Is the web the solution or the problem?

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caliban
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Is the web the solution or the problem?

Postby caliban » Fri Jul 20, 2007 12:10 pm

I just ran across this article which elucidates something which has bothered me for some time: the downside of the democritization of the internet, or, as one author puts it, "The Cult of the Amateur." Namely, is the explosion of blogs, on-line comments, and even, dear friends, discussion groups like this, really a good thing?

(The answer of course is that we are just fine, but everyone else is a problem :) )

I've been noticing my own response to all things bloggy, not only blogs themselves and the back-and-forth discussion, but even comments on all websites, ranging from Amazon reviews to comments on news and opinion articles on many mainstream websites: a mixture of fascination and horror. Essentially the implicit assumption is: if you can type it, it's valid and needs to be out there.

The problem is, with everyone clamoring to be heard, no one seems to listen.

Because I have a tendency to shoot-off my mouth, or, er, my fingers, I have mostly resisted in writing in response to every and any article I read, even to being occasionally loath to weigh in on discussion on this forum. I've noticed, however, that many others do not have any such barriers.

In additional to no one listening, the shift in the evolutionary landscape had led to a coulterization of debate. When there are thousands of blogs and dozens of comments to each entry, the easiest way to get noticed is to take extreme, take-no-prisoner positions and to run down any nuanced response. (It was in part my irritation at this attitude that led to my recent essay on criticisms of J. K. Rowling elsewhere on this site.)

Fortunately the discussions here are much more satisfying--although I think it is intelligent design :) rather than blind luck. A small, carefully chosen community means we are able to listen to and hear one another.

In other words, we're elitists. Ha. And I'm not sorry about it. I am allergic to prescriptive censorship--I dislike and distrust it when someone shuts off someone else's speech. But we all need to exercise internal censorship. Not every thought I have is worth spouting. Otherwise all we get is an increase of entropy. There are more words, but less information is getting transmitted.

But I would be curious to hear about other people's reactions. Is anyone else annoyed by the rising din of voices?

Or perhaps this post is another rise in entropy.... :)
"Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won't work." --Thomas A. Edison

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Postby Windwalker » Fri Jul 20, 2007 4:44 pm

I share the mixture of fascination and horror that you describe. I'm no Luddite, and appreciate the quick access to information made possible by the Web (as long as I can reasonably trust its accuracy). I like having far-flung communities with shared interests as well as the plethora of easily available beautiful images. It is also nice to have the opportunity of self-publication for those of us who are either less talented than we like to think we are -- or who happen to write in a style that does not align with the tastes of the arbiters of the particular moment.

But I have problems with the medium, as well. Many (though not all) blogs of the semi-famous and ambitious are frankly crass self-promotions. Beyond the obvious "coulterization" and too much transmission with too little reception, this method of interaction leads to odd relationship distortions.

Personally, I don't have enough stamina or time to develop separate personae or deal with people's fantasy constructs. After the usual preliminaries, I like to meet potential friends face to face. You cannot really "know" a person from online meetings. Most livejournals make me feel like a voyeur, because they seem to invalidate any notion of privacy. They also flatten nuances by making little distinction between degrees of intimacy. And seeing these countless entries with few or no comments makes me feel depressed and disconnected... let alone how time consuming it is to hop around following links (a very natural human reaction). So I tend to be very brief in my comments on other sites, if I say anything at all. After all, few statements are irreplaceable gems!

The issue of quality haunts any creative endeavor. Before, everything had a half-life of sorts. A bad book or movie might eventually sink into oblivion (although some perennial moldies make me wonder!). The problem with the internet is that nothing ever gets erased. So yes, I also find the din deafening and I'm trying to develop coping strategies so that I can hear my own thoughts, as well as the thoughts of the friends whose judgment and opinions I value.

Edit and P.S.: I should also point out that I first met most of the friends on this forum on the internet. So the Web has greatly enriched my life.
For I come from an ardent race
That has subsisted on defiance and visions.

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Postby intrigued_scribe » Mon Jul 23, 2007 7:19 pm

Excellent, highly insightful points. :) I've also found that the internet and its nearly countless aspects has significant benefits and equally prominent drawbacks. As has been fittingly stated here, the availability of information (in full agreement with the assertion that it must be accurate) and the potential of finding those with similar interests is vast. In such cases (like our community here :) ) productive thought and exchange of ideas is given ample chance to flourish.

caliban wrote:

The problem is, with everyone clamoring to be heard, no one seems to listen.


All too true where the other extreme is concerned, particularly in large forums. Those with divergent standpoints sometimes tend to clash and try to dominate other opinions with their own, rather than listening. (And that, to me is reminiscent of many political arenas, but that's another subject entirely...)

Windwalker wrote:

Many (though not all) blogs of the semi-famous and ambitious are frankly crass self-promotions.


Also a great point. This in turn brings to mind--though it's only partially relevant--the double-edged sword of free speech, specifically the fact that the concept's very nature also makes it something that can be used to great effect or abused. Examples of other such concepts come to mind, but rather than letting this turn into an essay itself, I'll just say that this provides excellent food for thought.

Heather

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Postby sanscardinality » Mon Aug 06, 2007 9:42 pm

Groups of evolved apes are the problem ;)

Sorry I've been gone so long. I took a semester off from school to focus on music and so most of my spare time has been spent with a brass slide and an old guitar, often in the local watering holes. I haven't cracked the Internet as a recreation in months. This has led me to three conclusions regarding the din on the internet:

1) It's really just a meta (mega?) juke-joint.

2) People are just as wonderful, ugly, beautiful and awful in person - only there's less of them.

3) No one has anything new to say, so they better mean it.

When I read a blog that is misinformed, I think of it as the person who's had one too many trying to tell me why she thinks Steinbeck is great. Incoherent, but sincere. Not worth "listening' to intellectually, but refreshing that the person has a love for an idea. Sometimes, something interesting pops out, but really it's about the biography of the the speaker. This is much easier to appreciate in person. In short, I think the problem with the Internet is that it's too hard to socially contextualize the information.

Peace,
SC
Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.

Oscar Wilde

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Windwalker
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Postby Windwalker » Tue Aug 07, 2007 11:38 am

sanscardinality wrote:Sometimes, something interesting pops out, but really it's about the biography of the speaker. This is much easier to appreciate in person. In short, I think the problem with the Internet is that it's too hard to socially contextualize the information.

Yes, sometimes the Internet seems like a huge college bull session -- except everyone is set on transmit, rather than receive.

Also, I hope the music career becomes both a reward and a success!
For I come from an ardent race
That has subsisted on defiance and visions.

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Postby sanscardinality » Wed Aug 08, 2007 6:49 pm

Windwalker wrote:Yes, sometimes the Internet seems like a huge college bull session -- except everyone is set on transmit, rather than receive.


This is a common issue - within and without the Internet I think.

Also, I hope the music career becomes both a reward and a success!


Thanks much. I'm back in school now, so it's taking a back seat, but things are going well.

-SC
Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.



Oscar Wilde


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