March 11, 2013

I've been wrong before and I'll be there again
I don't have any answers my friend
Just this pile of old questions
My memory left me here
In the field of opportunity
It's plowin' time again

5th Avenue and 27th Street, NYC Following a 1905 Snow Storm

* Excellent interview of Belarus-born technology writer Evgeny Morozov. excerpt:

Question: You are a feared reviewer of other technology pundits' books … you demolished Jeff Jarvis's book Public Parts, called Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs biography "pedestrian", you regularly ridicule internet consultant Clay Shirky via Twitter – do you enjoy a fight?

EM: They don't like to fight, that's the problem. They are ripe for ridiculing because they are ridiculous in many cases, and the only reason they are advancing is because they plug in the conceptual and theoretical holes in their theories with buzzwords that have no meaning – "openness" or "the sharing economy" – what on earth is the sharing economy?

What I've tried to do in my reviews is engage seriously with these bullshit concepts, as if they were serious – to see whether an idea such as "cognitive surplus", of which Clay Shirky is very fond, has any meaning at all [emphasis added]. I do close readings of things that aren't meant to be read very closely. That is how our technology discourse works, there are lots of great bloggers, soundbites and memes, but once you start putting them together you realise that they don't add up. And making people aware that they don't add up is a useful public function.
Q: What does the future hold for newspapers?

EM: It depends on what the newspapers hold for the future. A lot of newspapers have embraced the digital rhetoric too eagerly, and have not articulated their own value to the public. A lot of what we hear from internet pundits is that everyone should be building their own reading lists, everyone should be on the lookout for interesting stories themselves, I think that logic is very regressive, backward, anti-democratic and stupid.

I'm fine with a staff of 300 people reading 5,000 stories everyday and condensing them into 25 pages that I myself can read. That's a wonderful model. The newspaper offers something very different from Google's aggregators. It offers a value system, an idea of what matters in the world. Newspapers need to start articulating that value.
Q: When you're online do you watch TED talks?

EM: There are many problems I have with TED. It has created this infrastructure where it very easy to be interesting without being very deep. If TED exercised their curatorial powers responsibly they would be able to separate the good interesting from the bad interesting, but my fear is they don't care as long as it drives eyeballs to the website. They don't align themselves with the thinkers, they align themselves with marketing, advertising, futurist crowd who are interested in ideas for the sake of ideas. They don't care how these ideas relate to each other and they don't much care for what those ideas actually mean. TED has come to exercise lots of power but they don't exercise it wisely.

* The Mark E. Smith Guide to Writing Guide.

* “One part of my mind was doing the writing, and God knows what the other part was doing.” —- Paul Bowles


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