Re: Big Think

1

Stop posting from the near future, ogged.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 11:21 AM
horizontal rule
2

I'd have to say that I find his point immediately sympathetic. I've been in the doldrums for the last couple of years, but give that, posting on Unfogged is much more productive and stimulating than watching TV would be, and TV is the normal default for people in the doldrums.

The internet and Wikipedia are also a tremendous outlet for bright, highly educated people unsuccessful in their careers. In the old days people like that would just decline into alcoholism, depression, and bitterness. (Which are still popular options, of course.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 11:33 AM
horizontal rule
3

The answer to "where do people find the time?" is obvious once it's been stated, but it's still nice to have an answer.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 11:35 AM
horizontal rule
4

2: Cry, cry, post comment, cry?


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 11:43 AM
horizontal rule
5

The big glaring hole in Shirky's thesis should be immediately obvious to anyone who posts here: people find the time at work.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 11:48 AM
horizontal rule
6

Fascinating. I have to digest this, & also I'm at work, but it's very hard for me not to think of this as good news for the species.

In addition, I will be laughing over 4 at odd moments for the rest of the day.


Posted by: Rah | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 11:49 AM
horizontal rule
7

Does Future Shock require a ground meta-narrative to be disorienting? Without a fixed landscape outside your window, how do you know you are moving?

No I don't think Millemials experience Future Shock.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 11:53 AM
horizontal rule
8

It is possible that Future Shock operates differently at the level of society than the level of the individual.

There is no Society. I guess this also means there are no individuals, but it's Sunday and I didn't get enough sleep.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 12:10 PM
horizontal rule
9

I think Shirky's mistake is to focus exclusively on time, as opposed to expense. The digital revolution makes it possible to do an enormous number of things much more cheaply. It seems to me that what precedes the rise of public goods like libraries is not Prohibition, but the creation of enormous wealth in a few hands. Then the Rockefellers and the like start doling out cash for public goods. Now many, many more people have the sort of wealth that allows them to contribute, because it costs so much less to make a direct tangible contribution. Things like unlocked iPhones allow people like tom to create functionalities that are useful and that don't require them to have access to a machine that prints a circuit board (or whatever it is that would be needed in the absence of a pure software solution).

I also think he leaves unmentioned the socializing aspect of mass media, and the extent to which these new technologies--like blogs--allow for alternate, and better, socializing societies. (I still think the smartest thing Yglesias ever wrote was an off-hand description of blogs as the new social clubs.)

I don't know that this would change his prediction for the future very much, except perhaps to suggest that mass market products shouldn't be looking to add a mouse so much as looking to allow others to add a mouse.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 12:19 PM
horizontal rule
10

On the one hand, there is Wikipedia, and people dedicated to arguing over the new status of Pluto. Advantage: users of Internet!

On the other hand, YouTube commenters. Advantage: Television

There are also people obsessed with the minutiae of television shows on Wikipedia. Humans, go figure.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 12:48 PM
horizontal rule
11

blogs as the new social clubs.

Nah. One of the things that mark our times is the attempt to force new phenomena into old narratives or structures.

Kervick, Emerson, Petey, howard all have different sets of blogs they comment on. A Venn diagram wouldn't even work, Yglesias isn't at the center or focus for these people. They don't share any identity as "people who comment at MY's" Maybe it's just one network hub among many.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 12:50 PM
horizontal rule
12

They don't share any identity as "people who comment at MY's" Maybe it's just one network hub among many.

I'm not sure that's opposed to the idea of blogs as social clubs; I don't think that the idea limits you to a single social club, though I may be wrong about that.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 12:53 PM
horizontal rule
13

Thought-provoking post and article, but all that I can think of is a favorite post on a help bulletin board of a system I worked with: "I am click the mouse, but nothing happens." (Click became the mascot for the system.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 12:56 PM
horizontal rule
14

I go to Yglesias's a lot less because of Albot. Al is smart enough to make sense occasionally, but his job is to disseminate as much confusion and obstruction and distraction as possible.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 12:58 PM
horizontal rule
15

The most persistent thought on this subject I've had in the last year has been distress at how technology allows us to accept sacrifices for illegitimate (or, better, regrettable) reasons under the guise of novelty. We all text now, which is to say that we communicate much more slowly and painstakingly in order to avoid intimate contact; we all watch television on illegal Chinese websites now, which is to say that we're still watching television, only with more eyestrain.

