After blogging dozens of On the Radar type posts “like Thursday’s”:http://kennsarah.net/2006/07/27/on-the-radar-10/ for the past four years, I have to admit it: it’s a lot of work. Slavishly cutting and pasting select quotes, formatting, and writing the copy is something I’ve thought of as fun ever since I first saw Mark Pilgrim’s “earlier efforts”:http://diveintomark.org/archives/2002/10/28/i_need_a_name_for_these_lists back in 2002, weeks before I started blogging myself. But, lately, I’m not so sure.
My desire to troll my news reader every week for the purpose of reposting the links on my own site has started to seem downright insideous: sucking away valuable time that I should be _creating_ content, not regurgitating it. Even the word “content” is troublesome — as if it were this soulless ether that we just pump out for the purpose of consumption by the blogosphere. I think the word I really mean to use here is “stories.”
The web — and its predecessor, the “Bulletin Board System”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulletin_board_system — has always fascinated me in its ability to connect people through thoughts and ideas. I spent countless hours as a slacker teenager BBSing in front of MTV and arguing about the merits of…well, the “SysOp”:http://the-forgotten.org/ only knows what. But it gave me the opportunity to connect in a very real way with a community where thoughtful dialog was valued. We were telling our stories, whether they were actual stories, or debates, or artwork, or source code.
Six months, a year ago, I would have talked about what I think made Wonkette successful and makes Gawker successful, to a certain extent, and other blogs: A strong, defined personality with a sense of humor about themselves. An ability to filter news quickly and to recognize, you know, what is interesting to other people as well as interesting to themselves, and finding the balance between those things.
What I think is changing is that people have now become addicted to the rapid update. You know, the not just 12 times a day; 18 times a day, 24 times a day. And itâ€™s almost physically impossible for one person to do that.
— ??Ana Marie Cox?? on David Pogue’s blog, “Wonketteâ€™s Ingredients for a Successful Blog”:http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/?p=102
When we were introduced to the Internet in the early nineties, the prospect of cheap, instant communication across vast distances was exhilarating. I found myself spending hours and hours in front of the ad supported, dial-up email from “Juno”:http://www.ebuddies.org/informed/computers/juno.html, writing friends all over the world. Those were thrilling, innocent times, before Wikipedia and Google and Digg and blogs. Before we realized that too much information can be a “bad thing”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_overload. Before we used words like “attention economy”:http://www.google.com/search?q=attention%20economy.
I’m highly suspect of the attention economy — the idea that your attention, your thoughts themselves, will be monetized and commodified, and that even attention itself can become a sort of currency for the exchange of goods. I’ve found that many places on the web are steadily heading in this direction, creating a culture that is becoming numb to all but the most immediate and easy-to-digest information, lacking depth and insight. Digg has just launched “Swarm”:http://labs.digg.com/swarm/, web app that lets you watch news stories break and gain attention in real time. I find it to be both brilliant and terrifying, but this is the future: the web will continue to demand more and more of our attention as we learn to process information at an ever-increasing pace. And, by “process”, I mean just about anything other than “think deeply about.”
It is a wonder of the world, the Web. I have facts at hand by the thousands about everything from the different kinds of government to the names of the stars of television shows I’ve never even seen. I’m smarter, then, with my computer on, but not much deeper. I worry that my knowledge of the world is actually growing shallower, in fact, because for every idea there are a dozen articles and Wikipedia entries to read that allow me to avoid thinking for myself.
— ??Paul Ford??, “Followup/Distraction”:http://www.ftrain.com/Followup.html
All this to say that I’m starting to wonder about the process of my contributions to the echo chamber. These On the Radar linkdumps have kept me well informed, but less thoughtful, always providing an easy escape from the mild discomfort of rerouting a few synapses. If this blog is to really convey something meaningful about our story, I think I’d like to devote time to writing more thoughtfully, rather than collecting the detritus of a thousand other bloggers.