Tim Carmody's Posts
David Weinberger has a thoughtful look at Reddit as journalism. He calls it “community journalism,” a distinct variant of “citizen journalism.”
Two gems to put in your shoe:
- What’s interesting to a community is not enough to make us well informed because our community’s interests tend to be parochial and self-reinforcing. This is not so much a limitation of community as a way that communities constitute themselves.
- One of the mistakes we’ve made in journalism and education is to insist that curiosity is a serious business. Perhaps not. Perhaps curiosity needs a sense of humor.
Via Jay Rosen.
I had an eclectic but perhaps extra-fulfilling day using Twitter today. First, I wrote a lot of tweets: I hand-counted 165, including @-replies but excluding DMs. But it didn’t strike me as all that atypical a day, which might be all the more striking. It was Twitter at its best. I was reading and writing all day, just having a great time carrying on half-overheard conversations in public.
I wanted to hang on to just a few of those conversation nodes here, inspired partly by two tweets in particular:
Today was almost entirely a flow day for me. Call it navel-gazing if you want, but I want to hang onto it, mostly for the following reason:
When I was 7–10 years old, if you’d told me there’d be a machine that would let me read new things all day, I’d have fainted from happiness.
So here’s a little of what was flowing in my Twitter stream today.
Read the rest of this entry »
I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M DOING THIS
I’m going to jump in the middle of Robin and Gavin’s exchange on the DC Comics reboot, even though I explicitly told both of them that I didn’t want to read about it and had nothing to say about any of it, because some things Robin just wrote sparked some ideas that I want to follow here.
Today, you don’t go work at Marvel and DC because of what they are; you go because of what they have. It’s almost like a natural resource. Superman and Batman are potent substances. They have this incredible innate energy, this incredible mythic density, built up over decades. They really are like petroleum—a bright eon of individual organic contributions all compressed into this powerful stuff that we can now burn for light, for entertainment, for money…
How do you weigh the opportunity to work on an old titan like Superman against the opportunity to create something wholly new, and to potentially profit from that creation? Is it only sentimental or emotional value that draws an artist to the former—or is there more?…
Maybe what we’re talking about here is the difference between being an entrepreneur and being a custodian. We tend to think of artists as entrepreneurs, right?—inventors, trailblazers, risk-takers. To make meaningful art is often simply to try something new.
Now before I start, I want to stipulate a few things. First, I want to take seriously Robin’s two primary arguments in his post:
- “I want to talk not about Superman’s universe, but our own—because I think this strategy says something interesting about creative economics today.” Let’s call this the explicit argument.
- Comic books themselves, as content, not just the strategies of their publishers and artists, have something to say about this. Let’s call this the implicit argument.
And I want to add a third point, that I’ll call the unconscious argument. It’s something I don’t think Robin necessarily intended, but which is entailed in the way he formulates the problem:
Everywhere in Robin’s post where he writes “artists,” you can substitute “journalists”—and probably many other nodes in creative economies, broadly construed.
Eli Pariser’s op-ed in the New York Times, “When the Internet Thinks It Knows You”:
Democracy depends on the citizen’s ability to engage with multiple viewpoints; the Internet limits such engagement when it offers up only information that reflects your already established point of view. While it’s sometimes convenient to see only what you want to see, it’s critical at other times that you see things that you don’t.
The Times had run an earlier story on Pariser’s The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding From You. It takes the easiest possible reading of this idea, applying it to media choices and political disagreement:
If you want to test your own views on personalization, you could try a party trick Mr. Pariser demonstrated earlier this year during a talk at the TED conference: ask some friends to simultaneously search Google for a controversial term like gun control or abortion. Then compare results…
With television, people can limit their exposure to dissenting opinions simply by flipping the channel, to, say, Fox from MSNBC. And, of course, viewers are aware they’re actively choosing shows. The concern with personalization algorithms is that many consumers don’t understand, or may not even be aware of, the filtering methodology.
