Monday, November 22, 2010

Yes, yes, the internet is a big bad thing, now can we move on?

Another day, another NYT piece, on growing up digital. (For the rest, see here.)

It's always the same old stuff: our brains are changing, the number of distractions has exploded with the internet! Blah blah.

But has it? It doesn't seem to me, at least from the piece, that it was all that easy when I was growing up either. There were always TV shows, there were always friends, there were always story-books. Studying is always hard when you're a kid; that's what parents are for: to make kids study!

My point is: kids always have difficulties studying. The Internet has not exacerbated anything. If it wasn't the internet, it would be video games. Or television. There's always something. Let's not get carried away.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Journalists and the web

One of my pet peeves with newspapers today is that even with all the ink (and tears!) that get shed about how the web has changed the dynamics of the newspaper industry -- and may end up transforming the publishing culture completely -- newspapers still don't use the web as it should be used.  The most important affordance of the web is linking -- and newspapers still don't link in their online articles.

So, I am always happy when an odd journalist does do that.  Here is A. O. Scott in his review of the Deathly Hallows (to be fair, this is not the first time Scott has linked):
The movie, in other words, belongs solidly to Mr. Radcliffe, Mr. Grint and Ms. Watson, who have grown into nimble actors, capable of nuances of feeling that would do their elders proud. One of the great pleasures of this penultimate “Potter” movie is the anticipation of stellar post-“Potter” careers for all three of them. 
Click on the link to see where it leads!  Heh.

The always-solid David Leonhardt links too.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On Government 2.0

Tom Slee's twin posts on Government 2.0 (here and here) are definitely worth your time.

Tom is a little more pessimistic than I would be (although his pessimism is the principled, rigorous type, which is always welcome). 

Quickly, these are his main objections:
  1. The rhetoric of citizen engagement too often masks a reality of commercialization (last time)
  2. Information is not always democratizing.
  3. Information is not always the problem.
  4. Transparency is an arms race.
  5. Privacy is the other side of the coin.
  6. Money flows to Silicon Valley.
Point 2, that information is not always democratizing is well-taken.  Slee points out that people who take most advantage of information that is made freely available are those who are already privileged and posses a certain amount of capital (both economic and cultural).  He links to this article, which in turn links to this very interesting paper, on how the digitization of Bangalore land records has turned out.  Both are also well worth taking a look at (and I should mention that I only skimmed the paper).

But point 2 also strikes me also as too broad.  It strikes me that the same thing can be said of the deployment of any technological framework; its use can only be made by those who have the skills and the cultural capital to access it.  Again, like everything else, it is all contextual.  One could argue that Government 2.0 will also make it easy for NGOs, watchdog groups, and so on,  to do their job, which in turn may end up helping the underprivileged.  As always, everything depends on context.