almost 10 years on 2009-01-28


i have been working out a draft of my position on why people like jeff jarvis (who claim the death of the professional press/news-media) are dead wrong for months...  i have the argument firmly in mind, but since i actually care deeply about the subject, i am taking my time and trying not to be too loose and free with my discussion and language... (and i will not make the argument here and now just yet).

that said, clive thompson's article "manufacturing confusion" (pulling from robert proctor and farhad manjoo - neither of whom i have read)  immediately jumped out at me, because his opening lines almost perfectly matched the opening lines of the post on which i have been working.  "is global warming caused by humans?  is barack obama a christian....  when it comes to many contentious subjects, our usual relationship to information is reversed:  ignorance is increased...  when society doesn't know something, it's often because special interests work hard to create confusion." 

this is an exceedingly big deal.  it is so big that it, in classic science meets religion form - it reeks of the allegory of the tower of babel.  content production and communication has gotten so cheap and easy, that anyone with any agenda or anything to gain can and will clog the wire, and consumers have no ability to distinguish fact from fiction. 

traditional 'search' algorithms can't deal with this - i have already been experimenting with intentionally generating and running some seo against misinformation, and i believe that in a world of open communication misinformation will actually become the dominant form of privacy.  search will always get harder and harder to game, but it will always be game-able...  the channel will forever be locked in a war of attrition.

social filters and algorithms are no better.  forget true "crowd-sourcing" (like wikipedia), which i don't even feel the need to address - and instead examine your friend network, the facebook/twitter social filter model.  it certainly provides exactly what you want to read -- but what you want to read has nothing to do with the truth.    if anything, the micro-distribution of content through social channels is simply an echo chamber, which simply will reflect the beliefs and interests of the individual instead of any objective reality. 

i am still hopeful for the survival of information and verity because real information and truth has intrinsic market value.  so, while the internet (free distribution) is destroying access to that value on a massive scale, when there is value and people loose access to value, a good capitalist society will create/preserve an avenue.

but, i am scared because i think that the next year is going to make orison wells "war of the worlds" look like childsplay; however, this time the question will be, will we even ever be cognizant of the ruse?  i worry that when we don't know what our neighbors are reading any more, the game is up.  ~as always, i know i sound alarmist and almost fanatical - in reality i am just fascinated... 

so, to go one crazy step further, i ultimately wonder - does this line of thought lead to the end of civil society, or the end of freedom of speech, or both.  for centuries, the cheaper publishing has become the more vibrant society has grown - but when publishing becomes a zero or in reality a negative cost does its effect invert?


original swl blogposts and letters 2007-2010