Extending the discussion on digital culture

I have a hodgepodge of interesting stuff I’d like you to look at, to build upon what we discussed in class Wednesday. Focus on the Carr and Jarvis pieces and skim the rest. I’d also like you to be hunting around for other writings that tap into the issue raised here.

Please make a comment or two in the next few days — not necessarily by Friday. Thanks.

Nicholas Carr on how digital culture (and the Web in particular) is rewiring our brains, or at least might be. And take a look at Carr’s blog.

• On the issue of public vs. private, take a look at this view of “publicness” from Jeff Jarvis. (Another view on this.)

• On self-promotion, see the recent Wired cover story on Julia Allison, although I’m not — repeat NOT — suggesting you follow her path. Just interesting to think how and why celebrity culture develops within the context of digital culture.

• Finally, what does all this publicness, self-promotion, and Googlification of life mean for doing journalism (not to mention simply getting and keeping a news job) in contemporary society? (For an academic perspective, and another taste of Mark Deuze, you can read this recent article on “liquid” journalism.)

p.s. NPR has a series of work on digital culture that you might find interesting.


7 Responses to “Extending the discussion on digital culture”

  1. 1 Briana C September 13, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    Carr’s piece about how google is making us stupid was an interesting read. On one hand, itmade me feel better to think that there is a reason why i don’t typically enjoy reading long (44 page) articles.. jokes… but it also reminded me to scrutinize. That’s my job as a journalist. Every up has a down, and every action has a reaction. He presented us with both the good and the bad that comes from the web, and i think we need to drift towards that happy place in the middle. It was particularly interesting when he said, “as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.” Comparing us to pancake people, he theorizes that we as people will become dense. I think he has a point here. Often times, i can’t remember certain information that i have found on the web, but, i can remember how i found it using different key words or tags on google. Interesting.

    As for the debate on public vs private, both authors had good points. almost anything taken to the extreme will turn out to have a negative effect, but as jarvis states, the publicness of the internet is a good thing as long as we have the power to control what about us is made public. The threat that we face is when the control is shifted out of our hands into the hands of others… for example how celebs have to deal with the gossip bloggers and the paparazzi. That has to be annoying… and i would hate for that kind of publicness to become the norm.

    On self promotion and digital culture, i think that Julia Allison is a genius. The article referred to her as a journalist, and a good one at that. I think its the mix of her personable appeal, her creativity, and her ability to use the web that sling shot her into fame. The web was just a tool, but she used it like a pro. her blogs and twitter things give her fans, if you will, a real sense that she was a real person, and that they know her. She became a personable celebrity, and people like that. She used the internet to connect and reach out to people… which is what it was created for. Brilliant.

    When it comes to journalism, this article on The Editor’s Weblog shares some insight: http://www.editorsweblog.org/analysis/2005/10/mainstream_media_vs_journalism_vs_the_in.php
    It pits the mainstream versus journalists versus the internet. But, if the genuisess in each of these fields would just figure out how to optimize what they are each so good at and work together, i think it would do much more good for the public than to see these groups in opposition to each other. It looks toward the future of journalism with realistic scrutiny, and illuminates the most inportant factor… money. Check it out, it’s a good read.

  2. 2 Caitlin W September 14, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Briana’s comments are excellent! I read through Carr’s piece, and although I won’t say that the impact of super-fast and super-succinct news (and entertainment, etc.) has NOT affected us, I guess I like to believe that people’s attention spans can still be stretched when stories are written interestingly enough to keep people engaged.

    The rest of the stuff I skimmed, including the link Briana posted and it’s very interesting. I wanted to link to something I read in the paper copy of the Statesman today, a story about the fact that the Statesman, along with many other papers, is being sold. You can find it here: http://www.statesman.com/business/content/business/stories/other/09/14/0914statesman.html

    I feel like it is a very local take on the things we’ve been discussing in class, and was excited (and perhaps a little worried!) to discover it in the paper this morning.

