Sunday, December 21, 2008

More new(ish)-media babble

I inched a bit closer to the 21st century this week, not only signing up with Twitter, but also taking my first careful read of one of those blogs that tell the truths you won't hear in the mainstream media. The discussion started deep in the comments to a post I made called "Welcome back, bloggers," and I'll reproduce it here, because I think it deserves a post of its own.
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Peter Rozovsky said...
As it happens, I've found another example to cite in the content/context argument. I gave the Daily Kos a fairly thorough read last night for the first time. I found this stimulating but wearying.

The viewpoints were congenial, the strength of the opinions bracing, and the commenters by and large intelligent. But it was a gathering of the converted. Everyone agreed with everyone else, not a perfect recipe for the democracy these folks think they are championing, and fatiguing to read.

Newspapers may be bland and limited, but at least they pay lip service to the idea of offering a range of views. And what will the righteous Kosites kick around when the mainstream media die?

One of the Kos articles also made an extremely common mathematical error, the sort of thing good copy editors are trained to catch. But then, copy editors are so mainstream media. (I wrote to the Daily Kos about this error. I will let you know when I receive a reply. I will not hold my breath.)

seanag said...
I do think the problem of the sameness and general consensus of self-selected communities is a big unanswered problem of the current era. While newspapers and magazines do tend to hew to a certain predictable part of the political spectrum, a lot people who are not that close to that cast of mind may still read them, and send a pointed comment to the editorial page, which others are then quite likely to read and comment upon in turn. It's not the same with the niche market internet media. But I don't know what the solution is.

Peter Rozovsky said...
My sentiments exactly. I invoked the editorial page in a discussion today. An editorial might be lame, and letters disagreeing with it might be from whack jobs, but the forum creates something like a debate. Even such a fine Internet site as the Daily Kos, on the other hand, looks like a vigorous, eloquent debate with just one participant.

In this light, one might see niche media as an unfortunate reification of an instant-gratification, Me-decade mentality: I want to read only what I want to read, written only by people who agree with me. We will suffer if this media model becomes prevalent. How much and in what ways, I can't say.

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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12 Comments:

Blogger Linkmeister said...

I was an early reader of Kos, back when there were 5,000 readers a week. Even then the comment sections were mostly full of me-too-ists. I usually don't click the comments links for just that reason. I still go to Kos periodically, but it's for the front page articles, many of which have useful info (particularly now that he's actually hired a polling firm to work for the site).

There's really only one blog where I religiously read the comments, and that's Making Light. 'Course, Patrick and Teresa say right on the front page "Our readers are the best thing about this weblog. If you’re not reading the comments, you’re missing half the fun."

December 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That's an interesting comment, since I'm guessing you agree with a good proportion of the position those commenters take. You're a good man!

And thanks for mentioning Making Light. I just took a quick glance, and it looks good.

December 22, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Teresa's a cousin by marriage, which was a helluva surprise when we discovered it. I'd been reading her blog for years when my widowed uncle up and married her mother.

There are sci-fi authors in there by the dozens (T&P are both TOR editors; she also moderates Boing Boing), but there are plenty of other people who just like the community.

December 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm no sci-fi reader, but perhaps I'll enjoy the blog's attitude. And who knows? I start hanging with enough sci-fi fans, and I may even read some of the stuff.

December 22, 2008  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

Usually with this internet stuff I say thngs like, "Well, it's early yet, let's see how this develops," but I think you're onto something very worrying here, Peter.

Newspapers, for all their faults, have done a pretty good job of representing the communities they serve - the whole community.

John Scalzi wrote an essay called, "I hate your politics," in which he guessed that about 48% of America is conservative, 48% liberal and 4% libertarian, but 80% of the internet is libertarian. And I think he has the comments to back it up. So the inetrnet doesn't really represent real life, but it's gaining and having an effect.

Taken together a whole bunch of internet sites can begin to represent a community - none do on their own and there don't seem to be many movements to bring any together.

I have found very little real debate or even discussion on line.

