Thursday, August 10, 2006

Greasemonkeying with Reality

David Louis Edelman, author of Infoquake, has just posted "Greasemonkeying with Reality" to his blog, a very interesting post about the self-censorship we are rapidly rushing into. Earlier this month, I had a conversation with a friend and noted critic about the dangers of our Long Tail / total freedom of choice society, in that it becomes increasingly easy to self-select yourself into what Robert Anton Wilson called a "reality tunnel." Essentially, "I hear only what I want to hear" (as Supertramp sang so long ago in "Soapbox Opera.")

As David writes, "The Greasemonkeying of information won't just stop with the web. It's not going to end with the editing of digital bits on your computer screen. It's going to move onto your telephone and your television and eventually, inside that thick skull of yours."

I'm a big believer that the Long Tail is allowing us to drill deeper into niche content, discovering and rediscovering content we'd never encounter in traditional retail, but it's also true that the amount of time I spent with my head buried in the future - editing Pyr, corresponding with writers and artists, keeping up with the SFnal side of the bloggosphere and blogging about it myself - is making me feel like I've got my head in the sand when it comes to the real world. I wouldn't know jack about the foiled transatlantic bombing if a friend hadn't just emailed me about it. And while I'm pretty fond of my particular reality tunnel, the last thing I need is the ability to Greasemonkey myself even deeper into the future.


Jose said...

Charlie has a good phrase for this phenomenom he calls it disappearing up your own a**hole. It's part of a general trend that's been ocurring since the advent of television. It has some negative aspects to it but it's largely a good thing otherwise we wouldn't be doing it.

Lou Anders said...

I concur. But, since you reference television, my family still debates its relative merits and whether or not it is good to expose young children to it. The majority opinion (my fathers' & brother's) is that early exposure to tv is bad in that it curtails imagination. How I, a pop culture junkie, came about they cannot explain, and have classified me as an exception. My brother says that "for most" television is passive but of me it is an "active" medium. I think that what the computer has done is to transfer vast amounts of passive media participants into active ones, but their will always be a certain percentage of eloi among the moorlocks. For my own part, I will obviously be exposing my son to ungodly amounts of pop culture, but I'm going to encourage him to get involved with his interests. Like videogames? Cool, but learn how to program them. Like movies? Here's a digital camera. Like music, let's go shop for a guitar. Anything you want, but be a content provider not just a consumer. It's never been easier to give than receive.

Liviu said...

Short term reality is overrated and you are doing much better focusing on interesting things like sf and its interaction with popular culture. For professional reasons, I am plugged in every workday from 9 to 4, listen to lots of inanities on TV (yesterday with London was a very good example), watch and act on 5 monitors... I have always loved books, but especially now and for the past 9 years since I moved away from academia, I have found very hard to watch TV or do other stuff than reading interesting books for quiet relaxation.

This being said, my atitude towards my 4.25 years son and TV/pc is that we watch together stuff and talk about it, read as many stories related with what we watch as we can, and similarly on pc we play this and that but continue it in other types of playing in the real world; I think that there is no way to isolate children from TV/internet/... and better for you to shape their activies than for them to do it anyway without you knowing. I also agree that the more they grow, the more they should be encouraged to produce things, not only consume (when I was growing up I used to invent games for the children on my block to play and this made me popular though I was the local "nerd" who had good grades, read books and played soccer badly; also being blessed with a large home library due to my late father and being allowed from an early age to "manage" it, I shared my books and though in the process I ended losing quite a few and they were precious then and there, I still do not regret it)

Lou Anders said...

What do you do that you have 5 monitors going?

I hear you on inventing games. The little girl in the neighborhood never forgave me that our SHAZAM movie fell through, though in highschool I organized a game of "Killer" (everyone assigned a squirt-gun target) that ran for weeks and caused much havoc. Couldn't do that now, I suppose.

gane said...

It makes sense to me to let users know, and I was conflicted about it until now. Google collects information, and the users should know about it if they visit your site. Thank you for your opinion which to me is more fact than anything.