  3. 3 Holley N September 14, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    I think Carr makes an interesting point here. At times, I find myself in his same predicament, unable to focus on one text, and I think it is because for the last few years, I read more on the Internet than I do anywhere else. The organic nature of the web, linking us to a wealth of information at every turn, has shortened our attention span. He talks about the Internet being more convenient to him as a reporter, which is interesting, because for me, I don’t even know what it is like to report without the Internet. I’m not saying using the Internet is necessarily a bad thing, but there is something to be said for really digging for information. I mean let’s face it, typing a word in the google search bar and deciding which link to click on first isn’t exactly the most difficult thing in the world. A final note on this article…It’s really scary to me to think about the human brain being an “outdated computer.”

    As far as “publicness” is concerned, I think Jarvis’s argument is a valid one. I mean, I tend to be one of those people that puts limits on my Facebook profile, and stays away from making my address or phone number available on the Internet. I guess because to me, the idea of anyone in the world being able to find out all about me is a little scary. On the other hand, I have to agree with Jarvis’s argument that it allows us to keep up with friends we would otherwise lose contact with. But, I think his idea of controlling our publicness is key. However, beyond us being able to forgive each other for youthful indiscretions, I think also knowing your photos could be googled by future employers may make us think twice about some of our actions. So, maybe to some extent, this “publicness” could help us make better choices. And, I think this is what Friedman was talking about in the Nytimes article when he talks about his reaction to the lady in line being different today because of his awareness of the public and popular online world.

    On the Julia Allison note, I took a look at her website, and I really like the layout, and considering the most recent post is from today (a few minutes ago,) I’d say she knows what she’s doing. It’s incredible that now you can launch yourself into stardom by promoting yourself online, or (in a less extreme scenario,) you can put your work online to get hired. I found this website http://jobsearch.about.com/od/jobsearchblogs/a/jobsearchblog.htm and I thought it was interesting that now not only do we have guidelines for resumes, but we have guidelines for what should and should not be available to others on the web.

  4. 4 Caroline Page September 15, 2008 at 12:16 am

    I have heard more elderly individuals (specifically my grandmother) discuss how our generation can not sit still and be without some sort of technological device to keep us occupied… it’s true. I am a major multi-tasker and at most points have my phone out to call or text (as we discussed in class – we would never want to miss an important call) and am emailing while listening to music. I have become so impatient when a computer is slow to open applications or internet connections are weak. The digital age has definitely changed the way I function and how my brain operates. I want quick results and I hop around from one subject or thought to another. Carr’s thoughts on whether or not Googling is making us dumber is very valid in my eyes. The idea of going to the library, checking out stacks of books for research and thumbing through card catalogs is foreign to me (and probably most students today). However I love books and can find myself immersed in a good book. That does not happen as often as I would like, but it’s not impossible for me. When it comes to the vast opportunities via the web, I like to take it all with a grain of salt. I never want to become someone who doesn’t pick up a book and read, but I don’t want to look at the Web as the enemy and assume the worst out of all new technologies.

    The issue of public vs. private digital information is something that I have a lot of thoughts about because I struggle with the idea that anyone can find out anything about anyone else – pretty much at the press of a button. Jarvis’ piece on this issue was interesting, but I didn’t agree with all of his views. Of course I’m on Facebook and I’m an obsessive emailer, but I feel that I am cautious about the information I reveal to the whole world. I have never been all that “into” Facebook and of late have even considered getting off because I don’t think it adds a lot of productivity nor has much positive value on my life. Many of my friends are what you would consider “intense facebookers” in that they love to look at random people’s pictures and “creep” on people we know and/or those we’ve lost in touch with. I definitely get the fascination with finding out about day to day details and events in people’s lives, but I’m constantly shocked by the incriminating material people post about themselves. This has come some with age (my freshmen year – 2004-05 – was when Facebook hit the scene and spread like wildfire), but I remember how careless I was at times about pictures of me that were posted. Of course I have pictures of me drinking and those that are less than flattering (i.e. when I’ve been a bit over-served), but I would never allow a picture of me to be posted where I was doing something illegal or post a quote or wall comment that could be considered inappropriate. My opinions on Facebook are just an example of how public our world is today and therefore how scary that can be. Jarvis addressed how young people today are able to keep in touch with long lost friends, which is true, but my thoughts are that if I really want to keep in touch with someone, I do without the help of Facebook. Honestly I don’t want to try to keep in touch with people whom I’m not close to in the first place because I feel it aires on the side of superficiality. Don’t misinterpret me – I’m not trying to “take a stand” about social network sites, such as Facebook, but I am weary of the total accessibility of anyone to my personal information.

