yeah, the respected ones never lie.

I'm not going to read Keen's Cult of the Amateur. There are a lot of potential excuses I could use here, but the pertinent ones are that a) the basic premise is so wrong I can rarely make it through skimming an article covering the book, and b) I'm to busy to waste that time.

This comes up because two rather new pairs of jeans have been stained. not just like, regular use dirt stained, but (through different circumstances) the kind of stains that require effort. After struggling to get grease out (and potentially trashing the pants), I googled it. The experience was worth noting, because my normal pattern for searching for how-to's relates mostly to techy stuff. The most recent example of this was the attempt to get non-DRM ringtones to play on my Nokia 6300; it didn't go well.

Searching for stain removal tips was painless. I typed in grease stain, and clicked on the least spammy looking result. Quick, painless. The interface of the page was hideous, it wasn't supremely functional, but I got the advice I wanted. all sounds good to me.

I thought later, in the shower, how one of Keen's points (as far as I understand) is that the internet and it's ability to give equal access and weight to amateurs will result in a technocracy, where only the internet savvy will be able to find access to the good content. Well, looking for technology related stuff, people who are somewhere in-between in terms of tech savvy (I'm theory, not practice), need to parse dialogue they may not natively understand, and usually accept the need to dig through a lot of 'I know guy, MSFT suxx0rs' when trying to find drivers for an old scanner.

The internet is filled with information put forth by amateurs, and, unshockingly, the most accessible information in terms of content is usually the most accessible information in terms of accessibility.

The assumption that one needs to be tech savvy to get useful content via an internet connection has to come from someone who is either somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of the internet (such as my mother) or someone who forgets that anything needs a skill set to use it -- reading everything in the NYT as though it was gospel is just as stupid as reading everything online without suspicion -- and the assumption that less modern media are somehow easier to use forgets that the technology in play was not always invisible.

The cult of the amateur is another little thing in this society; at time we refer to it as democracy. Everyone gets an opinion, everyone has a RIGHT to that opinion, and each individual needs to decide for themselves. We go with the will of the crowd from time to time. What's enshrining old media as the high point in cultural representation is the exact thing that's presenting the internet as a better way.

If you're afraid that too many individual voices will drown out the 'respectable' ones, than the question is more about the power and validity of that assumed credible source, rather than an invading, more popular option.


paparazzi panopticism.

Communication Theory 101: Foucault and the Panopticon. The general idea, skipping past the actual specifics and the path to the point, is that people who know they may be watched, without being certain WHEN they are watched, police themselves.

This is, at core, the major principle behind law enforcement. Punishment is an issue of deterrent, rather than justice. In short, we don’t commit crimes not only because it would be wrong to do so, but out of fear of getting caught.

Enter the modern era’s obsession with celebrity personal lives.

I was watching Lionel Ritchie on CBC’s The Hour, and one of the questions he was asked was whether or not his daughter, Nicole of Simple Life and drunk driving fame, was ‘okay’.

His answer is irrelevant.

The point of Foucault’s ideas was that people policing themselves, a society that polices itself, is the end result of a watched society. If you look at any one of the pre-eminent gossip blogs, you’ll see that the exact opposite is in effect,

When Britney, or Paris, or Lindsay finally accepted that privacy no longer existed for them, that paparazzi were ALWAYS watching, whether or not they could see them, they had to make a choice. It was either to live their entire lives as though the entire world was watching (because, most of the time, it was) or to live as though no one was watching at all.

So we get upskirt shots as they come out of limos, and celebrity sextapes, photographic evidence of idiotic behaviour, whether neglecting the safety of a child, or neglecting standards of decency.

Foucault, apparently, was wrong. When faced with a panoptic reality, societal norms aren’t reinforced; they’re demolished. This is the same reason constant surveillance is the hallmark of an unjust state – if watched closely enough, everyone is a criminal, is a failure, an embarrassment. Ergo, if you’re equally despised whether you do something small wrong, or live like a hedonist hero, you might as well have the fun.

The interesting thing about this is that it can be read one of two ways; either they have decided to own up to their behaviour, radical transparency style, and not care what people say, or they’ve simply decided that any behaviour will be derided, so why bother behaving.

In no way am I excusing the current rash of drunk driving celebutantes. I’m just looking at the impact this has on theory, because everyone else just seems to focus on the decision to either mock or pity them.


i've been busy.

I attempted to explain the simplest truth of modern technology to my father recently. Here goes,

The easiest way to change the world is to take something people like to do, and remove either the time-, or space-bias from that activity.

In other words, take something static in time or location, and make it movable in one or more ways.

This isn't necessarily huge innovation, but it accounts for most of the new technology that people obsess over.