One could argue that, to the extent there is future shock because of these developments (which, Bob, there really is; I know many people (and I'm a Millennial, right?) who stress about the amount of time they spend on the internet, why they text, etc.), it is only because we're in an awkward intermediate stage before the Future really comes; but then, these selfsame people stress even more about what technology will look like twenty to thirty years from now.

I guess what this amounts to is: we are willing to use whatever technology is given to us; in doing so, we try very hard to use that technology in the same way we always have. This doesn't lead to meaningful changing patterns of behavior—I can't stress that Chinese website point enough; I'm really shocked by how much people still watch TV—it just disorders that behavior and makes it less pleasant.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 1:05 PM
horizontal rule
16

Destroyer, most of us text while masturbating -- the normal way of texting, which is very intimate indeed.

I have the feeling that you really aren't quite in touch.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 1:09 PM
horizontal rule
17

Uh, what Chinese website?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 1:10 PM
horizontal rule
18

under the guise of novelty. We all text now, which is to say that we communicate much more slowly and painstakingly in order to avoid intimate contact;

I don't think anyone texts out of novelty or to avoid intimate contact. Texting is great because it easily cuts out phone tag when you're making plans.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 1:15 PM
horizontal rule
19

No, Heebie, I saw a guy just the other day texting to avoid intimate contact. What a sicko.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 1:16 PM
horizontal rule
20

exting is great because it easily cuts out phone tag when you're making plans.

I so don't understand texting. Aren't these all cell phones? With voice mail?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 1:16 PM
horizontal rule
21

It's much more of a hassle to check your voice mail than to glance at your phone and read a text.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 1:18 PM
horizontal rule
22

And when you send a text, you don't have to sit there and wait to get sent to voice mail.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 1:19 PM
horizontal rule
23

Voice mail is a ridiculous hassle because it takes a long time to leave and retrieve messages, what with the insanely long prompts. I know that sounds like a stupid complaint, given that it's all of a minute, but I feel cell phone companies are trying to, like, force me to do more texting by making message-leaving into a burden. I hate listening to computer-voices, though.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 1:25 PM
horizontal rule
24

Uh, what Chinese website?

Try youku.com, to start.

Damn, I knew I would re-open the texting argument. I wasn't arguing that texting is useful only as a way of avoiding intimacy; just that it can be (and is, to a great extent) used in that way. If y'all disagree with that parenthetical, I'm going to call you old codgers.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 1:25 PM
horizontal rule
25

I'm not sure the interactivity of the Internet is a meaningful difference between it and television. I don't deny that one form is interactive and that one isn't, but that there's an intrinsic value to interactivity. I think we're inclined to over-estimate the amount of real human connection or creative productivity that occurs online.

It's kind of like how (so I've heard) that hummingbirds will starve to death if you give them artificially sweetened water instead of sugar water. It's like the real thing in all respects except the important one. And a lot of internet socialization -- gaming, blogs, whatever -- strikes me as very similar to that.

It feels more valuable than television, but it isn't, really. Look at what happens when someone quits a forum or a blog or an interactive game. There's a very good chance that whatever community they'd been a part of -- spending time, emotions, whatever -- barely notices.* You get a little bit of 'hey, where's X lately?', but not much more than that. Maybe a group on Facebook. And that's supposed to be the great meaningful divide between this and TV?

*Exceptions seem to include when people from forums and such meet personally, but then it's the real-life interaction doing the work, not the medium.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 1:26 PM
horizontal rule
26

Reading Shirky's Columns Title your new book Here Comes Everybody of course you'll grab me.

Finnegan's Wake is the roadmap, score, whatever of the 21st Century.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 1:27 PM
horizontal rule
27

*Exceptions seem to include when people from forums and such meet personally, but then it's the real-life interaction doing the work, not the medium.

Caveating out one of the main differences is cheating. The fact that real-world interactions can follow from online interactions is one of the main differences between being online and watching TV.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 1:30 PM
horizontal rule
28

Texting is great because it easily cuts out phone tag when you're making plans.

