Sunday, July 01, 2007

Fanning the Flames

Here, all rolled up in one mercifully short article, is the recipe for the demise of all knowledge in written form. A viral contamination of facts, orienting around the fact that fact-checking is less fun than sitting in the cafe reading Wiki on your laptop. Strangely, the author appears to be advocating against his own confessed lax practices.


Rufus said...

What's strange about these articles is that people will describe going to a public library as if it's some sort of Sisyphean task. I think what the internet people underestimate is simply human curiosity and a desire to wander around in the real world. Granted, I think it's becoming rarer.

Holly said...

But the library is intimidating. Kind of like the world is. Imagine how scary it is to go to Romania, if going to the library is just too much bother? Maybe the feeding tube of information to our homes is turning people agoraphobic? I mean, it's normal to be apprehensive about otherness, but it used to be pretty normal for people to get the urge to check out other places in person. Now, it seems like it's just Too Scary and Full Of Bad People. Is it possible to know too much "useful information" and get cut off from experience?

Hiromi said...

Ugh. ugh ugh ugh.

I use Wikipedia, but only as a starting point. A brief glance at the surface of things.

I know this is a stale observation, but people have always been lazy. They'll ask a friend or acquaintance about something, and then leave it at that without further exploration. Or use a very general source, such as short magazine articles or TV news. And not everyone wants to go through the trouble of evaluating the veracity or reliability of the source.

To me, what is new is the *ease* with which people can obtain information. Type search string in Google. Blam. Results with Minimal Effort. What is also new is that this has become a standard and accepted practice. I think that because you can get a variety of sources quickly, the information somehow seems valid. These days, it seems like "getting both sides of the story" or "getting all viewpoints" somehow means a lack of bias, and therefore proximity to the truth. As if accepting a variety of points of view is the Best Practice, rather than formulating a well-thought out view with some freaking depth.

Rufus said...

Holly- It sort of goes against the idea of the writer as someone who watches the world and writes about it, doesn't it? I remember being appalled at the kids in the Paris hostel who would go out for an hour or two each day and then spend the rest of the evening on the hostel internet or watching the english-language television. Although, again, I do have to say that it was only the American kids who did that.

Hiromi- It is strange, isn't it? It's so easy to find a group of facts, or pseudo-facts that support any preconception that you have. The point isn't to have an intelligent opinion, but to express whatever opinion you have vehemently.

Holly said...

You might then be appalled to know that the guy who wrote this article, perhaps as a direct result of getting flamed all to shit by people who still believe in research, was offered two lucrative writing commissions, both from large-ish American publishers.

(By "flamed all to shit," I mean that even his lame please-call-off-the-dogs request was graded for grammar and content. It fared poorly.)

Rufus said...

Most publishing houses engage in a sort of conspiracy of mediocrity. The good news, I suppose, is that he got flamed. The bad news is that the people flaming him probably don't work for major publishing houses.