This is your Brain on New Media

There’s been a firestorm of late about the amount of repetitive stories on RSS, particularly in the technical blogs. Michael Arrington declared open war on embargoes, which touched off an insightful article from Louis Gray. (Thanks to this article from Smoothspan for sending me over.)

Louis writes:

While I look forward to banging through my Google Reader feeds every day, I can pretty much bank on seeing the same story, spun a different way, a good dozen or two dozen times by every single tech blog – even if it’s clear that they are just reporting that someone else reported the news. If you see a story has been covered already and you have nothing to add – leave it alone.

What is most interesting to me here is the personal and societal. We’re the guinea pigs in a new media reality. I would really love to hear a voice as incisive as Marshall McLuhan’s to help me understand what that is doing to my brain. We have here a media that can be treated either as hot or as cold. It is neither entirely overwhelming or intensively participatory. Neither is is somewhere in between – it’s something other than the media we’ve seen up until now. Its character is entirely dependent on the reader.

This media calls to the forefront each person’s ability to choose, and it’s likely for this reason that it’s becoming the arena for a brilliant hashing out of interpersonal ethics – When do I speak and when am I silent? What obligations do I have to the people who listen to me? What obligations do I have to myself when I participate in this? How much responsibility do I bear for the overall state of the media?

Still cooking these ideas…any insight welcome.

3 thoughts on “This is your Brain on New Media

  1. Maybe we need to view the articles as a conversation, where sometimes a repeat with a different wording serves as a hat tip, providing a context of broader consensus. A way of saying – this matters. It seems to me that an emergent communal vision is part of what this new media is reaching for. It is not the mass media moguls and peddlers who define priority, rather a self selected community of peers. To much self censure might destroy what to me is a major value in this resource, a community which serves a filter, focusing me on the items most relevant to my life.

  2. don’t forget the stupid-mail-forwards-effect since there are always new people discovering email for the first time, they inevitably forward all the stupid mail forwards.. so you never quite get rid of the chaos. Same way with blogs and blog conversations, there are always and will always be newbies who don’t know how to parse this new media..but learn only by contributing to the media, not just by consuming. (and they may always be the majority as well)

    that’s one, and two is that just the sheer amount of information and people we are talking about really pushes beyond the limit of what any person can digest/relate to.

    Conversations where no one person is consistently listening are a challenge..

    i think eventually we will need to put up virtual walls just to keep ourselves sane — which who knows, might be somehow related to autism.(?)

    all of this starts to sound like the Gemara’s discussion (in berachot) of how much that is going on in the actual world right before our eyes that we are blind to, (angels, sh”dim, mazikin, etc) simply so we can continue to function normally.

  3. AL – I like the idea of reposting as showing that I am listening – a sort of reflective listening for the digital media. I think you’re right that this is what’s happening when people reprint and link to their source.

    What’s happening when people reprint without linking? A sort of petty plagiarism, I suppose. It’s also a miscarriage of the relationship that the listener has to the originator. “He who says something in the name of the one who said it brings salvation to the world…”

    Yitz – It is overwhelming; I also need to filter to stay sane. It’s a fascinating process though, consciously setting up the filters that up to this point in history had been defined either by location, culture, or habit.

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