The Internet (aphorism and metaphor)
We float on an estuary, with a river below. It flows fast as light beneath, but on top, the long stories and the bold drift, accreting and learning and losing; entropy.
The bold stories, like news headlines and the latest “celebrity” pawn, can distract and entertain, but seem to teach only those who truly look. Why do they appear so quickly, only to disappear just as fast? Well, the traditional answer is to divide the approximate number of people interested solely in such information, by their average IQ (gauged from the comments threads, fair and square); multiply that by the cosmological constant (20 or so as of this writing, give or take a couple of terms I can’t remember), and divide by pie. Mmmmm, pie……… Yeah. So. Where was I? Yes. Now take that number, and bake for 25 minutes or until the crust is golden…mmmm….. pie crust……. You get the drift.
The problem with all the traditional answers (crowd reactions, attention spans, ‘virality’, and so on) treats the items of interest (ephemeral ephemera) as though they had the same information value as the long, slow stories they appear next to. That’s the problem. They don’t.
You don’t have to take my word for it. (But it helps grease the wheels, so go with me on this, OK? OK.) I’m sure there’s a study or two, peer-reviewed to within an inch of its life, retracted, redacted, resubmitted (no, this doesn’t end up with the beaureaucrats [why can I never spell
buereau beareua bureaucrat that word?] of Vogon, though you can often detect their thumbprints) and published without fuss in some scholarly journal somewhere, that will confirm these gut feelings of mine. And if there isn’t, I’ll just dig around until I find one that does – that’s the beauty of the internet!
So. From my perspective, I see the same behaviour patterns repeated over and over again. The watchers of the television programmes whose presenters use words like ‘fave’, ‘have your say’, and ‘facebook us’ tend to be the watchers of the bad news, and bad news sells product, and product makers pay… huh? Where did that come from? No, no, no, no, no – it’s not that at all. That only ever worked on the telly.
What really happens is the watchers are the bearers of bad news, and that creates enthalpy, ownership, and competition. Who can bring the worst news to the largest audience the quickest? It’s not Rupert “Run from the Light” Murdoch, it’s not Reuters AAP, it’s not even slashdot or Dugg or whatever those cut-and-paste publishing things are called. It’s everyone with a mobile phone and a 3G (or better) connection and a paid-up phone plan. It’s the people who can’t distinguish between a megabyte and a microchip, or a call cap and a phone cover. (And don’t get me started on KiB and MiB! Witless marketing morons, die!).
In other words, it’s your daft uncle, your tone-deaf neighbour, your sister, your husband, your kids. And let’s face it, they can’t really be trusted to remember their mobile number, let alone who did what to whom – unless they also have crappy 120×177 iPhone “footage” of the event, and even then they can’t be relied on as eyewitnesses with a cheat sheet. These are the forces driving the glitter on the internet now. They can’t spell, they punctuate like Touretters (my apologiesFUCKto sufferers of Tourette’s SyndromeSHITeverywhere), and most often they can’t complete a sentence, let alone a coherent account of whatever news it was that happened to catch their eye and dazzle them for long enough to get their thumbs twitching. Twitter Twats, I’m looking at you.
What about the boring stuff? The *real* internet? Ah, that will have to wait for another time. It’s there, I just have to go and whip up another baby recipe to post on the Evil Atheist World Domination Headquarters…
Luckily for humankind the nerds still rule.