You know, I thought this, and then I saw my younger sister take two hours to figure out a) what movie she and her friends wanted to see b) having decided on Juno, figure out what time they wanted to see it and c) figure out who was going to pick up her buddy from work. All of this information could have been conveyed in one 30 second phone call, but instead the exchange was two hours of:

what you want to see
dunno working
how late
10
o ok
is mike working
dunno
mike are you working
yea
how long
nine but i have to close
do you want to see a movie
ok
what
what you mean what


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 1:30 PM
horizontal rule
29

what with the insanely long prompts

Shockingly, my post on those hasn't changed the world.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 1:31 PM
horizontal rule
30

27: Most people don't meet their online friends IRL, though. So it's not really cheating to discount that as a benefit. It's more cheating to pretend that's the norm as opposed to googling pics of Britney Spears.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 1:33 PM
horizontal rule
31

The fact that real-world interactions can follow from online interactions is one of the main differences between being online and watching TV.

Lots and lots of Star Trek conventioneers beg to differ.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 1:35 PM
horizontal rule
32

Most people don't meet their online friends IRL, though

The times they are a changin'. It's an in-principle difference that's become more of a real difference. Didn't the Flophousians all meet online first?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 1:37 PM
horizontal rule
33

I discovered the Chinese television websites when they were illegally rebroadcasting World Cup games, and it made me think of whichever Bruce Sterling book it was* where the Chinese destroyed the U.S. economy by just making U.S. intellectual property available over the net. Television, books, operating systems, you name it. Good times!

* Heavy Weather, I think.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 1:37 PM
horizontal rule
34

32: Look, I met shivbunny online. I get the times and how they a-change. Still, I think we're still in the minority and that most of what this guy means by 'interactive' means 'clicking with a mouse.' Is an hour playing flash games better than an hour of The Wire merely because the first is interactive?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 2:01 PM
horizontal rule
35

Is an hour playing flash games better than an hour of The Wire merely because the first is interactive?

I think the answer to this is along the lines of Nick's distinction between the effects at the level of the individual and society. For any given person, being online isn't necessarily better or more interactive in a robust sense than watching television, but at the level of society, it's a huge change. Another way to say this is that you only need to tap part of the cognitive surplus to have a very different society.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 2:06 PM
horizontal rule
36

I think that's what bothers me about this brand of techno-determinism. The notion that "participatory" cognition is somehow an intrinsic social good, while "passive" cognition is somehow an intrinsic social bad is more than a little dubious. The aside about World of Warcraft, especially: "at least they're doing something" seems like a fairly low bar to clear, and one that causes some indigestion upstream in the comparison of Wikipedia to Gilligan's Island--I don' think that equivalence does what he thinks it does.


Posted by: tw | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 2:11 PM
horizontal rule
37

What's the huge change? I can see the case, barely, in the case of forums and blogs and such. But the guy's thesis is stronger than that; the change comes about via the mouse-click.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 2:15 PM
horizontal rule
38

The interesting thing about the point in 35, as it is made in the article, is that it is very much focused on projects with definite outcomes, rather than the wishy-washy collective energy stuff:

Let's say that everything stays 99 percent the same, that people watch 99 percent as much television as they used to, but 1 percent of that is carved out for producing and for sharing. The Internet-connected population watches roughly a trillion hours of TV a year. That's about five times the size of the annual U.S. consumption. One per cent of that is 100 Wikipedia projects per year worth of participation.

It's nice to imagine a world with 100 Wikipedia-scale projects created every year, but at the same time, as an answer to the challenge of future shock, et al., it seems a little irrelevant. A small minority of people will be making very nice things they wouldn't have made otherwise; the rest of us can enjoy those things, but will that really make up for the stresses of a now-constantly changing society?


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 2:18 PM
horizontal rule
39

all that I can think of is a favorite post on a help bulletin board of a system I worked with: "I am click the mouse, but nothing happens."

Look! Non-native English speaker! Point and jeer!

This is why a lot of people hate and fear computers and the people who work with them. If you don't like that....TRY!


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 2:21 PM
horizontal rule
40

It also seems worth mentioning that the content of the television is very different from what it used to be, and to some extent influenced by the interactive media. Steven Johnson made too much of this in his everything bad is good for you book, but I think it is having an effect in the aggregate. I can't say what it is without using all kinds of hidey-hole words or sounding like a ass, though.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 2:22 PM
horizontal rule
41

What's the huge change?

