Welcome to the Hegeldrome?

It's been about 3 weeks since I got my iPhone, and as I forecasted in my last post, my life is already completely changed! I have designed a custom ear-piercing so that I can implant a Bluetooth headphone DIRECTLY INTO MY EAR! No, just kidding! Megan talked me out of that one. But really:

We have entered a brand new age of digital literacy!

Or, at least I have. I have discovered that since I last spent a lot of time online, there are many great sites that provide an RSS feed, eliminating all the flashy business and most of the ads, so that I can have direct access to the text. With the help of Google Reader, a RSS managing web app, and the Google App, I can now see the updates to interesting sites in small, bite size pieces, from which it is easy to "hyperlink" to the full article!


This is, nothing less than a Darwinian leap forward for web content. All the dodos (YouTube, hopefully... what a horrible GUI! Not even its own iPhone App can save it!) will be hunted down and killed by Portuguese sailors. Metaphorically, of course. Those who adapt their content to the proper form will move forward, and I think that this can only be a good thing. Why? Because those who properly form their content sites are those with the better content.

I know this sounds like a strange, digital age argument for classical forms, but think of it the other way around; rather than rely upon the time-honored forms of literature, we are now going to be pushing forward to more innovative forms, and, more importantly, not just innovation, but innovation that is found to be useful and more conducive to its content.

Take YouTube, for instance, that I just bashed. It has been heralded as a synonym for Google, not only in ownership, but in the epoch-defining titles that pundits love to trumpet, hoping that they will be known as the soul who coined the term. But no one will ever be the YouTube generation. Here's why.

The site is: a very convenient means for sharing videos, that was made even more convenient when they made it possible to embed video in your web page. Your blog/social site/web page doesn't support video, or you don't know how to make it do so? Bam. Now it/you do.

The site isn't: a video Wikipedia. Enough said. The search tags are awful, as is 90% of the content. If you're looking for bullshit, you found it. If you're looking for the "Glittering C-Beams" speech from Blade Runner, then okay, maybe you found that too. But say, you want to find specific Congressional Testimony, then perhaps not. Why? Because nobody uploaded that video. The bottom line is, if you don't want to weed through the crap, you shouldn't even bother.

Now, I'm not saying that there is a web site out there that will give me something good about any subject, all the time. The internet is all about the search and link. Even a great search engine like Google only gets you about 30% of the way to a nebulous concept, the rest is up to you.

That's why I really like the RSS business. Now I can program 10, 100, or 1,000 different content providers into my little heirarchy, and then search those trusted sources for what I need, or what I might need, but of which I'm not yet aware. For example, in my "Theory" folder, I get the most recent updates from The New York Review of Books, The Anomalist (a review of parascience sites), Erik Davis' Techgnosis, and the journal N+1. In the "Comics" section, I read Dinosaur Comics and The Comics Curmudgeon, and in my "Associates" category I have updates from my friends and colleagues blogs (see the sidebar for their links). Now I have my own little newspaper, made of the sections and contributors I choose, all updated 24-7 and prepped for my mobile device, or computer viewing. Amazing!

And you can make your own, and share articles like how Dad clips out columns for you. Cool!

One of the articles I just happened across was from the New York Times Book Review, called Online, R U really reading? See how they made the "R U" just like you were writing online? Isn't that clever? The article asks the question that Luddite babyboomers would love the answer to: "Is this crazy internet fad going to make my children into porn-addicted, illiterate nerds?"

The answer, clearly, is no. The fact that people like the author of the piece forget, is that there are many more people than Luddite babyboomers in the world. What I mean by this, is that not only are there people in the world that don't have a healthy respect for To Kill a Mockingbird, and other falsely-attributed "classics" (ME, for one) there are also people who although they have the ability, do not read at all, or only read tripe. This was occurring long before the internet, and will occur for long after. 90%+ literacy is a relatively new thing, and the fact is that most people, even in our culture, have no desire to pick up any book at all. So a teenager wants nothing more than to write fan-fiction and read online celebrity gossip... fine. S/he probably wasn't a Jr. Proust anyhow. Not that they shouldn't be prodded towards have a bigger view of the world and culture than is on YouTube, but I think we should look elsewhere than your modem for the problem.

The "classical" element of culture has always been the minority, and probably always will. And I think most who consider themselves part of that culture would like it that way. I remember being able to flash my Philosophy Department credentials in order to get in a standing-room-only lecture by Zizek in New York; imagine if I had to go up to Yankee Stadium (by then, renamed the Hegeldrome) and buy $150 scalped tickets just to watch that lecture on the Jumbotron!

But, what about the internet? Is there any goodness in it for us high and mighty, classical-culturally inclined? Of course! Did you not just hear how I made my own custom newspaper with a few cut-and-paste's in five minutes FOR FREE? The nation's newspapers are going out of business? Fuck 'em! As long as there is online advertising to be sold, there will be more than enough knowledgable opinions online to sort through. And after all, newspapers aren't going to disappear; they are only going to lose some weight, long over due. For those who read them, you will never beat a printed sheet. You can quote me on that. But if the NYT stopped printing it's society pages, I know I wouldn't mind.

The internet is not a dreamland, however. There are censorship issues a plenty, and I'm not (only) talking about the government. But that is a theme for a further post.

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