Reading Pariser’s op-ed, though, I got the sense that he’s not nearly as concerned about narrowing of opinions on the web as he is about the narrowing of interests.
“[I]f algorithms are taking over the editing function and determining what we see,” he writes, “we need to make sure they weigh variables beyond a narrow ‘relevance.’ They need to show us Afghanistan and Libya as well as Apple and Kanye.”
If you spend much time on the Internet, you know that there’s clearly no shortage of disagreement. But it’s more likely that you spend most of your time and energy disagreeing with people who care deeply about the same things about which you already care deeply.
You’ll argue about whether LeBron James or Derrick Rose should have won the MVP, whether or not Mitt Romney has a shot in the Iowa caucuses, or why Apple decided to pre-release information about the WWDC keynote.
We dive deeply into a range of pre-defined topics, tied to our professions, hobbies, needs, and histories, and sharpen our swords with opponents who do the same.
And on the margins, maybe that’s okay. Mass culture throws a whole lot of stuff at its audience that I, like you, have no intrinsic interest in. The time, energy, and cognitive surplus we once devoted to those things we used to consume only because “they were on” are all much better put to use tackling subjects we actually care about.
But it does mean that we’re often unaware of what’s happening in the next room, where there is frequently plenty of useful stuff that we could port into our own special areas of interest. We need to make sure we’re taking advantage of the web’s built-in ability to move laterally.
More to the point: those of us who produce and share content that other people read — and at this point, that’s almost all of us — need to trust that our readers are lateral movers too, and encourage them to do so.
I’m reminded of this blog post from last year, predicting the death of the niche blog and the rise of the lens blog. The lens blog can tackle any subject, but always from the point of view of a subset of enthusiasms or perspectives that find clever ways to find the same in the different, and vice versa.
Hyper-specialization, like information overload, is an old, old problem. But exactly for that reason, we shouldn’t be surprised to see it pop up as a potential problem with our new tools and new media, too.
In short, if you’re really worried about search engines or social media overfiltering what you see, worry less about your reading being one-sided and more about it being one-dimensional.
From Robert Krulwich’s 2011 commencement speech at UC-Berkeley’s Journalism School:
Some people when they look for a job in journalism ask themselves, What do I like to do and Who can take me there? Who can get me to a war zone? To a ballpark? To Wall Street? To politicians, to movie stars? Who’s got the vehicle? And you send them your resume and you say, “I want a seat in your car.” … And you wait.
But there are some people, who don’t wait.
I don’t know exactly what going on inside them; but they have this… hunger. It’s almost like an ache.
Something inside you says I can’t wait to be asked I just have to jump in and do it.
So for this age, for your time, I want you to just think about this: Think about NOT waiting your turn.
Instead, think about getting together with friends that you admire, or envy. Think about entrepeneuring. Think about NOT waiting for a company to call you up. Think about not giving your heart to a bunch of adults you don’t know. Think about horizontal loyalty. Think about turning to people you already know, who are your friends, or friends of their friends and making something that makes sense to you together, that is as beautiful or as true as you can make it.
And when it comes to security, to protection, your friends may take better care of you than CBS took care of Charles Kuralt in the end. In every career, your job is to make and tell stories, of course. You will build a body of work, but you will also build a body of affection, with the people you’ve helped who’ve helped you back.
And maybe that’s your way into Troy.
This speech makes me want to run around the entire internet, giving a million high-fives.
(via @edyong209, who gets high-five #001)
This is another quote that’s too good to be true. Joel Kotkin on the problem with the liveability index:
We need to ask, what makes a city great? If your idea of a great city is restful, orderly, clean, then that’s fine. You can go live in a gated community. These kinds of cities are what is called ‘productive resorts’. Descartes, writing about 17th-century Amsterdam, said that a great city should be ‘an inventory of the possible’. I like that description. [emphasis mine]
I like that description, too! Kotkin liked it so much, he put it in his book. I like it so much, I wanted to find out where it came from.
