Sunday, June 11, 2006

Here Is The News

1. Deadline for 4,000-word essay: 9am tomorrow morning. Number of words written so far: 1,769, all of them rubbish. Hmm.

3. I've forgotten to drink my tea again.

4. The always lovely Danny O'Brien turns up in this week's Economist, going on about how O'Reilly wanted him to write a book of Life Hacks, but he couldn't find the motivation to do it. Ho ho ho.

5. That Heart-Shaped Box/Superstition/Jenny From The Block mashup (mp3) is still the greatest tune ever.

4. I haven't watched television for 23 days.

6. Wikipedia now a metaphor for the whole of 21st-century civilisation.

7. Crikey, it's hot, isn't it?


UPDATE: I was going to fix the numbering, but actually I like it better like that.

44 comments:

DavetheF said...

That's a fascinating piece on the new collectives thrown up by aggregation on the Net. The point about collectives is that they are ALWAYS stupider than an individual person. Elias Canetti's Crowds and Power demonstrates by examples that it is very easy for those who understand them to manipulate crowds and collectives because in the essential definitions of awareness, cognition and reasoning, these are are mindless. They are clusters bound only by a kind of energy that needs to discharge itself, usually in a destructive way. And very scary.

patroclus said...

I'm not sure about that - maybe with physical crowds that's true (I've been in a fair few 'riots' where no individual person could see all of what was going on, and therefore the crowd couldn't act in any intelligent way whatsoever), but is it true of online stuff? The Wikipedia 'collective' isn't a crowd of people as such; it's a bunch of individuals contributing individual knowledge to a single site. The sites themselves don't operate with a 'collective consciousness', as such.

I mean I suppose right now I'm surfing between community sites, including this one, but I'm still physically alone. (I know, the humanity, etc.). So does the fact that I'm contributing to community sites while being physically alone make me and you and everyone else in here stupider?

Or have I got the wrong end of the stick?

LC said...

You've written less than half of your essay, you say?

GreatSheElephant said...

Elias Canetti is/was my cousin.

Sad to say that that is the most interesting thing about me.

Equally sad that it's a damn good reason for not writing anything because I'll never win a Nobel Prize so what's the point?

patroclus said...

GSE: Wow, you get a much better class of claim to fame on this blog.

LC: Oh, the shame of it.

*And* I used 'as such' twice in my previous comment. Rats.

Ceridwen Devi said...

The collective mind is us. It's energy potential cuts both ways. That's the tricky bit. My dad got drunk with George Best once. They were not related though.

Aimee said...

Link us to number 5, pretty please.

Chuffy! said...

Interesting article, which I'm almost completely in agreement with - partially because it means that I don't have to come up with 2,000 words myself to explain the problem with wikipedia, because someone on the net has already defined it for me...oh...

I did have a revolver-reaching reaction to Douglas Rushkoff's response: "Projects like Wikipedia do not overthrow any elite at all, but merely replace one elite — in this case an academic one — with another: the interactive media elite." I'm not sure that I have the mathematical capability to count the ways in which that statement sucks.

I bought 'Crowds and Power' this morning for 20p in a front-yard book sale, so there must be a Canetti meme floating around this page. Apologies to the family for lack of royalties.

Yes, P. It is fucking hot. Still.

Del said...

23, 23, 23, always 23...

patroclus said...

Aimee: link duly supplied.

Chuffy!: I believe it's de rigueur among the interactive media élite to refer to Wikipedia as 'the' Wikipedia. By omitting the definite article you mark yourself out as a member of the great unwashed interactive media masses. Hurrah! It's more fun on this side.

Del: You are a member of Spiral Tribe and I claim my £5.

nibus said...

I must be the only person who mixes up Elias Canetti and Javier Zanetti.

Dave again said...

Oh no, they're equally confused in my mind (I have no idea who either of them are).

The Blind Flaneur said...

Misnumbering is definitely better. I am guessing point 2 read: 'Made cup of tea to avoid writing essay'. The genius is that we can only speculate.

Smat said...

have you finished it now then?

rockmother said...

What's the essay about?

patroclus said...

Smat: er, *nearly*.

Flaneur: see above.

Rockmother: it's a chapter of my dissertation about how people think they own their blogs but their blogs are in fact owned by Google. I'd like to say that it's a bit more sophisticated than that, but actually it isn't - it's just longer.

DavetheF said...

Patro, a collective in my mind is not the same thing as a community. A collective submerges the individual. The term "collective action" is very scary. If I'm not mistaken, the problem with "the" Wikipedia is that individual contributions are constantly redacted and scribbled over by further contributions on the same topic. This suggests that the complaint of unreliability is all too accurate. There is no benchmark, merely aggregation.

