An antitechnoegalitarianizationist manifesto

I am not a fan of the new world order, the push toward socializing the Internet and using it as a surrogate for established and credible forms of communication. I don’t think bloggers are journalists, I don’t think Facebook is any kind of substitute for actually talking to a person, and I don’t think playing World of Warcraft with your children counts as quality family time.

That might make me old-fashioned, but I don’t really care if I get that label. I started out on this planet before there were personal computers, cellphones, global positioning systems and permanent total artificial hearts, and I actually feel bad for people who didn’t see it when it was cleaner, simpler and less impersonal.

So I wasn’t joking when I said that I thought less of people who babble endlessly about their preferred social networking medium. In my mind, human interaction is interaction between humans, and the computer as an intermediary layer isn’t the same. I see people every day who are latched to a computer at home, ride a bus to work with their face pressed against an iPod, and then scurry to attach themselves to the nearest computer at work, only to look at the same Facebook page they were looking at 20 minutes earlier.

Honestly, I feel pity when I see that.

“Web 2.0” and the press to “techno-egalitarianize” also convinces people they are capable of certain roles, when in fact they are mucking things up royally. This goes back to the blogger-journalist delusion, where anyone with a spellchecker and a 56Kbps connection is suddenly H.L. Mencken. I’ve met a lot of really, really bad writers in my time, and a lot of really, really bad journalists too. Sometimes they are one and the same.

It may be a fact that spending five hours a day at a computer terminal induces insomnia and depression. There might be a biological connection, and there might not. But reporting a study as news three full years after publication is not journalism, and not even correct. Then linking to an article that is seven years old, written about a completely different study … well, that just goes beyond sloppy.

Playing reporter with your cellphone camera and a Twitter account only further undermines what little credibility there is left in journalism — and given the frothy tripe disgorged by CNN, Fox News and other American “news” organizations, it’s painfully thin anyway. It’s true: It’s a free world, and if you think you have what it takes to be Margaret Fuller or Seymour Hersh, none of us can stop you.

In the mean time the rest of us, the other six billion people on the planet, will be particularly careful about what we read. On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog, and if there is a chance that a dog has announced the new desktop look for Ubuntu 10.10 by linking to a mockup uploaded to a wiki page by a kid living in his mom’s basement in Manchester, then we should all be skeptical from the start. Caveat emptor.

I’m no Luddite. I remember life before the CD, the VCR and the microwave oven, but I don’t recommend going back to it. Arbitrarily smearing technology over every aspect of humanity does not advance the human experience. And for goodness sake, don’t let your family relationships devolve into playing World of Warcraft together. That’s an artificial heart, by definition.

And yes, the fact that you are reading a blog should be terrifically ironic to you. I might, after all, be a dog. 😈


9 thoughts on “An antitechnoegalitarianizationist manifesto

  1. nongeekboy

    You’re so right! We are at a level where it doesn’t matter what kind of man I am in the real life (the “space” where we actually touch a human been, talk face-to-face etc). If I have thousands of fans on facebook, or twitter, then I am THE man. “to socialize” became all most a synonym to “social networks”. And that’s so artificial, virtual. That is what we are looking for? Virtual friends, virtual personality, virtual relationships? And all this in a time when the real world it’s going… down! Eh, forget the real world. It’s much better here, in my virtual space. (Sorry for may bad english)

  2. Benj1

    To be fair, i don’t know that the journalist writing for the news paper isn’t a dog, or that the autocue on the 6 oclock news isn’t written up by monkeys, my point is that traditional media doesn’t have a monopoly on pulitzer winning reporting, and blogs don’t have a monopoly on tosh.

    I do agree broadly with your points, but its not a problem with tecnology per se, its just human nature, we will always take things too far, whether its climbing everest or seeing how many burgers you can eat in an hour, but life will continue and the majority of us will manage to maintain a healthy relationship with technology, and everything else.

    ps wouldn’t antitechnologicalegalitarianismist be a bit snappier ? 😉

  3. mulenmar

    Well,if you’re a dog, what am I? Now look, you’ve gone and given me a metaphysical crisis. Woof.

    Seriously, though, I agree with pretty much everything you said. If we continue putting technology into EVERYTHING we’ll end up like the “Borg” from Star Trek:TNG! I’m at least halfway there with my cobbled-together collection. 😀

    What really annoys me is how when I Scroogle for something I get a lot of results, but on obscure topics most of them are all links to/republishings of the same article. There’s a line between informing readers and spamming the interwebs with old information, without so much as an original thought or added info attached. 👿

  4. Serge

    Excuse the incoherent post below. I am no writer myself, but I think you’re seeing it all wrong.

    I don’t think blogs are any worse than ‘real news’. I mean, just yesterday I read a ‘news’ story that was actually over 10 years old. I quickly found a bbs article from 10 years ago, reporting the same thing. What about BBC putting irrelevant photos in their stories? Sometimes the photo actually shows the OPPOSITE of what the news story is about. Not too long ago they took a photo of a pro Ahmadinejad rally in Iran and put it with a anti-Ahmadinejad rally storry.

    My point is, you should take any form of media with a grain of salt and take the time to check the sources of the important stories. Blogs or no blogs, that’s just how it is. The printed press was a great thing for news distribution, however that medium no longer allows just ‘anybody’ to distribute their information and blogs are a great way to take that power back. To bring it back to Iran, when all other media was blocked, we could get up to date information on what’s going on by monitoring twitter.

    As for ‘social networking’ sites, I see nothing wrong with them. I would never open a facebook or myspace account because of privacy and security issues, but I am not going to say these websites are destroying any social fibre. The facebook and myspace crowd is actually quite social and outgoing.

    If we take the time, we can argue that the telephones, telegrams, telegraphs, radio, carrier pidgins, letters and cave paintings were impersonal. People didn’t use these communication mediums in place of personal contact, they used them when personal contact was out of reach and that’s the case with social networking sites. People don’t send online messages instead of seeing people in person, they do it when the person is out of reach. So really, it helps people stay in touch when they’re not seeing each other.

    So here’s what it comes down to… Nobody thinks facebook is a substitute, it’s a supplement. Nobody takes what bloggers write as an absolute truth. Ocasionally false information propogates through the internet, just as false information propogates through mainstream news. Bring on Web 2.0, I say!

  5. Nugnuts

    “Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”

    – Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

    1. Nugnuts

      I’m uncomfortable being inaccurate with a quote, particularly when responding to a post which remarks on the degradation of journalism. Technically, Mr. Adams delivered this message as a set of numbered rules, like so:

      I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:

      1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

      2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

      3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

  6. Duncan Snowden

    I completely agree about social networks, but not blogs. Sure, having a spellchecker and a connection doesn’t automatically make you a journalist, but neither does spending several years at some jumped up technical college learning about “media”. After all, journalism is just coherently reporting stuff that has happened (today’s “educated” journalists hate being called “reporters”); it’s neither rocket science or brain surgery. The problem with “real” journalism today is that there’s too much mindless regurgitation of press releases: too many journalists don’t have the first idea about proper research, and there are plenty of bloggers who do a better job.

    90% of everything is crap. Same goes for blogs. But it doesn’t mean they all are.

    (Come to think of it, the same is true of social networking. Facespace and Mybook might be a load of old tosh, but Linux distrubutions’ forums are always a useful source of help and support.)


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