And it turns out Descartes didn’t say that. And the phrase doesn’t mean what Kotkin thinks it does. But there’s a reason both the philosopher and the new meaning got mixed into it.
Get the genealogical-detective lowdown in a Storify by my Twitter-co-archeologist Wilko von Hardenberg after the jump. (I really like his idea that this would make for a great game/exercise in the classroom.)
Also, if you missed it, see why Martin Luther King and Mark Twain didn’t say what you might think they did either. Similar psychology at work here, too. And it shows that it isn’t just the cut-and-pasters on the interwebs who make these mistakes.
Hi gang. I’m spending the week in residence at kottke.org this week. Here’s what I’ve written so far:
- Napoleonic preproduction: On Stanley Kubrick’s never-filmed movie about Napoleon.
- The Beastie Boys, Annotated: A short guide to pop-culture references in the band’s lyrics.
- Fuck you, pay me (Simonides of Keos): The first Greek poet (probably) to write for money and to write poetry that was primarily intended to be read, not sung.
Join me throughout the week for more bunly blockquote goodness.
Plenty of things worth writing about Kevin Kelly’s post on “Techno Life Skills.” Kelly’s point of departure is that learning how to master any specific technology is less important than learning how to adapt to, use, and understand any technology that emerges (or that meets your newly emergent needs).
Here are a few notes about how technology frames us, how we think, and what we can do:
• Tools are metaphors that shape how you think. What embedded assumptions does the new tool make? Does it assume right-handedness, or literacy, or a password, or a place to throw it away? Where the defaults are set can reflect a tool’s bias.
• What do you give up? This one has taken me a long time to learn. The only way to take up a new technology is to reduce an old one in my life already. Twitter must come at the expense of something else I was doing — even if it just daydreaming.
• Every new technology will bite back. The more powerful its gifts, the more powerfully it can be abused. Look for its costs.
And a few more about accepting the limits of your own knowledge, and how your ignorance isn’t a defeat:
• Understanding how a technology works is not necessary to use it well. We don’t understand how biology works, but we still use wood well.
• Nobody has any idea of what a new invention will really be good for. To evaluate don’t think, try.
• Find the minimum amount of technology that will maximize your options.
I think these last three observations might be both Kelly’s most powerful and the most true.
Update: I forgot maybe the number-one smart, accept-your-own-ignorance observation, which Alan Jacobs rightly pulled:
• You will be newbie forever. Get good at the beginner mode, learning new programs, asking dumb questions, making stupid mistakes, soliticting help, and helping others with what you learn (the best way to learn yourself).
Tim Young, curator at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, is on our team (wait for it):
“I grew up with a penchant for reading all the time, anything I could pick up. A lot of comic books. I was mad about comic books, mad about cartoon books,” Young shares with a sheepish grin. “But there was nobody looking down their nose saying ‘they’re not real.’”
Young’s childhood fascination never abated. The door to his office is plastered by miscellaneous placards, but the Marvel Comics poster dominates. Young’s mother was a nurse and his father worked as a mechanic for a national airline. They were Tulsa bourgeois — an earnest, lower middle-class family with four kids who went through the local public school system. Tim, the third boy, and his younger sister spent their free time and summers at the public library. He recalls being dropped off in the mornings and floating eagerly among the books until his wide-eyed presence became routine. In reading he found an unusual calm but a simultaneous torrent of new worlds and stimulation.
“The book that the librarian stopped me from checking out, because I’d read it so many times, was called the D’Aulaires’ Picture Book of Greek Myths. I was obsessed.”
- The secret society
- The Truth About the East Wind
- What are the new liberal arts? (comment thread)
- Of blogs and bridges
The original Snarkmarket post on D’Aulaires’, from 2006, is missing from our archives, leaving only broken links behind.
This can mean only one thing.