Now I think we must be talking about different things. Wikipedia, the "netroots," blogs, and every time you find a page dedicated to some weird thing that makes you say "I love the internet" are all the kinds of change (I think) he's talking about.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 2:33 PM
horizontal rule
42

15: we are willing to use whatever technology is given to us; in doing so, we try very hard to use that technology in the same way we always have. This doesn't lead to meaningful changing patterns of behavior

Yes, this. Whoever made the point about most internet use still being of the goggling pics of Britney Spears variety, i.e. one of passive reception (despite the fact that one has to click a mouse to find the desired content), gets it right. People are indeed more easily able to access information, so there's new space for a mental list of things one would like to look into, but very few people actually contribute online.

To that extent, people use the internet in much the same way they use the television; there are just a lot more channels. There's always an argument that they do so because of ingrained habits in relation to technology.

There's also the more interesting possibility that the 5-day work week which the article suggests frees up cognitive energy is actually incredibly draining to a lot of people: watching television or fooling around online is to distract from that mental exhaustion. I'd much rather see people get out in the world and do something constructive than glue themselves to a monitor.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 2:42 PM
horizontal rule
43

Maybe. But he does say 'at least they're doing something' in defense of WoW guilds, not 'for every 47 year old balding man in his basement, there is one blogger who met his housemates via his political blogging." And "However lousy it is to sit in your basement and pretend to be an elf, I can tell you from personal experience it's worse to sit in your basement and try to figure if Ginger or Mary Ann is cuter."

That sounds like the primary virtue of the Internet is just the interactivity, and contra your earlier point, the effect on the person's life, not the benefit to mankind of one tenth of one percent of the cognitive surplus being used for Wikipedia . To which I say, ehhhhhhh. If I were arguing the opposite point for TV, I'd be contrasting thoughtful documentary programming with YouTube.

--
fucking eBay. I delay payment a week until I hear from the seller. I make the payment. Half an hour later you lock the seller's account and advise me not to pay. arg.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 2:43 PM
horizontal rule
44

fucking eBay

Roberta thought she was ordering this movie, but it turned out to be this instead. Maybe should have read that listing a little more closely.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 2:47 PM
horizontal rule
45

Yeah, he does make both points and one is much stronger than the other. Although I'd still say that WoW is more valuable than watching (just about any) TV, because of the latent community that's there. But now I'm just dragging this out. Because I can. Because you're a real person. See.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 2:49 PM
horizontal rule
46

44: Time for a lesson on how babies are made!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 2:54 PM
horizontal rule
47

On the upside, underwater come shot!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 2:56 PM
horizontal rule
48

The review linked in #44 is hilarious, and it's making me envision some sort of "America's Next Top Porn Star" show with really judgmental critics. "The hardcore was merely functional, and your tongue-lashing technique is too clinical. You're off the island!"


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 3:17 PM
horizontal rule
49

One thing I haven't seen discussed much are the strange tags people leave for movies on IMDB. Some of them are like "Brother-Sister Reconciliation" or "Death of Grandparent" or whatever, which one can imagine being used by people looking for a movie with a particular theme. But a lot of them are like "Revolving Door" or "Male to Female Foot in Crotch." I am saddened somewhat to see that the "Shot in the Hand" tag list does not include Rustler's Rhapsody, which depicts more hand-shootings than any other film in history. But what are these tags used for? People with fetishes for spiral staircases? People trying to edit together clips of severed hands?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 3:33 PM
horizontal rule
50

To Nick's:

It is possible that Future Shock operates differently at the level of society than the level of the individual. It is entirely conceivable that the average person today has more "future shock" in their life, but that social mores and standards have adapted so that the sense of society-wide disruption is much less

I'd like to see this argued, actually. The sense of society-wide disruption at the advent of our new technologies seems quite pronounced to me. There's quite a divide between people who, shall we say, cling to the old ways, and those who have embraced or enslaved themselves to the new. (They sometimes sneer at one another.)

In the minds of the former, those who spend a lot of time online are freaks, disengaged and dysfunctional.

