Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New Info on Info

I marvel at the discussions about reading, writing and every other thing on the Internet which aim to study just what good it does us, or if it does us ill.

As some have noted - concerns about Information are as old as .. well, as Information:
"The continuity I have in mind has to do with the nature of information itself or, to put it differently, the inherent instability of texts. In place of the long-term view of technological transformations, which underlies the common notion that we have just entered a new era, the information age, I want to argue that every age was an age of information, each in its own way, and that information has always been unstable.
The writer of the essay, Robert Darnton has other ideas to consider, too:
"Other stories about blogging point to the same conclusion: blogs create news, and news can take the form of a textual reality that trumps the reality under our noses. Today many reporters spend more time tracking blogs than they do checking out traditional sources such as the spokespersons of public authorities. News in the information age has broken loose from its conventional moorings, creating possibilities of misinformation on a global scale. We live in a time of unprecedented accessibility to information that is increasingly unreliable. Or do we?

I would argue that news has always been an artifact and that it never corresponded exactly to what actually happened. We take today's front page as a mirror of yesterday's events, but it was made up yesterday evening—literally, by "make-up" editors, who designed page one according to arbitrary conventions: lead story on the far right column, off-lead on the left, soft news inside or below the fold, features set off by special kinds of headlines. Typographical design orients the reader and shapes the meaning of the news. News itself takes the form of narratives composed by professionals according to conventions that they picked up in the course of their training—the "inverted pyramid" mode of exposition, the "color" lead, the code for "high" and "the highest" sources, and so on. News is not what happened but a story about what happened."

He is writing mostly to shore up support for the institution of The Library, an actual building and location with real books and papers you can hold in your hand. And yes, studying the creation of those books and documents also indicate vast amounts of information had been shuffled to fit the needs or concerns of it's creators.

A recent report in the NY Times takes a look at reading and the Internet, called "Online, R U Really Reading?":

"On paper, text has a predetermined beginning, middle and end, where readers focus for a sustained period on one author’s vision. On the Internet, readers skate through cyberspace at will and, in effect, compose their own beginnings, middles and ends.

Young people “aren’t as troubled as some of us older folks are by reading that doesn’t go in a line,” said Rand J. Spiro, a professor of educational psychology at Michigan State University who is studying reading practices on the Internet. “That’s a good thing because the world doesn’t go in a line, and the world isn’t organized into separate compartments or chapters.”

Just recall that no one really taught classes in how to use text messaging, and yet somehow, Tennessee ranked last month as the "Textiest State in the Southeast". (And is "textiest" even a real word??)

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to do a major project, perhaps a thesis or book, on how computer technology, wireless, and the internet have changed how we communicate and even think. Then again, movable type did the same thing, just slower. I have a theory that technology speeds up the rate of change and even the arc that nations follow. Faster evolution and devolution.