Evgeny Morozov’s latest op-ed, The Death of the Cyberflâneur, reminds me of two separate articles that I’ve read recently: Ian Leslie’s In Search of Serendipity from Intelligent Life and the many many articles on or referencing Susan Cain’s latest book, Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.
But if today’s Internet has a Baron Haussmann, it is Facebook. Everything that makes cyberflânerie possible — solitude and individuality, anonymity and opacity, mystery and ambivalence, curiosity and risk-taking — is under assault by that company. […] Besides, isn’t it obvious that consuming great art alone is qualitatively different from consuming it socially? And why this fear of solitude in the first place? […] IT’S this idea that the individual experience is somehow inferior to the collective that underpins Facebook’s recent embrace of “frictionless sharing,” the idea that, from now on, we have to worry only about things we don’t want to share; everything else will be shared automatically. […] Sadly, frictionless sharing has the same drawback as “effortless poetry”: its final products are often intolerable. It’s one thing to find an interesting article and choose to share it with friends. It’s quite another to inundate your friends with everything that passes through your browser or your app, hoping that they will pick something interesting along the way. […] This is the very stance that is killing cyberflânerie: the whole point of the flâneur’s wanderings is that he does not know what he cares about. —Morozov
When the internet was new, its early enthusiasts hoped it would emulate the greatest serendipity machine ever invented: the city. The modern metropolis, as it arose in the 19th century, was also an attempt to organise an exponential increase, this one in population. Artists and writers saw it as a giant playground of discovery, teeming with surprise encounters. The flâneur was born: one who wanders the streets with purpose, but without a map. […] We no longer “surf” the information superhighway, as it has become too vast to cruise without a map. And as it has evolved, it has become better and better at ensuring we need never stray from our virtual triangles. […] Editors with an eye for such things, what Zuckerman calls “curators”, are being superseded by “friends”—people like you, who probably already share your interests and world view—delivered by Facebook. Twitter is better at leading us to the interests of people beyond our social circle, but our tendency to associate with others who think in similar ways—what sociologists call our “value homophily”—means most of us end up with a feed that feels like an extended dinner party. […] But there is a reason why Amazon is successful and bookshops are closing: in a world of infinite choice, efficiency is hard to resist. … Serendipity, on the other hand, is, as Zuckerman says, “necessarily inefficient”. It is a fragile quality, vulnerable to our desire for convenience and speed. It also requires a kind of planned vagueness. Digital systems don’t do vagueness very well, and our patience with it seems to be fading. … But when everyone can get the same information in more or less the same way, it becomes harder to be original; innovation thrives on the serendipitous collision of ideas. —Leslie
To be continued.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” —Albert Einstein
I’ve been meaning to write about teaching an evening introductory computer class for low-income residents with this awesome organization called Byte Back, but haven’t found the time just yet.
So last night, because we had skipped our internet lesson the last class due to connection problems (we did a lesson on copy and paste instead — that’s another story), we ended up focusing on using the internet to do basic searches and how the more “clues” or keywords you give the search engine, the better it can find what you’re looking for. Anyway, as it would happen, Google’s doodle yesterday wasn’t a doodle at all, but a black block, so I had to opportunity to explain to my class why and what Google was protesting by being blacked out. It was not on the lesson plan, but we spent about 20 minutes talking about what piracy is (not privacy, as they originally thought!), why it is indeed a problem, and whether SOPA/PIPA was the solution.
It was difficult not to espouse my own views, which made it more rewarding when, as a class, they decided that having a free internet was worth more than possible censorship by a blanket policy to block websites based on copyright infringement and that while piracy is still a big issue, the onus should not be on websites such as YouTube (they were all familiar with YouTube) to monitor and track everything that its users post because the Digital Millennium Copyright Act already forces something similar, except you’re innocent before proven guilty (i.e. if an artist tells you, the website, to remove something due to copyright infringement, you have to remove it).
Now, I don’t think I can explain all the intricacies and nuances of SOPA or PIPA, but it was nice to be forced to explain SOPA/PIPA in a simple way to an audience without the vocabulary to fully understand things such DNS, IP, or ISPs.
From this Intelligent Life article:
“Editors with an eye for such things, what Zuckerman calls “curators”, are being superseded by “friends”—people like you, who probably already share your interests and world view—delivered by Facebook. Twitter is better at leading us to the interests of people beyond our social circle, but our tendency to associate with others who think in similar ways—what sociologists call our “value homophily”—means most of us end up with a feed that feels like an extended dinner party.
To be continued but something about Facebook as a public thing to me, the fleeting nature of Twitter, slower pace of blogs/seemingly more permanent, longer analysis, using FB and Twitter in different ways while sharing similar things and where I think my blog fits in.
<-- That should not make sense to anyone. I will revisit.
“Work in public. Reveal nothing.” —Robin Sloan
I recently started cross-posting on Twitter and Facebook. I figured if I was posting links and things on my public Twitter account, I could also post said links and things on my Facebook as public items. Some friends don’t do this because their followers on Twitter (formed presumably through similar interests) differ from their connections on Facebook (presumably personal friends and family). However, I realized that the majority of the things I post aren’t personal in nature and I would therefore not require some expectation of privacy.
That realization brought me back to that entry on public thinking and blogs as a public good I posted awhile back — not that I would even call half of the content I post useful and for the public good. But, it did remind me that these ideas and musings I toy with in my head (now, this kind of runs counter to the article in question that led me to even write this post) could only benefit from the transition between nonpublic and public because writing for a public, whether for two people — Hi Machiko & Mickael! — or two million people, forces a clarity in thought or at least thoughtful curation. Isn’t this a nice balance of private and public? To sit down and write privately, to think in solitude, then to share, exchange, discover and refine ideas with a public?
“When you let people inside your head, they come away smarter. When you work in public, you create an emissary (media cyborg style) that then walks the earth, teaching others to do your kind of work as well. And that is transcendently cool.”
Anyway, I was compelled to write this because today after I posted a link to a story I had just read about groupthink and creativity, I had two complete strangers comment on the post, which was kind of one of those paradigm-shifting moments where I started thinking about my Facebook as a public thing and wasn’t bothered by it. I still have privacy settings and most of my “private” things such as personal photos are only shared with friends and family. Twitter is much easier — everything is public.
I think this shift of thinking about my Facebook as a public thing to share ideas and just interesting things is the reasoning behind Google+ (which I am very slowly migrating to) — or at least what all of the Google+ enthusiasts praise about it.
Speaking of Google/+, I absolutely hate the personal search results.