I'm probably out of my depth here, given your expertise on the subject, I freely admit.

PEANUT said...

my blog is owned by FAIRYS and BERNERD CRIBINS

patroclus said...

Dave: Oh, I see what you mean now. However, I have a lot of 'issues' with the idea of the reliability of information in general.

As far as I know, the only really serious gripes about 'the' Wikipedia' have been voiced by individuals complaining about the way they themselves are represented in it. So Jaron Lanier doesn't like the fact that he's constantly referred to in Wikipedia as a film-maker, but to borrow a point that Tim made a couple of posts ago, that's how he's perceived by (some) other people, and who's to say which is more 'true' - the way one perceives oneself, or the way one is perceived by others? He did *make* a film, after all, so it's not untrue to say he's a film-maker, just because he himself is embarrassed about said film and would prefer everyone forgot about it.

My own view is that for the most part, the information in Wikipedia (and everywhere else, like in the media, for example) is 'true enough', if not 'absolutely true', but then I'm a bit wibbly-wobbly like that. It's still a useful resource, and people can always correlate with other sources if they're in doubt. Maybe people just need to learn how to use Wikipedia, like they need to learn how to 'read' the media, and so on...

PEANUT: I always suspected Bernard Cribbins was away with the fairies. Not to mention the Wombles.

chuffy! said...

The fact that "people need to 'use' wikipedia, like they need to 'read' the media" kind of underlines its problem.

It's impossible to know how to accurately "read through" a source that has different (anonymous) writers and amenders of various quality on each subjuect, and has no guiding editorial policy. I'm far more comfortable researching something through books, newspapers, conversations and google-found websites, from which you can gather authorial context and voice to go along with what's been said, and also *know* when something is complete bullshit, and then collate these voices using my own judgement. 'The' Wikipedia spoonfeeds and allows no room for that judgement to play. Discussions on this board will, combined with other sources, contribute more to my opinion on Wikipedia than will, say, the Wikipedia article on 'Wikipedia' (predictably labrynthine though the meta-wiki commentary is, by the way, it has no mention of the elite referring to it as 'The'. Is there a secret portal for them?)

It's attempting to be as definitive as the OED and as democratic as usenet, but this is simply not a possible combination (it may even be closer to opposite) and, useful though it sometimes is, it often comes over as an elaborate Schott's - first stop as a lazy argument-settler but no more than a first step to getting the nuances of a subject, after which you can disregard most of what it's already told you.

Additionally, it's one thing using reader-response theory to judge a work of art or a novel (I swore by it as a student, but that's because I didn't like doing any work. I'm now more of the opinion that it's an inadequate trope if you're reacting to a piece with any seriousness, but that's another story), it's something else again to go all Left-Bank intellectual when judging a person or an event. That's the way the Gulf War never happened. However the technique is supposed to get the pretty young Parisiennes into bed, which is probably why it still has some currency.

Apologies for unchuffylike length and sobriety. Back to pop-culture gags next time.

patroclus said...

>>useful though it sometimes is, it often comes over as an elaborate Schott's - first stop as a lazy argument-settler but no more than a first step to getting the nuances of a subject<<

But isn't that just what it's used for? I can't think that I use Wikipedia for anything other than trivia and looking up musical genres (which of course is vitally important research and not trivia at all). For anything else, it's a starting point, but nothing more.

On closer investigation it seems that it's only Jaron Lanier and Kevin Kelly that call it 'the' Wikipedia. Perhaps, as members of the 'Reality Club', they are privy to élite, occult knowledge about other, fake Wikipedias, from which the 'real' one must be differentiated.

Must stop now before I've written Dan Brown's next novel for him.

chuffy! said...

Fair enough. I'm making the mistake of having an argument with *you* about some things that *other* people think. And I do know some who look upon Wikipedia in much the same way as a mullah looks upon the Koran.

But what with Telewest having offered entirely faultless service over the last six months, I need a subject for my ire. Any suggestions other than 'The Wick' (as the kids may or, more likely, may not call it)?

patroclus said...

Sandi Thom and her lack of lyrical prowess? Thames Water's botched attempts to replace the Victorian water main in W12? The mysterious hole that opened up in the middle of Chiswick High Road in the night, prompting 10-mile tailbacks on to the M4? The list is...fairly short and localised, to be honest.

Smat said...

chuffy - try mailer daemons (and the associated hopelessness of people re updating their email details). I've just had a good vent at them and feel so much better for it.
p - is your essay now officially late? And still unfinished?

frangelita said...

