Archives for: January 2012
A long time ago I preceptored with a naturopath who was fond of having his handouts typeset by a local printer. He was an older style ‘nature-cure’ type healer, and his handouts contained some very far out stuff. When I asked him why he went to the great expense of having a printer typeset his advice, he replied that ‘when people see something in print, especially a format that they know is not homemade, they take it more seriously.’
Twenty years later we now would appear to know better. The easy availability of laser printers and desktop publishing software can make any would-be Hemingway look the part. Of course there is a price to pay for the ubiquity of it all. Nice-looking documents have become the very essence of banality and reader confidence further eroded by the inclusion of misspellings, bad punctuation and terrible font choices.
Many readers will remember that absolute reverence by which one beheld the evening news in our childhood. Walter Cronkite and The Huntley–Brinkley Report not only acted the part of impartial newscasters; they looked it as well.
Having just seen the most recent Democratic debate on ABC-TV, I am even more convinced that the end is near for what might be called ‘filtered broadcasting.’ Instead of any sort of important discussion about issues which are of paramount importance to this country (and indeed the world) we were treated to a long inquisition about whether wearing an porcelain American flag pin is a sign of patriotism in a two hour long Calvary of he-said, she-said.
In the arts we have recently seen the emergence of a new kind of artist. The conventional record labels, having seen their profits eroded by downloading and lack of consumer interest, can only play by the numbers and hope for another Britney Spears or similar mega-mediocrity. The industry crowns artless (but safe and cute) adolescents “American Idols” when in fact they have demonstrated no skills beyond what one would expect from a decent karaoke bar singer.
Composers and musicians who actually do have something to say have opted instead to release material direct to the public, often with a payment-optional policy. Although this would appear to be financial suicide, surprisingly, many of these ventures have been economically successful.
Three decades ago Steward Brand said ‘information wants to be free.’ Brand’s WELL (Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link) was a precursor of the Internet, the greatest source of unfiltered information in human history.
When information is free, people get to choose what they want to hear and read about. When it is filtered, news organizations, corporations, professional societies and political parties choose it for them.
Years ago doctors would never think of explaining their premises and motives. To whom? The village blacksmith? What does he know of chemistry? Now consumers can harness the power of the Internet to research their health issues to any depth they desire. Yet most doctors still function in filter mode, thinking that the deck is still stacked in their favor.
Doctors have to learn about everything. A patient has to just learn about what is wrong with himself. You would be surprised by the speed in which a motivated patient can become a virtual expert in their condition.
In my vision of the future we will all become our own ‘aggregators,’ selecting information sources from an abundance of highly specific and single purpose ‘channels.’ Once aggregated into our lives, all these channels will fuse into a Multiverse of realities shared between like-minded individuals.
For example, you’re currently on the ‘Peter D’Adamo Channel.’
This will not stop filtering. Evidence suggests that we all filter out information that we disagree with. In True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society, Farhad Manjoo cites an experiment in which smokers and non-smokers could vary the amount of interference in static filled recordings of speeches. When smokers heard a speech about smoking and cancer risk, they did not try to improve the clarity of the recording. But they did push the button to get a clearer version of the recording when a speech was playing that said that there was no link between smoking and cancer. In non-smokers the exact opposite was true.
Maybe I’m just a libertarian (or just an aging hippy) but I would opt for choosing my own filters --versus having information filtered for me—- especially when the filtering is being done by individuals and organizations that I do not trust and for which I have no respect.