That darn Foucault

Stuart Elden has resurfaced a wonderful 1981 TIME article on the “exasperating and elusive” Michel Foucault.

There are plenty of barbs here from contemporaries such as Clifford Geertz, Richard Rorty, and Edward Said. And Foucault offers a gem, summing up the continental tradition this way:

“Among the reasons it is truly difficult to have a dialogue with the Americans and English is that for them the critical question for the philosopher is, ‘Is it true?’ whereas the German-French tradition consists basically of posing the question, ‘Why do we think as we do? What effect does it have?’ I consider the problems that I pose to be those of modern man.”

Decoding the ‘Curator’s Code’

OK, the idea of codifying the act of sharing on the Internet seems a bit overwrought. But then there’s this rant from Gizmodo’s Matt Langer about the utter bullshittery of the entire enterprise.

It would be easy to dismiss this as an anti-intellectual screed, but there are good points here. No one’s “curating” anything. We’re sharing links. It’s an act so utterly baked into the Internet that devising a “code” to guide our curatorial acts seems a bit like inventing rules for walking.

But there are rules for walking. Like you can’t jaywalk. Of course, everybody does jaywalk, but imagine the chaos that would ensue if crosswalks and lights were completely ignored. I guess what I’m getting at is exactly what Langer brings up in his Gizmodo item. He points out that in the olden days we’d chat via email about a cute kitten photo in a magazine, and then we’d Xerox the thing and snail mail it. This was how we shared stuff. (No we didn’t, but that’s beside the point.)

But what happens on the Internet is something entirely different. It’s a new form of interaction that arises when sharing becomes so seamless and easy. The point is, it’s a new form of sharing. Much like how the acceleration of the still photo gave birth to cinema, the Internet’s galaxy of hyperlinks gives birth to new forms of social interaction. What would a Xerox-based Facebook look like? It’s almost impossible to imagine, though you could point to things like high school yearbooks as some sort of faint historical analogue.

Aggregation and sharing should be the object of debate, particularly when copy-and-paste culture is the norm. It’s the very naturalness of the act that behooves us to think in terms of etiquette and ethics. Call it curation or sharing or whatever. That’s just semantics. What’s important is ensuring that sources are never submerged in a sea of ambiguity. No one over the age of 8 wants to use the game of “Telephone” as the model for information sharing.

Twitter as social media’s ‘degree zero’

A few rules for the Twitterati, thanks to ReadWriteWeb.

I was kind of blown away by the mention of SocialFlow, which will help maximize the chances of your tweet getting noticed or retweeted. This idea of monitoring conversations among your Twitter followers and then auto-launching your tweet into the fray breaks down the notion of conversation. You are optimizing your chances of being heard, yet in a way you aren’t responding to anyone. You’re kind of a canned commentator. This is more about getting heard than hearing.

Twitter kind of strikes me as social media stripped bare, and I think that allows us to learn a lot from it. It has three primary uses: Conversation, advertising and mobilizing links. If you combine the three, you have social media – and the Internet, for that matter – in a nutshell.

How green was my valley: The ‘toxic’ print, digital divide

Poynter’s Rick Edmonds has a great analysis of this Pew report about the newspaper industry’s search for a new business model.

It’s painfully bleak. So bleak that one executive says the game is over, and no one will innovate now because they don’t want to blamed for the inevitable newspocalypse.

It may be an oversimplification to characterize this as a cultural catastrophe. The news is part of a system, and like any system, we usually only grasp the tip of the iceberg. The problem is, as Bateson might put it, you can’t extrapolate the rest of the iceberg from what you see above the surface. What you see are inevitably partial components of larger, deeper circuits. Economics, reader habits, technologies, broader cultural trends, lunar tides … who can say for sure what newspapers are truly up against. But this Pew study clearly indicates that the hull has been breached.

And still more thoughts on digital adaptation

Then there’s this from GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram.
Here’s the perspective that you aren’t selling news, you’re selling a relationship. This is true, but traditionally this is a relationship based on a contract: I pay you X, and you deliver me news that I can use/trust/enjoy/discuss/etc.
This is the social realm that always surrounds the news. Online, it precipitates as something measured and monetized as the “click.” That’s the issue. In the digital realm, the relationship is much more directly equated with revenue. Suddenly, you can see how much value is placed on the content, and this value is yoked much more tightly to the social. And this social realm now is filled with so much more content. Everyone has so many more news-provider pals. The news consumer is the belle of the ball.
It’s a much dicier proposition for content providers, especially if they are making this content available for free. Not necessarily doomed to fail. Just much dicier.

Thoughts on digital adaptation

From TechCrunch, more musings on the end of print and what newspapers must do to adapt to a world of digital news.
I’m mainly posting this for my own benefit, as a reference point. I think adaptation is a more difficult and complex process than starting fresh. But adaptation also is the nature of the web. What other choice do you have when confronted with something so fluid, chaotic and nomadic? What are the economics of the rhizome?