The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Bob Stepno § The structure of journalism today / 2014-03-10 18:42:32

Once upon a time on the internet


John Battelle posted a nice rumination on EPIC 2014 today—how cool is that? It’s still amazing to realize that, back in 2004, this flickering Flash video from two 24-year-olds in St. Petersburg (well, maybe Matt was 23) made it all the way out here to San Francisco and played on screens like his. (Remember, this was before YouTube. The propagation of video across the internet was still a shaky thing.)

But I do want to add one twist. In his post, Battelle grades EPIC 2014 as a forecast by checking its predictions against reality. A snarky commenter calls him out:

This may not be the best example of long-term prediction. The most important statement in the video is the last one – “perhaps there was another way” – which reveals it to be just another desperate propaganda tool by the people who are scared by the prospect of the New York Times turning into a print-only “newsletter for the elite and the elderly.”

Now, I don’t know about “desperate,” but, truth be told, it was definitely a propaganda tool. Matt and I made EPIC 2014 because we’d already given one presentation about the future of news—a slide show made in PowerPoint, filled with graphs and data points and earnest bulleted exhortations—and it was a total clunker. It put people to sleep. So EPIC 2014 was our second try, and I think its most distinguishing characteristic was not that it was a future forecast but that it was a story. It was a fable, actually!—populated by the broad, archetypal characters that the form demands.

And grading it as a story, I (not-very-humbly) give it an A, because thanks to good luck and good timing (and great narration) it spread fast and far—from John Battelle’s desk to Rupert Murdoch’s and beyond—and it sent chills down a few spines along the way. It made people gasp, it made people laugh (yes, the name “Googlezon” is supposed to be funny) and it bent a few careers off in new directions.

I wouldn’t trade any of that, ever, for the cold consolation of being right about the future.


Maybe the fable vs forecast dichotomy tells us something too: if we really want to imagine Big Changes in the deep future (Batelle’s post begins by contrasting big predictions vs simple, easy forecasts), even a decade away, you’ve got to check your reality principle at the door and go for broad-archetype storytelling.

Even when you think about how we describe our whacked-out present, it’s in the terms of these skewed storytellers. I mean, sure, there’s some homage paid to forward-thinking nonfiction futurists like Marshall McLuhan or Karl Marx or Daniel Bell, but we keep coming back to Orwell and William Gibson and George Lucas and Blade Runner friggin’ Minority Report because those were the stories that gave us the language with which to imagine the future, and typically — because they had freer rein to imagine wilder alternatives — turned out more accurate than either a 10-year-forecast or our conservative Epcot Center future.

NB: This is not an abdication in any way of my “science fiction has no monopoly on ideas” stance, because the other storytellers we use to imagine our present include folks like Homer and Proust and David Foster Wallace, etc. It’s the richness of imagination, is the key thing.

Exactly – narratives rule, especially when you go Far Out. I’m interested in how those narratives can get better in terms of the details, and how to tie them to the Present case.

“Remember, this was before YouTube. The propagation of video across the internet was still a shaky thing.” This made me laugh out loud for some reason. I remember carefully dowloading and saving flash videos and wmv files to CD so I could spread them around to my friends still on dial up. I’m sure Googlezon was on some of them.

The readers also demand more posts that fit the tag ‘Matt Thompson’s voice.’

This is my New Year’s resolution; I promise. So far, I’m failing. I have so many thoughts on what’s posted, though, and so many thoughts to turn into posts! But I don’t understand how it’s suddenly February.

Whoah what’s with the single T? Is this like a 2011 thing? Well, in that case, you can call me Robn.

I’ve decided to go the other way.

Yeah, I think I’m with Tim.

I’m vowing a remake. Although I’ve threatened this for the past year, today i put a stake in the ground. but this time with a twist. So lets put the Creative Commons thing to the test. I’m starting a googlezon doc, email me if interested in collaborating.

The snarkmatrix awaits you

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