In Microwave mentality part one, Kidsleepy paints the picture of a world too busy to concentrate on one thing at a time, asking smart machines to do all the thinking for us, leaving us to get ever dumber. This isn't limited to the consumer, this is also highly visible in the world of the creators.
We've even made it a new form of advertising, the world of "viral" and hoaxes, using the new medias inability to check a story to plant things such as the Alpha1 fake wrapping of the statue of liberty, the Danish single mother seeking the baby daddy and the bullet proof baby pram hoax. Even things so clearly impossible such as the Ford Mustang "resin" billboards spread far and wide as nobody thought to think about it for second. The one to publish first wins all the links in the link economy. Let me know when I can feed my kid with links.
In a world where we are constantly connected all the time, we spread news like a game of telephone, 140 chars and shortened URL's at a time. The original message is garbled along the way, or worse never checked in the first place. Anatomy of a hoax shows how one man snowballed 1,000 news articles on the “Sony Nexus X” by building a few fake images and posting them to Picasa.
Yes, that was it. He posted them to Picasa. Nothing more. Nobody asked him any questions, not even if they had permissions to repost his copyrighted images, because fuck that, right? Regardless of how you feel about copyrights, back when one still bothered to ask permission, one would also check the story.
One slightly off-putting thing about this entire episode was that not a single soul made any attempts to contact the owner of the Picasa album. Seriously. Not one comment reaching out to the elusive Mutul Yeter (whose name I actually misspelled). Man, if I was a journalist, the very first thing I would do is to make some sort of attempt to contact the person who posted the leak. Even if it was a long shot, I could be the guy who put the whole thing to bed. That has to count for something.
Wannabe journalists, bloggers, web-curators, whatever they want to call themselves, self-published en masse, are changing the game for the actual journalists who now need to keep up to catch the eyeballs they need staring at their ads, which in turn will pay them. Media is a powerful speaker and feeding junk into it which screams louder for each turn only creates a feedback loop that amplifies as we go round and round. (I realize that I've said this before).
It's the 140 char mentality. Before he even finished his sentence, Romney's "binders of women" got a twitter account, a tumblr page and a facebook page. Cute. Now did anyone hear what he said after that? It seems to me that people read the headline, make up their mind and don't bother with the big picture anymore. It's media burnout. We are connected. To everyone. All the time. Information is now noise and our information diet is like eating dessert only, while we don't even finish it.
A quick joke is all we can muster even on topics that require more than ten minutes of thinking. If we can only look at the surface, how will we ever see the big picture and perhaps address a problem? Presidents are sold on soundbytes, anything that sounds good in 140 chars wins, regardless of its original intent. You are picking the man who should steer up the geographically largest and most diverse democracy of the world, a super power that influences the rest of the planet, I think you can quit tweeting into your own personal echo chamber for a second and ponder the topics with some care, no? You can't? Why do you expect your politicians to do any better than you then?
But people don't slow down these days. When they read, they find one sentence to disagree with, one typo to mock, and the larger picture or point is lost in tiny bickering and jokes. Our minds are made up before we reach the end of the youtube clip or post. We'll yell "FAKE" in the comments to dreadful news from wars, and drool over 3D rendering of telephones we want, that don't yet exist. The gatekeepers of truth are too busy competing with the Buzzfeeds and Huffington posts of the world, that gank images, news and embed youtube's without question, they don't even ask the image rights owner what is up. Verify a story? Why even the grey lady raised a Jayson Blair.
If you don't slow down to contemplate the big picture, who will?
* Regarding Buzzfeed's bad habit of essentially scraping every other site out there for content, and adding minimal attribution, they do get in legal trouble for that. Most recently there's the Mavrix vs Buzzfeed reported in the likes of Village voice with lots of incorrect information, notably about the recent Fairey judgement in the opening paragraph. Cliff notes on that case here. Clearly this case is not "serving as a clear reminder to all of the importance of fair compensation for those who gather and produce original news content" as the AP CEO had hoped.
* The book The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption by Clay A. Johnson points out that heavily processed information, like heavily processed food is addictive and really unhealthy for us. If you have time to read it without two other screens competing for your attention, you probably should.