I should leave it at that.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 3:33 PM
horizontal rule
51

"Child Holding Severed Head"
"Nose Picking"
Dog Humping on Human Leg"


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 3:39 PM
horizontal rule
52

Five movies are tagged both "helmet" and "hat".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 3:43 PM
horizontal rule
53

You get a little bit of 'hey, where's X lately?', but not much more than that.

I don't know how much you get beyond that in real life, absent close bonds. If some kid moves, so his parents stop showing up to PTA meetings, how much do other PTAers care? Same at work, absent friendship.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 3:48 PM
horizontal rule
54

53: Right. Too much information coming in, too little mental space to deal with it (given that our collective mental spaces are smaller and smaller, narrower and narrower, contrary to popular opinion), and the result is that if something or someone disappears, it doesn't garner much interest. Actually, being interested, or caring, or giving a shit, is deprecated.

(My doomsaying knows no bounds, apparently.)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 3:59 PM
horizontal rule
55

Actually, being interested, or caring, or giving a shit, is deprecated.

Evidence?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 4:05 PM
horizontal rule
56

Aw, I dunno. Facebook makes me give a shit about people I don't see very often, whose existence normally would just fade into the back of my memory. I've had a couple of good chats with old profs I haven't talked to in years, who gave me some perspective on some things. And people who would never, like, contact me to say what's going on with them can share little tidbits of their lives (baby photos, etc.) without feeling vain or intrusive. I find the internet offers a lot of opportunities to have much more involvement in many more people's lives than I would have without it. Yes, it probably reduces some of the closed-off intimacy of feeling the need to individually contact my most intimate friends, because I'm never actually anxious about losing contact with them, but in general, I think the sense I have of having access to a very broad community of people who wish me well is very comforting and emotionally stimulating.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 4:09 PM
horizontal rule
57

I'm not sure it's so much lack of interest as an assumption of what the answer is: X got a life. Obviously this is rebuttable in the individual case, and I think it's much fairer to say that many of us would be saddened should tragedy befall an imaginary friend.


Posted by: NĂ¡pi | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 4:10 PM
horizontal rule
58

That is, if someone I'm not terribly close to has a baby, they're not sending me photos in the mail---though close friends still do, of course; they're offering me the opportunity, if I want to, to look at pictures of their kid and say congratulations. It feels nice to be included in news like that without the formal weight of Announcements in the Mail.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 4:12 PM
horizontal rule
59

I find the internet offers a lot of opportunities to have much more involvement in many more people's lives than I would have without it. Yes, it probably reduces some of the closed-off intimacy of feeling the need to individually contact my most intimate friends,

This is what I'm thinking of. It's a mixed blessing, no doubt.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 4:16 PM
horizontal rule
60

Toffler was born in 1928, so he watched tthe rise of television. When newspapers , radio, television went on line, you had entire societies trying to adjust and change their habits. The particpation rates were probably over 50%. Most felt they had no choice but to listen to radio or watch Cronkite.

When Youtube comes online, 99.9% of active Internet users feel free to mostly ignore it. A new news affregator is started, the big bloggers don't feel stressed.

Various news areas even within the big blogosphere are segmented, compartmentalized, specialized. Yglesias doesn't feel that much stress about keeping up with the economy. He knows it's covered.

I think we reached a tipping point after 1970 when people understood they couldn't keep up or be generalists or erudite or even well informed and just relaxed.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 4:17 PM
horizontal rule
61

Bah. Shirky is a dunce.

A more obvious reason for why so much gin was consumed in the eighteen century was because people's lives were so fucking awful and gin was a very very very very cheap way of getting through life.

Meanwhile, if you look at what really happened after World War II when we supposedly got all that free time, it was a huge outburst of a lot more creativity than diddling around on Wikipedia. Just one tiny example is the explosion of underground comix, Robert Crumb and all that. If you look at the life story of the people involved in that, all of them were young, with loads of free time and no outlet for it in the still conservative society of the late fifties/early sixties, when it was still relatively easy to live cheaply and well. A lot harder to do this now, but a lot easier to dick around on the Wikipedia entry for the Hare Bare Bunch.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 4:17 PM
horizontal rule
62

Just think about the decline of the general interest magazines. TIME and Newsweek used to be essential and adequate reading for being respected at cocktail parties. No longer.

