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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

My Yahoo, Why Yahoo

Thursday, August 04, 2005

"The milieu in which Technopoly flourishes is one in which the tie between information and human purpose has been severed, i.e., information appears indiscriminately, directed at no one in particular, in enormous volume and at high speeds, and disconnected from theory, meaning, or purpose." (Neil Postman, Technopoly)

Surprisingly, that sentence was published in 1992, during the infancy of the internet. If Postman was distressed by the speed and volume of information then, he's having a coniption fit now. Consider MyYahoo, the home page on my web browser. The page is customized, so that every time I access the page, bits of information that I have selected are in front of me: headlines from anywhere in the world I want, sports scores, weather reports, movie times, television schedules, and so on and so on. Most of it goes unread (or is, at most, skimmed). It is simply there.

What would happen if I just quit using it? What would happen if I spent less time accessing information via the internet? Surely nothing would happen to the internet, but might something happen to me? Might space be freed up in my brain that is presently occupied by headlines and context-less numbers and names? Might the energy that I expend on consuming this information be directed to some larger purpose? Of course. And of course.

Which brings me back to backfence.com. Again, Postman:
" . . . in a technopoly there can be no transcendent sense of purpose of meaning, no cultural coherence. Information is dangerous when it has no place to go, when there is no theory to which it applies, no pattern in which it fits, when there is no higher purpose that it serves. Information without regulation can be lethal."

What I love about the idea of backfence.com is that it is information that has somewhere to go, information that belongs somewhere, namely in the two communities where the project has launched. To some, such a local project is a poor use of the seemingly limitless and global potential for information on the internet. Yet I submit that only in local application can that potential be of any use. In fact, apart from some sort of local individual or collective application, the potential may hold more ill than good.

So MyYahoo, I'm afraid, will have to go. Instead, give me information that directs me to a purpose, to some meaning, to something to do.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:30 PM

2 Comments:

Problem with "backfence.com is that, as far as I can see, is that it's only for Virginia and then only two communities there. The Denver paper has something similar called YourHub.com.

Isn't that what the internet is for? Someone somewhere in the world presumably needs all of it. I needed to know the fine tuning for a certain sprinkler I have. I went on the internet to find it. The problem comes in when it is forced on people via pop ups, spam email etc. That's when you need regulation but how do you do that when so much of it is global?

And of course it's a problem when you get so addicted to it that there is no room in your life for the "larger purpose". Doesn't it all come down to what you want out of life? to an individual choice? The information isn't the demon. It's always been there in one form or another-at one speed or another. We are responsible for who we are, what we spend time on, the choices we make, and how our life plays out.Information is inanimate no matter how it is obtained.
commented by Blogger Donna, 10:51 AM  
A message a day keeps the blues away:-)

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commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 11:01 AM  

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