Yes, did you finish the essay?

wv: ydred - some kind of welsh mythological Arthurian character who was doubtless involved in incest and witchcraft

patroclus said...

Still at it, my friends. Now at 3,340 words, which is NEARLY ALL OF THEM, and only seven hours over deadline.

I like the sound of Sir Ydred. Mine is 'eblgya', who was probably a minor Anglo-Saxon female saint.

Wyndham said...

I really wish you would write Dan Brown's next novel for him. It would be a damn sight more entertaining.

james henry said...

That mash-up thing is tops, BTW.

First Nations said...

why do people WANT to think that collections of individual agreement are going to spontaneously spring into hideous, self-directed life and start rampaging over the countryside stomping cows? talk about magical thinking...!
personally i love it when the paradigm get all in a bunch over any incursion of new, brash young upstart BAD POTTY LIAR authoritative charlatans who are JUST WRONG bad toilets. different day....

rockmother said...

Re: Patroc - what your chapter is about: that reminds me of film/semiotics theory - signifier and signified. Sounds very interesting. There is also a big debate in documentary circles that once you tell your 'story' you don't actually 'own' it anymore. Sounds similar to what you are trying to say re: blogging. Interesting. But how do you reconcile the fact that some people must create blogs that aren't actually 'them' in the first place ie: men that blog as women et al....

patroclus said...

Ah, rockmother, would that I were writing something so interesting. In fact I was writing more about how we don't own the space that we create our blogs in. So our blogs (blogspot ones, anyway) are at the mercy of Google and its global domination strategy. Which effectively means that someday (very soon I reckon) we will all have to carry ads and thus we will be co-opted into 'working' for Google for no money. [Insert lengthy Marxist whinge here].

Of course what I know about Marxism, economics and the relations of production can be written on the head of a pin, so the essay (which is now finished, hurrah!) is a work of utter rubbish. Heigh ho.

Interpreter Pavlov said...

In my cautiously pedantic way I'd feel happier about (the) Wikipedia a) if I knew the derivation of the WIKI element in its name, because I suspect there may be some bastardization at work here, mingling a 'respectable' Greek suffix with something sounds as though it comes out of Hiawatha, and

b) if whatever I consult it for - increasingly rarely - didn't seem to contain such outrageous and lunatic inaccuracies.

But Patroclus is right, as usual (see last comment but 12). It's sometimes a useful dialectical check or counterbalance. Francis Bacon got it right, too, in writing (Essay on Truth, 1597) '"What is truth?" asked jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.' You can't beat a drop of high Renaissance philosophy now and again.

patroclus said...

>>something that sounds as though it comes out of Hiawatha<<

Ah yes, well, being all Web 2.0'd up, I can tell you EVEN WITHOUT LOOKING that 'wiki' (which now means a web page that anyone can edit) comes from some sort of native Hawaiian phrase 'wiki wiki', meaning 'fast'. Apparently.

Bacon knew his onions, alright.

Spinsterella said...

I don't understand any of these comments.

Except Peanut's, which made me laugh very loudly for a long time.

I do appreciate the concept that it's Google who actually owns my blog.

It's like all my friends who tell me that they have bought houses. It's the Halifax/Nationwide/Whatever who actually OWN it until you've paid the mortgage off. Or something.

Aginoth said...

Still no TV?

Dave again said...

Bacon and onions was about all I got.

Arabella said...

Add some liver and you have yourself a nice casserole.

Tabby Rabbit said...

What was number two? Or was it so hot that you couldn't count?

Frangelita: tut tut for dropping the words 'Welsh' and 'incest into the same sentence...

Annie said...

In lieu of an intelligent comment, can I offer this Christina Aguilera vs The Strokes mashup?

Del said...

Best bootleg ever by my overly obsessive judgement, but what do i know? You only have to listen to my own efforts to answer that one.

And I've never heard of the Spiral Tribe. So mits off my fiver, you scoundrel. I have however heard of the Illuminati, and am a little too keen on the KLF.

rockmother said...

Wiki always reminds me of trying to breakdance to some electro track in 79/80 which went: 'wiki wiki'. Can't remember what it was. Everytime Wikipedia is mentioned the track comes into my head. It drives me mad.

surly girl said...

i don't understand any of this. can we talk about buttons again now?

Kellycat said...

This is all a scary flashback to my Media and Cultural Studies degree (which I believe is owned by Disney). Is there going to be a test?

Anonymous said...

Suddenly my friend talking about his 'wiki' 5 years ago makes sense. I didn't like to ask at the time...