  5. 5 Jane Kim September 15, 2008 at 1:47 am

    I totally agree with Carl’s view that we inevitably begin to take on the qualities of the intellectual technoligies that we use. Before, people used to read deeply and actually remember the information they read, since it was difficult to access the information again unless it was in their heads. However, now people know links and tagwords to the information they need, and they can retrieve it at any point on the Internet, but they may not necessarily know what exactly the information was. Even as I think of this, I’m thinking, “Oh, that totally makes sense, since saving whole chunks of information uses up more memory than just saving reference points that send you to that information,” which just proves I’m thinking of the human brain in terms of computer memory.
    I think the very fact that we know we can access that information through the Internet anytime we need, makes us feel like we don’t need to memorize the information and so we don’t. In my parents’ generation in Korea, they used to study the dictionary and memorize it page by page, and after finishing one page they would rip it out, because knowing they would not be able to look at that page again made them remember the information more desperately. These days, we rarely spend time memorizing information – we just Google it every time we need it again. I believe this does contribute to making our brains lazy, and it is a little frightening at how quickly our brains gravitate towards the easy way.

    On the issue of the advantages of publicness, I guess it’s good for people who are open and want to make connections with the public. I, for one, am a very private person and I don’t let anybody know my private business. I don’t use Facebook or Myspace because it would annoy the hell out of me if someone I did not want to know about me, somehow found me out. I do use Cyworld, a kind of Korean version of Myspace, but only because they have very good security measures that you can choose. I have chose my settings so that only the people I have added as friends can see my postings and pictures and other people can not even search for me or see any of my postings.
    Last semester I took a Web publishing class and a guest speaker mentioned that he almost lost his job because he had helped his friend create a website that later morphed into a pornographic site, and his name was still on the site. His employers found out by Googling him, and told him they would not let him work for them unless he totally disassociated himself from that website.
    I guess in a journlist’s view, it means that even though we are supposed to be open and try to connect with the public, we also have to be very careful about our private opinions and the things we get associated with. We have to be cautious not to show a certain political preference, since if we do, our articles will seem like we are biased.

  6. 6 pieper12 September 15, 2008 at 3:08 am

    According to Carr, our minds are basically being morphed to act like computers and other recent technologies we’ve been introduced to. I do agree with him in the fact that just in the past 10 years, so many new ways of retrieving information and retaining it has changed.

    It seems like a world of difference from the time we were in grade school learning the Dewey Decimal system, which I have never ever used. Google is by far a life-saving tool that allows me to access anything at anytime, and enables me to forget it if I want. On Caitlin’s comment, I definitely cannot imagine going back to researching different books at a library like we would do in junior high and high school.

    Things seem to be changing so much and so quickly and it will be very interesting to see where our minds are at in another 10 years.

    Keeping lives private is a very important thing, I think, but I also think that with the amount of people on the internet, they should be pretty aware that if you put up almost anything on the internet, pretty much anyone can access it. There are ways to privatize yourself more on the internet, but I think that everyone should just be smart about what they post and live by the thought that anything online can be accessible.

    It can be advantageous to post things to the public because they can access what you want viewed and increase your hits.

  1. 1 Video day! YouTube, social media, and digital culture « The Future of Journalism Trackback on October 20, 2008 at 10:32 am

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