You ain't gonna like it, but I think we are in a world where "Who's Obama?" is much closer to "Who's Lindsay Lohan?" than it used to be.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 4:22 PM
horizontal rule
63

53: This is one of those city / country divides. Small towns have that snoopy busybody thing, but they're tremendously supportive.

Not every small town, some places are just small.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 4:26 PM
horizontal rule
64

TIME and Newsweek used to be essential and adequate reading for being respected at cocktail parties. No longer.

They're worse magazines, and we're less stupid. Mass media consensus isn't necessarily a good thing.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 4:27 PM
horizontal rule
65

Mass media consensus isn't necessarily a good thing.

It is no longer possible. If you think Chris Matthews is important with his 5-figure audience, you have specialized to the point of leaving something out.

Toffler still lived in the age when it was barely conceivable to read ever good novel written in English in 1955. But the population kept growing and the writers kept writing and no one is expected to keep up.

Is "The Year in Analytic Philosophy:2008" anything but a sour joke now? How many papers were written by tenured professors? I really believe the stress of information overload has gone down.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 4:54 PM
horizontal rule
66

They sometimes sneer at one another.

I met a junior here yesterday who hadn't heard of YouTube. I was at a loss for words.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 5:00 PM
horizontal rule
67

Hey, destroyer, I wanted to leave a comment on your blog, but comments were disabled.

I think the comment was going to be something along the lines of "prose sestinas are weird d00d".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 5:04 PM
horizontal rule
68

Mass media consensus isn't necessarily a good thing.

Maybe, but the only way this vague squishy feeling of online community means much is with a common vocabulary and set of reference points that make such communities into something politically viable. Shirky clearly has something bigger in mind than the warm fuzzy feeling I get when I get in touch with my thesis advisor, and I don't see how that something is possible if the field of common discourse is utterly fractured.


Posted by: tw | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 5:06 PM
horizontal rule
69

...and to the extent the net has contributed to the fracturing of a common culture, the extra creativity resulting from it might not be so useful. A world of creators, and no audience. Or lots of tiny little micro-audiences of a few dozen people apiece, mostly reading each other's work.

And this is even before anyone has really figured out how to truly make money on micro-slicing audiences to internet levels. Once that happens, watch out.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 5:11 PM
horizontal rule
70

But for wikis, which seemed to be Shirky's major example, that concern doesn't apply as much. The encyclopedia or reference work of some sort is the perfect product for a mass of creators with no unitary audience.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 5:16 PM
horizontal rule
71

It is no longer possible. If you think Chris Matthews is important with his 5-figure audience, you have specialized to the point of leaving something out.

People like Perle had a considerably smaller audience. Who precisely comprises the audience is important.

Maybe, but the only way this vague squishy feeling of online community means much is with a common vocabulary and set of reference points that make such communities into something politically viable....and I don't see how that something is possible if the field of common discourse is utterly fractured.

I don't know that a common vocabulary has been much of a problem. People have just added a specialized vocabulary ("slash fic") for use in some subcommunity. That has always happened. Now there are just more groups who can do it.

A world of creators, and no audience.

I think your sense of what creators may produce is too limited. Some set of them may create an add-on that allows other creators to be more productive.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 5:20 PM
horizontal rule
72

comments were disabled

Yeah, I was too lazy to tweak Wordpress' spam settings effectively, and I figured the 5% of my audience (a fraction of a person) that doesn't talk to me face-to-face daily could just email me.

"prose sestinas are weird d00d"

I thought so too, but the people in my class enjoyed it—they even specifically pointed out the part where I thought it went off the rails ("Well.") as their favorite. Bizarre, especially since it was just written that way as a cop-out to make the assignment easier; I really don't understand how people write sestinas with lines shorter than that.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 5:33 PM
horizontal rule
73

I don't know how much you get beyond that in real life, absent close bonds.

