Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Twitlebrity and the Suck of Locale

Scanning topics of interest, I see Dave Winer is complaining about agism, Jon Taplin is extolling the virtues of the grassroots bottom up governance style, and some bloggers are still trying to figure out how to get the most out of the Vanity Fair 6 kerfluffle.

The bottom up decentralized means devolves quickly into the attention seeking means that shuts down criticism to enhance page views against other sources that make snark a policy as a means to enhance page views. It becomes an age of celebrity, of image over substance, but worse, lots of little mobs claiming hegemony: in short, high school.

Information (data in play) has an aspect similar to gravity: all locations pull against all other locations for attention. Some call it ego. When you consider that blogs, feeds, Twitter etc. are giving rise to the dominance of the attentivores (thanks to John Cowan for that term), maybe this is just devolution doing what it does best when provided a means and opportunity.

The problem of the network community is the Panglossian notion that given means and opportunity, people tend to do the right thing. People tend to do the selfish thing if that is what the market is buying. Consider that in 1988, use of the Internet email for private messages and jokes was harshly frowned upon and even a firing offense in some companies. In 1995, we worked a discipline of parsimonious texting such that one scoured each email for excess verbiage.

Then came RSS, feeds and broadband and the war for attention was on. RSS, BTW, is Winer's creation.

In 2010, it is about the Twitlebrity, the attentivore, the world where cred is obtained by having the most followers despite adding no contribution intellectually or otherwise. It is the age of the hot chick geek and the guy who made millions spamming the system. Sure everything else is out there, but it is undifferentiated.

All networks start as flat democratized systems. Over time the importance assigned locales and topics result in attention flowing into these sinks and as a result, controls and filters emerge to direct traffic, say attention. Right now the system is in a stage of puberty where trivia reigns supreme and efforts to change that will be dismissed as unhip, old media against new, old people against the young and so on. IOW, we’re having fun so don’t be a party pooper. And by the way, if you disagree, we'll make sure nothing you post gets a single view from "our crowdsource".

That is the brave new and different, the sagacity of the 30 something leading the 15 something, to a world of, aging twitlebrities trying desperately to keep the crowd alive and at a virtual distance because, hey, we're important and we need our vacations and rest.

And that is the ground against which Jon proposes to empower yet more grassroots. I don’t disbelieve; I think the timing given the zeitgeist and general immaturity of the players may be hopelessly optimistic.

There is a rough or at least ironic justice in the Vanity Fair 6 affair. The very technologies they extol created the era of snark as journalistic policy to which they fell prey. It is the old saying about laying down with dogs and getting up with fleas. Trying to dismiss claims that they should have known better is like claiming a fake tan is noteworthy: self-seeking. That Dave claims agism is a problem a short decade and a half after a generation of young hypermedia enthusiasts ran shivs through their aging bosses is simply karma.

It's a bitch but own it.

We built the most powerful communication system in history so we could rant about age, government and who is the current most hot hottie who we are assured we must take very seriously while they tweet about their lunch. Life among the mammals, for sure.

Meanwhile, the web brought me this wonderful toy box for making videos, publishing songs and generally having fun making stuff. I got mine. May you also. ;)


Amber said...

I got mine. A fine post, BTW. I was kind of squirmy reading Tap's latest post (thinking it verged on Pollyana...even by my standards). Thanks for aiming the spotlight...now I know what was bugging me. And I think you're right.

Len Bullard said...

Jon is looking for means. He went to DC, I suspect, expecting to find activism and instead found entrenchment and don't-get-me-involvedism. Tough room.

My point has to do with self-sufficiency and a desire for but discipline of the need for attention. Anyone producing art from digital media to yarnwork wants to be noticed. The difference is what you are noticed for. Last night I was walking the dog in the rainy mist and noticed the handwoven yarn that was keeping my head warm and I thought of the wonderful friend whom I've never met but who loved me enough to make that hat for me. And I am very grateful for such love and hope to return it when provident.

Tap's not wrong but he wants to change people. I simply want people to change and only if that is genuine, from inside, like the warmth of the hat but not the hat itself which without the hand that made it, is just yarn.

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