients, right? The ingredients would be the content of the information, right? The packages would be the sources that offer the content, right?

I'm hearing you argue that we do have new sources of information, but that the new sources are offering the same information as before. Your problem with the new sources of information is that there aren't the same regulations as before, even though the information is the same.

I believe that the new sources of information are giving us real new information, as I mentioned above with my son and his math website, or C-SPAN, etc.

Ruv Draba
11-03-2010, 03:58 PM
People are reaching out to new sources for information.Not necessarily new sources; different channels. We have a terminology problem I think. Let me try and clarify what I've been talking about:

Source: an original (and hopefully authoritative) place to get info -- e.g. an eyewitness who saw something, or an expert who knows something. Journalists and historians are clear that we should distinguish info by source quality: a primary source saw it or knows it; a secondary source just heard about it.
Content: material collected from various sources and processed into a package for a target audience (e.g. a news report, or a maths text)
Media: the format and presentation of the content (e.g. print, hypertext, video, game, cartoon)
Channel: a branded path for transmitting content, which I think is the thing you've been calling a source. Channels rebrand and repackage a lot of content, e.g. CNN will excerpt from AAP and vice-versa. I don't believe we can call such channels a source -- they're just middle-men --but we can talk about where they sourced their info from.
InfoMarket: my term for one or more channels brokering related content to similar audiences. CNN and Sky News are InfoMarkets in their own right because they acquire news and current affairs content; Google or Yahoo can bring those together into a sort of Info Supermarket, putting them into direct competition. Or in the publishing trade, Penguin and Baen are both fiction markets for authors, but a bookstore becomes a fiction supermarket, putting these publishers into competition.
The info we get depends on how it was collected from sources and packaged into content. The internet has new channels for old content (e.g. CNN online), old content repackaged (e.g. Wikipedia, which is mainly a digest of content from other sources), and new Internet-only content (e.g. vids of cats on skateboards, blogged opinions and self-published how-to ebooks).

How much of the information then is new? How much is high quality? I think it comes down to sources and source quality.

I don't think we can call information new if it's old content on a new channel, or old content repackaged. That's just old information made more accessible and convenient. So we have to take out CNN, Wikipedia and printed maths texts in ebook form.

There is new information on the Internet (i.e. info from new sources), but I'm arguing that it's largely opinion and cats-on-skateboards, which I consider to be relatively low value, as measured by relevance, authority, balance and accuracy. There is some in the form of e-books, and e-mags which are of variable quality but most of the good general interest e-books and e-mags are also delivered in some physical medium too.

There's a lot of information on the Internet which may appear to be new but is in fact just old content repackaged and unattributed. This is often what happens when people blog about an event they didn't see, but read about someplace else. They may write about it as though they were an eyewitness or an authority when in fact they're just recycling info. They're not a source -- they're just a repackaging channel pretending to be a source.

Conflating channels with sources is like conflating brands with ingredients, hence my analogy with breakfast cereals: 100 brands of cereal on the shelves doesn't necessarily mean that we have a lot of choice of ingredients, and it doesn't necessarily mean that they're competing for ingredient-quality. They may just be competing over packaging, convenience and price. Which is not to deny that packaged breakfast cereals are convenient, but it is to point out that if we don't know the source of our food and how it's processed, we don't really know what we're eating. The packaging can make us think we're getting quality, and the marketing can make us think we're getting choice, when in fact we're just getting junk marketed in appealing ways. If we don't know what we're eating (or if we're misled about what it is) we might not even know to walk away.

If we want channels to compete on info quality then I think we need three things:

a code of conduct that requires them to be meticulous about their sources and either external regulation or channels cross-regulating;
consumer education that differentiates between well-sourced facts, opinion and repackaged content and that has some way of establishing credentials; and
infomarkets that rate channels on quality of information and not just popularity, quality of access or convenience.
Even before the Internet, journalistic quality was decaying to fit the massive demand of the 24 hour cable news-cycle. The rise of shockjocks, endless talking heads and channels that specialise in your preferred political or social bias is symptomatic of that -- more channels does not necessarily mean better content. With the Internet, it's now a madhouse of amateurs, gossips, semiprofessionals, and overtaxed pros racing to meet deadlines. It's hard to verify credentials, much less authenticate sources, and when a scoop you've researched for six months gets trumped by the latest Lindsay Lohan cellphone snap, one might begin to ask why you'd bother.

Consumer education is now all about how to get information quickly from infomarkets where information is measured by convenience and popularity. Having had conversations with highly intelligent people who believe in conspiracy theories and cite multiple online "sources" to back them up, I'm concerned that consumers haven't developed enough education to deal with what they're getting -- which is often biased, invented, recycled, unattributed and prepared by people with questionable or nonexistent credentials.

Lastly, with near instantaneous publishing cycles, Internet infomarkets are very much speed over quality, with disposable factoids that get replaced by other factoids tomorrow. In contrast, traditional publishing was very quality-focused because books and journals were expected to sit on shelves for decades. The Internet will always care about convenience and accessibility first -- I'm not arguing that it shouldn't. But I'm questioning what place robust information quality has in the longer term, and how we mean to secure it that place. For instance, with the volume of new content growing every day, we can't archive everything forever. So how do we even separate high quality e-info to archive it? If in 100 years time, someone wanted to know what happened today, do we really expect them to trawl through Google cache (if it even still exists?)

singsebastian
12-22-2010, 11:35 PM
I don't think its the internet that can be untrustworthy, but people who post things.
Blogs can write about the same subject matter, but you will find that a couple of blogs may disagree on a few points.

When I look up news, I always got to Fox while others will go the Huffington. They'll say my news siteis crap and I'll sya the same thing about theirs. But the point of the matter between myself and this fictional person is that we trust a certain website over another.

When I look up information for research. I find myself three or more websites that agree on the same points because I like consistency.

BunnyMaz
02-15-2011, 03:38 AM
One slight problem. There seems to be this assumption that physically printed articles are truthful, or based in truth, or somehow reliable or honourable. If anything, this has not been the case for a very long time. With newspapers including "opinion" sections, this frees them from a lot of the sort of journalistic standards that we assume they follow. The Melanie Phillips Daily Mail articles on Paganism being an excellent example. Within these written, printed pieces she works through all the old stereotypes, makes up a few new ones of her own, quotes blatant lies and all but states that letting people be Pagan will destroy the country. Hundreds have complained to the PCC, but the complaints have been rejected on the basis that it was "only an opinion piece".

On the other hand, recently newspapers have printed articles claiming that "75% of disability benefit claimants are fraudulent" based on information apparently released by an MP. As it turns out the MP lied, barefaced, (or rather, "misrepresented the information" to try and get current benefit reforms through without too much fuss. Online, there has been a massive uproar - possible because all the real data is available, for free, on the internet. And people checked, and then posted online and shared and referred people back to the evidence at hand.

As with all media, we get out of the internet exactly what we put in. Sure, people will read it and end up believing all sorts of conspiracy theories, but these are generally the same people that would believe the Daily Mail "opinion pieces", and anecdata regarding a friend's sister's cousin's ex-husband's uncle's dog. The only difference now is that, whereas before you would not read the same publications as that person, possibly not socialise in the same circles, now you can come in direct contact with them at the press of a button.

Access to internet information has certainly changed my way of viewing the world. I am more sceptical - of both online and offline information. I expect any reported information to be backed up with reliable sources, whether it comes from a newspaper or a blog. You wouldn't judge all written media on the basis of the existence of the Fortean Times, after all.

The wealth of sh*te has not increased. It is simply easier to access, all at once.