That's certainly true, but you're ignoring the time investment a lot of the Internet demands. People can spend hours upon hours in WoW or blogs or whatever simulating human contact and if they disappear it's 'x got a life' or 'huh, haven't seen x around lately.' Which is fine, you wouldn't expect much else from an online forum/blog/game, except when it becomes a substitute for real interaction.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 5:35 PM
horizontal rule
74

69 - PGD, how much do you know about the current state of affairs of American poetry? How many people are interested in new American drama? There are already big chunks of the mental landscape that have vanished out of people's attention span already. Marianne Moore threw out the first pitch in Yankee Stadium in 1968; I'd imagine that the most famous living American poet -- who would that be, Maya Angelou? -- clocks in at about eight nano-Parises. I'd imagine that a well-read blog already attracts more readership than someone like Ashbery or Anne Carson.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 5:40 PM
horizontal rule
75

I see an opening to ride in on my own personal hobbyhorse, which is that Net culture is a massive boon to dabblers & punditry ex recto but tends, I believe, toward driving more substantial cultural production out of the marketplace. It's easy to get the instant gratification of producing a blog post/YouTube video/what have you & receiving instant feedback; writing the Great American Novel requires a sustained commitment.

As 61 points out: the lower you are on the economic food chain, the more effort you have to exert just to continue existing. (Yes, I'm still at work.) 10,000 shift workers with a free Saturday afternoon once a month will create a single episode of The Wire no sooner than the proverbial monkeys hammering away at Hamlet. That means that large-scale cultural artifacts become, more than ever, the province of the leisure class.

The above isn't actually my own primary response to this discussion--but in my own bizarre wrinkle on self-pwnage, I don't have time to make the other argument.


Posted by: Rah | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 5:57 PM
horizontal rule
76

but you're ignoring the time investment a lot of the Internet demands.

It's a bit lost time, though. People read and comment on blogs at work, or when they should be doing the laundry, or whatever. There are people I've liked and with whom I've spent a great deal of time that I haven't had important emotional bonds with. A sort of soft work friend, for example. We're social animals, and internet wastage seems like one of the less harmful ways that can manifest, in part because the people aren't able to see each other.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 6:11 PM
horizontal rule
77

68: the only way this vague squishy feeling of online community means much is with a common vocabulary and set of reference points that make such communities into something politically viable

Politically viable? I'm not sure where the political comes into it (aside from bob's discursive exercises). That is, Shirky's just after creativity or some such; was someone trying to say that this was an expansion of democracy?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 6:28 PM
horizontal rule
78

77:I read about 20 of Shirky's columns, so I can't link to him, but I am pretty sure he mentions some Japanese dude and Emergent Democracy.

It's a good example of emergent democracy because there was no directed movement to respond to Lott's comments; the response occurred naturally, and its political consequences were not intentional--they were emergent. The idea is that in a democracy, whoever decides what people talk about determines what the government will do; therefore when people at large decide for themselves what they'll talk about, they also control their own political action.
...Wiki As opposed to a tightly controlled message and top-down control of certain political movements, ya know?

Ah, Joi Ito.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 6:51 PM
horizontal rule
79

ya know?

Yeah, I know. The loudest and most persistent voices win. The locus changes.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 6:55 PM
horizontal rule
80

That is, Shirky's just after creativity or some such; was someone trying to say that this was an expansion of democracy?

I mean that I read Shirsky to be talking about social change in the broadest strokes--that gin was a salve for shocks brought by the industrial revolution, but the industrial revolution unlocked untold wealth and progressive social change for billions. Wikipedia and WoW are both better than sitcoms as aspects of the untold future wealth unlocked by the advent of information technology, whose aggregate "cognitive surplus" can be used for the greater good, etc.

I don't know that a common vocabulary has been much of a problem. People have just added a specialized vocabulary..

Maybe, but this seems overly optimistic to me. I don't think 4chan is an accident, but the sort of end point of internet discourse: totally fragmented and inward, speaking a fascinating and even enthralling language, but a whole in name only.


Posted by: tw | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 7:00 PM
horizontal rule
81

PGD, how much do you know about the current state of affairs of American poetry?

I was actually thinking of mentioning poetry. I used to date a poet; that scene has moved very far toward the all creators/no audience situation. Slam poetry is a little better in that department (although it seemed worse in quality). But for the journals and books I used to wonder who was buying the stuff besides people who wrote or taught poetry themselves. The entrance fee for poetry contests often got you a free copy of a book, it was like people were in effect forced to purchase books for the privilege of having anyone read their poetry.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 7:04 PM
horizontal rule
82

I don't think 4chan is an accident, but the sort of end point of internet discourse

I'm not sure why you think that. We may just disagree.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 7:11 PM
horizontal rule
83

39: I am click the mouse, but nothing happens."

