musings of a mediabot

Posts Tagged ‘Internet

Someone has been picking up my haggard criticisms of the Internet and technological gizmos that keep us connected to others even if we don’t want to be.  Am I really wrong for being suspicious of the possibility that giving people more freedom will reap digital unicorns and rainbows (and maybe, just maybe, actual news I care about?), and not this crap?

Gillmor takes the hopeful stand that “the audience will make the decisions,” and that online media sources will be the cornerstone of our daily news-getting because the audience demands it.  How?  By reading, listening, and watching it, by posting comments about it, by writing their own blog posts about it. 

Gillmor concludes that we make our own news.  Sometimes, we do it consciously.  Sometimes, we do it without knowing we’re doing it, and then have to face the consequences.   Sometimes, it’s not really news at all, but important to Mom and Aunt Sally, and dammit still news because we deem it so.   So, what makes news newsworthy?  Does it even matter anymore? 

The Internet-loving people are taking over web caverns by storm and news is now whatever the hell we want it to be. Some of us still read newspapers (What are they? you ask), or piece together what’s going on in the world by scanning headlines of the Express. Some of us even find out about serious happenings such as the presidential debate by reading our friends’ Facebook comments.

I am all for unity and for people from around the world to participate in a conversation. But, if the conversation is considered newsworthy, I want it to be important and to affect more than a handful of people who have time to banter back and forth about whether or not the iPhone is better than Google’s Android. Ok, maybe more than a handful of people are interested, but still…What happened to critical thinking?

To answer such questions as:

  • What is the role of journalism with all of the changes in the digital media landscape?
  • Who is the reporter when anyone can make news on the Internet?

I offer one direct and simple answer.

To the journalists: Don’t stop working your asses off to help us be informed citizens. Don’t stop engaging us and making us think.

To the readers: Keep reading what the journalists say. Read a lot and from different sources. Read, period. Think.

So do I think the definition of audience and reporter should be considered one and the same?  No way.

There appears to be blurred boundaries on what exactly is a blogger.  Corey Doctorow et al. explain this very point in Essential Blogging (ch. 1) and conclude with various descriptors – “hunks of information,” “a soapbox” where editors and authors can post “whatever the hell we feel like,” etc. 

Regardless of the difficulty to really dissect a blog and what it is, – How can you dissect something that transforms with such ease and within nano-seconds of a collective experience? – it is clear that a powerful monster (interpret it as you will) is at play and quickly maturing at lightening speed. 

There are many questions to be pawed at and toyed with and regurgitated for further discussion when it comes to blogs.  But one that particularly has been nagging me is How can a simple statement of a handful of sentences long give birth to a discussion of anywhere from 2-50 (or more!) people, strangers no less!, and how do these collection of perspectives, and sometimes very colorful personalities, add value to anyone’s life? 

Dan Gillmor in We The Media points out that members of today’s online community who contribute to our understanding of the world, and react to and interpret what the media offer to that understanding, are in fact getting sucked into a black-hole of sorts.  A most interesting passage that brings this to mind is Gillmor’s attribution to Marshall McLuhan in his work Understanding Media where McLuhan explains our adoption of digital media as a “technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society.” 

Holy crap, that is deep.  And very, very true.  The rapid explosion of blogs attest to this.  I once thought of blogs as random touch-points where you could hop into the brain of this stranger who obsesses about food or into the brain of this geek who likes to spill secrets about this new gadget or into the brain of this pissed off consumer who bought stale rice cakes.  I was wrong to think that, surely, blogs cannot be true reflections of our reality.

People lie out there.  Not everyone has their facts; not everyone researches before making claims, not everyone apologizes when they misguide others.  However, I would be an ignorant citizen if I thought that blogs are random thoughts that random people contribute to out of boredom, out of selfish money-hungry reasons, out of a need to get noticed.  Maybe I should stop being so cynical, don’t you think?  And maybe, alas, I am starting to.

So, back to my question: Do blogs and the elements that make up the blog (the original author, the commentators, the links, the various wikis, etc.) add value to our lives?  Gillmor and Doctorow et al. would say Yes.  I say Yes. 

And this one (pro)blogger would say Hell yes! and would yell out from the rooftops that blogs = reality.

It is clear that we blog (including yours truly) because we feel compelled to the mysterious force of the Internet that has woven itself into the fabric of our daily lives.  We are a technologically-creative race.  We are a new hybrid of people, half-temporal and responsible for everyday functions, and half-everlasting – part of a digital landscape that will never die as long as there is the Internet and portholes to the complex web of blogs.