Boing Boing is a good example. A few months ago they posted a short fiction by Cory Doctorow about the future of the book. I saw a different future, and thinking he was this open-minded, open-source guy I used his story as the jumping off point for a story. I posted a link to my story in the comments because I thought it might get some debate going. My comment was quickly removed and none of my emails answered. I really don't think they're interested in anything that disagrees with their view of, "Wonderful Things." And they'll say it's their site, why should they be?

I noticed the same thing in some comment trail debates about copyright reform - once the comments start to be from two sides, one stops posting (I'm going to get all old and cranky here and say it's usually the younger posters who are so sure they're right and don't see any need for copyright and usually they get mad first and start calling you names - or maybe that only happens to me ;).

Maybe this will all work out great and people will easily find like-minded communities online where they can gain self-esteem and confidence and feel very secure and then the communities can all co-exist with one another.

That doesn't really jibe with the sci fi I read, but I am just an old crank.

December 22, 2008  
Blogger Dana King said...

Yes, too many web sites are like cable television news: they're only intended for people already drinking the Kool-Aid.

My beloved Spousal Equivalent is a Kossack, I think she reads it all every day, which is definitely not healthy. She used to send me posts all the time, until I started sending them back with editorial comments, since just about everything in Kos needs to be cut by at least a third, usually half. Unfortunately, as Peter noted above, editorial work is associated with the running dog main stream media, and is too 20-th Century for blogs. Of course, it's also becoming optional for the MSM, but that's a different rant, one I'm sure he is well acquainted with.

December 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Taken together a whole bunch of internet sites can begin to represent a community - none do on their own and there don't seem to be many movements to bring any together."

John, you may well be right about this. One would hope, though, that readers themselves read a whole bunch of sites or books or newspapers or magazines.

One wonders how the Webmasters of the sites where young anti-copyright readers post would appreciate having the contents of their sites plundered.

December 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

This "Kossack" thing ... I have just discovered that you weren't joking, Dana. These people really do refer to themselves that way. Do they think this cute? Do they not recognize the air of cliquish, prankish likemindedness this gives them? Do they not see the uncomfortable kinship between "Kossack" and "Dittohead"?

Whether reading the Daily Kos every day is unhealthy or not, I don't know. It probably is good to get a leftist alternative to the bland right-centrism of most media commentary. Just don't turn into a Kossack while you're doing it. Think Kossacks have a secret handshake for when they meet in person?

Incidentally, the Kos writer to whom I sent a correction has neither responded nor taken advantage of the easy opportunity blogs offer for correcting errors. He apparently thinks that if Candidate A spends a little over $32 million and Candidate B a little over $40 million, Candidate B has outspent Candidate A by "nearly 20%." He does not understand the concept of percentage increase. More likely, he just doesn't care.

And you're right. Copy editing -- or, more to the point, the particular interests, skills and knowledge embodied in good copy editing -- is a marginally desirable luxury, easily dispensed with when fiscal virtue, urgency or panic demands.

December 22, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Grins. I just gently nagged (via e-mail! No public embarrassment here!) a friend who wrote a blog post in which he neglected to use the subjunctive in a spot where it was required.

December 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

At least one could argue that the subjunctive is passing slowly out of use. One could not say the same for basic mathematical understanding -- unless one wrote for the Daily Kos.

December 22, 2008  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

I don't know Peter, it might be that basic mathematical understanding is passing slowly out of use.

Have you read Innumeracy by John Allen Paulos? I just checked and that book is now twenty years old. Wow.

(my v-word is "hiringsf" If there's any hiring going on in sf these days, I'd like to know about it)

December 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

John Allen Paulos teaches at Temple University, right down the street from where I work, but I haven't read the book. He's a public intellectual with interesting things to say, and he's in my town. I probably ought to read him. His sequel to Innumeracy was A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper. I wonder what he thinks now that newspapers routinely refer to "margins of error" without explaining the term or the reasoning that lies behind it.

I'd argue that the simultaneous decline of copy editing and rise of mathematical ignorance are an ominous combination, but no one except copy editors would care.

And your v-word makes the v-word hall of fame even if it is lying.

December 22, 2008  

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