Look! Non-native English speaker! Point and jeer!

Alex, I can see where I left that impression, but the I knew the user (system was an in-house one) and it was just a typo from a native speaker. And for some reason we all first read "I am click the mouse" like "I am Ben the rat."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-11-08 9:56 PM
horizontal rule
84

Look! Non-native English speaker! Point and jeer!
just for the record i'm insensitive to pointing and jeering even irl, and it never happened irl as i noticed
coz i'm good at avoiding the situations maybe
well, sensitive sometimes maybe here to heckling :)


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05-12-08 8:54 AM
horizontal rule
85

One of the differences I noticed as an ESL teacher is that East Asians are sensitive to embarrassment and afraid to make mistakes, and for that reason learn spoken English poorly. Whereas Arabs are impossible to embarrass and very quickly learn effective functional incorrect spoken English, and if they want to correct it over the course of time.

As for read, Mongols or Mongolians (which term do you prefer, read? -- I like "Mongols") are not really culturally much like Chinese or Japanese, despite physical appearances and despite a lot of Chinese and Japanese cultural influence.


/ stereotyping


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-12-08 9:09 AM
horizontal rule
86

Everyone loves you, read. Except for Heebie, who is consumed by bitter jealousy. But even this has been inspiring her to new heights of inspiration lately.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-12-08 9:17 AM
horizontal rule
87

85: I've definitely seen those stereotypes in action, but of course many counterexamples---very shy Arabic boys (who are often like the Zack Morrises of the college classroom) and super daring and funny Chinese women (who tend to get typed as quiet mice).


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-12-08 9:20 AM
horizontal rule
88

I don't believe that for a minute, AWB. They're called stereotypes because they're universally true.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-12-08 9:23 AM
horizontal rule
89

They're called stereotypes because they're universally true.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-12-08 9:25 AM
horizontal rule
90
Kindergarten teachers hate white people.

Oh you gotta know that one's true.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-12-08 9:31 AM
horizontal rule
91
Cancer patients have amazing pity sex.

Again, we know this to be a fact.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-12-08 9:34 AM
horizontal rule
92
Tibetan monks are hung like Clydesdales.

OMMMMMMM AAAAAAAHHHHH HUMMMMMMMM


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05-12-08 9:39 AM
horizontal rule
93
Blog commenters Archaeologists just make shit up as they go along.

Now it's for sure true.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-12-08 9:51 AM
horizontal rule
94

we call ourselves Mongol, so whichever is OK
i wish i could refute the Chinese and Japanese influence on us, we are so different, the language, customs, behaviour, i'll think about it


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05-12-08 10:19 AM
horizontal rule
95

the, the


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05-12-08 10:19 AM
horizontal rule
96

95: Interesting band.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-12-08 11:40 AM
horizontal rule
97

Thanks for posting this. I was offline most of the day yesterday.

I'm torn between finding the linked piece convincing and thinking that it's an example of provocatively wrongheaded thinking.

One question, how much is this the standard techo-determinism, and how much is it social-determinism? When I first read the article the phrase that jumped out at me was, "I was arguing that this isn't the sort of thing society grows out of. It's the sort of thing that society grows into." Which (aside from being a vast over generalization) implies that technology isn't the determining factor, sociology is.

But, re-reading it, I am struck that the anecdote about the four-year old and the phrases like "this asset that's finally being dragged into what Tim calls an architecture of participation." suggest a very familiar evangelism of interactivity.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-12-08 12:15 PM
horizontal rule
98

Read, the differences are, to me, much more pronounced than the similarities, based on what I know.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-12-08 12:50 PM
horizontal rule
99

The entrance fee for poetry contests often got you a free copy of a book, it was like people were in effect forced to purchase books for the privilege of having anyone read their poetry.

"read" should be "own"

I am a person who consumes poetry without producing it. I used to try to produce it, but stopped trying.

This isn't much different from certain types of music which are almost entirely consumed by people who are also producers of that music, or used to be musicians. There seems to be a subgenre of prog rock specifically designed for drummers. And then there's the handbell and acappella type groups.


Posted by: Fatrman | Link to this comment | 05-12-08 12:58 PM
horizontal rule