Questions for Social Media Man

We teeter hysterically on the consequences of rumor
about President Eisenhower’s viscera.

These are Marshall McLuhan’s words (circa 1955) about the impact of electronic media on the human psyche and society.  Substitute ‘twitter’ for ‘teeter’ and virtually anything for Eisenhower and you have a compelling picture of the present age. Information moving instantaneously to all parts of the globe, he writes, is explosive. 

We can, and do, have world events pouring through us like electricity.  I can easily become a twitching, twittering nerve cell in a massive identity-robbing global network.

What are the emotional impacts of this for the individual?

Do we have a moral obligation to be present to all of this information – to feel it?

How can I live if I do not put up walls or selectively empathize?

Who do I become if I do put up walls and selectively empathize?

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.