Chewing the cud

I’ve been collecting thoughts for the last couple of weeks, and my cup hath finally overfloweth. For the month of May, here was my food for thought:

  1. One of the things that boggled me the most in college was journalists’ rigidity against advocacy. In the mid-2000s, Newsman Nick Clooney took a harrowing journey with his famous son to Darfur. Immediately following, he embarked on a tour to gather American attention. To convince the crowd of how urgent Darfur was, he said “I did what every journalist knows not to do: I became an advocate.”
    Having to distill research and as many as 40 interviews into a minimum of 450 words, reporters are likely some of the most knowledgeable on their beats. Despite this, they restrain themselves from speaking out. Only on shows sponsored by the likes of PBS or NPR do we rarely hear their opinions—usually a battle of expertise or reflection 20 years ex post facto rather than advocacy.
    Yet in recent days, journalists are finally advocating for something: Journalism’s survival, be it ideals or industry. No one is more knowledgeable of what happens in the newsroom, what ideas are being hashed, than journalists. In general, everybody should pick and choose battles, but I find it ironic that only when the issue is as intimate as their professional livelihood do journalists finally pick up their double-edged sword.
  2. Condalmo recently put up a variation on Stewart Brand’s theme from Ben Greenman, editor for The New Yorker.
  3. Information wants to be free, and everyone wants to be enslaved to that free information, irrespective of its truth, its value, or its appropriateness. These extroverted introverts are more exposed than ever, but also more protective than ever because that exposure cannot be sanely or safely regulated. The result is a broad ontological shift, a turning inside-out, where the information that should be hidden is shared and the information that should be shared is hidden. My friend Roddy feels perfectly comfortable tweeting or changing his status update to tell me that he is ambivalent about baths, or that he is watching a lizard on his windowpane, but he is reluctant to introduce me to his new girlfriend. More interestingly, he may add his new girlfriend as a friend on Facebook and possibly even change his status cryptically to indicate that he is involved, but he will not bring the real human around. If this is any indication of future trends, and I think it is, these social-networking technologies will prove corrosive to coherent identity and narrative…

    The most recent WTF is Social Media also echoed this variation. I’ve often made arguments for the social Internet by pointing out how one communicates differently in person, in a letter, on the phone, online. Each does something the other cannot. This argument is becoming well-worn, but one thing Brand’s story brought up for me is whether, instead of being extrovert-introverts, the Internet-as-bosom-buddy is really a way to reject accepted social rules and cultural norms in the physical world? This doesn’t encompass Internet use entirely, but perhaps the Internet enables that collective and unspoken backlash.

  4. Third World v. Developing countries: I’m curious about what term other people use. Although “third” suggests ranking, I use the former because “developing” implies a bias toward industrialized nations. From my experiences, I don’t believe any type of society–agrarian, nomadic, &c.–outranks any other; all are different and all have advantages over one another. To me, “developing” also equates wealth with acquisition and conspicuous spending.

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Filed under: Food for thought, Internet, Journalism, , , , , , , , ,

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