What’s Happening to Our News?

Wired magazine has recently published an article entitled, “Rate This Article: What’s Wrong with the Culture of Critique,” which discusses some interestingly subtle side-effects of the digital age of information.

Author Chris Colin argues that the overwhelming amount of information we are now inculcated with, thanks to the internet, has its pros and cons. While anyone on the planet now has the ability to access all sorts of knowledge from their cell phone, much of that knowledge is user-generated content. Colin writes:

Technoculture critic and former Wired contributor Erik Davis is concerned…too. “Our culture is afflicted with knowingness,” he says. “We exalt in being able to know as much as possible. And that’s great on many levels. But we’re forgetting the pleasures of not knowing. I’m no Luddite, but we’ve started replacing actual experience with someone else’s already digested knowledge.”

The constant influx of user-reviews and ratings can act to contaminate our own opinions, and sway us towards or away from restaurants, taxi services and even news articles. With charts and tickers winking at internet users from every webpage, it can become difficult to discern what you agree with and what you disagree with, what is fact versus one person’s perspective.

The concept of consumer feedback isn’t a new one. The question, “how are we doing?” has been printed on the side of McDonald’s take-out bags for years, and commercial trucks still bear the bumper stickers which read, “how am I driving?” But the internet takes consumer response to an entirely new level, compiling feedback from hundreds if not thousands of users.

Colin argues, “Our ever more sophisticated arsenal of stars and thumbs will eventually serve to curtail serendipity, adventure, and idiotic floundering…there’s an essential freedom in being alone with one’s thoughts, oblivious to and unpolluted by anyone else’s.”

What are your thoughts on what’s happening to our news?

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4 thoughts on “What’s Happening to Our News?

  • October 5, 2011 at 7:46 pm
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    This is an interesting question. It does seem like we always need to know. We pull out our phones to check the news, weather, games scores, etc. I agree with Davis that “knowingness” is great on many levels, but we shouldn’t always just live by what others say. We need to put our phones down and live a little, get out and gain experiences of our own.

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  • October 7, 2011 at 5:36 am
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    Chris Colin has a good point. The internet has definitely changed our relationship to information, and it’s all too easy to take someone else’s word for something (or, even better, a whole thread of 100 commenters’ opinions!) instead of examining it yourself. But I also think that as a society, we will adapt. Most people are already aware of the fact that you can’t trust everything you read on the internet, that you really have to consider your sources. For example, recently I was interested in trying a new Thai restaurant in my area. I looked on yelp for reviews, and there were a couple of reviews that were just awful — complaining about the staff, the wait time, the food, everything. But I went anyway, and it’s now one of my favorite places to eat. It only takes a couple of experiences like that to make you think twice before you let online reviews and comments sway you.

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  • October 7, 2011 at 5:46 pm
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    This is so true–society today is hounded with information. I wonder, though, how much of this information actually counts as knowledge…I don’t think that we are really learning more. We are told facts, and we forget them soon after. Everything is so fast now that people are losing the pleasure of discovery. If we want to know something, we go to Google, and the webpage finds our answer before we are even finished typing our question. Though there are some benefits, this cannot be a good thing in the long run for attention spans, the learning process, or for forming opinions.

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  • October 20, 2011 at 2:15 pm
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    I definitely think our attention spans are suffering. I know it is getting harder for me to have the patience to read lots of text on the computer. In general, I feel very tied to technology during everyday life. If I don’t know how to do something, need to solve a problem, or need directions to a friend’s house or the store, I go straight to my iPhone or computer. If I’m walking in the grocery store, I look up recipes. If I’m walking through the bookstore I look up coupons. I don’t know what I would do without all of this information at my fingertips.

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