Thursday, March 31, 2005

Something Real Is Happening

I've been doing a lot of reading/writing/editing summaries of important works on cooperation across many disciplines: everything from synchrony to symbiosis to international cooperation to altruistic punishment to ... well, you get the picture. It's all for Howard Rheingold and the Institute for the Future's "New Literacy of Cooperation" project.

I've read all of this stuff before, but not in so short a time. When you review a large amount of interrelated interdisciplinary material so quickly like this, the picture that emerges is truly scary.

It's like getting a tiny peek through the keyhole of God's workshop while he's not looking.

Something real is happening. Believe (in) it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Myth of Quality Control

I recently watched this EPIC video about the rise of blogging and computer-generated media (like google news) v. the "quality control," journalistic ethics, and democratic values of traditional news and media (like The New York Times), and then talked with a friend about the whole issue. I know there is something good about the rise of a more diverse media smorgasbord but had a hard time putting my intuitive finger on it.

The key concern is that as people are able to have more control over the information they receive, they will increasingly only be interested in shallow trivia and not deep quality information. Anyone who thinks that institutions or elites are sources of quality control should take a walk through their local bookstore. Traditional media (TV, newspapers, etc.) are no more "quality" than anything else. They produce a product for consumption.

The value of a diverse media arena, even including parody like The Onion, is that individuals can track multiple information sources that filter for different kinds of quality. "Quality" is not a single scale ranging from good to bad. There are many kinds of quality.

Nonetheless, the real point is that if information is a product, tailored by the consumer (the ultimate in individualist libertarianism) then people will only consume what they want and never what they should. The Community is sometimes a necessary leader that needs to point out important things. This is the age-old political theory dilemma of "should the State follow where citizens lead, or should the State lead and citizens follow?"...

... and that is no trivial question.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Of Dreams and Belief

Ok, so I decide to read C.S.Lewis' A Grief Observed, right? I decide to snag a CD to play in the background. Perusing my collection, I get the soundtrack from "City of Angels," recalling the acoustic guitar bits at the end that I haven't listened to in a while.

Here's where it gets weird.

I'm reading along, and I get to page 45 where Lewis says:

"In which sense may it [faith] be a house of cards? Because the things I'm believing are only a dream, or because I only dream that I believe them?"

At which point I become aware that the Peter Gabriel song playing is "I Grieve" and the exact lyric that he is singing is:

"Did I dream this belief? Or did I believe this dream?"

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Blogging: The Public Lie

I've discovered something about blogs that I'm contemplating writing a paper on.

Blogs are not free speech.

I'm not going to blog that my boss sux if I want to keep my job. I'm not going to blog that my authoritarian government needs to be brought down if I want to keep what little freedoms I have left. I'm not going to blog that my sister is the most awful person in my life if I have to see her every Thanksgiving.

Erving Goffman, in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, talks about the many faces we wear all the time. The blog is a public face. The blog is the equivalent of what the President of the United States says on TV from a prepared speech that has been picked over by many writers and editors.

The blog is propaganda, not Truth.