Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Dumb Я Us (ie. "we are dumb")
Susan Jacoby says we're all getting dumber. And the NEH says we're losing our desire and ability to read. This is particularly disturbing these days, when the internet gives us unprecedented power to create the world - or at least cyberspace, and that's a big part of the world for many people - in our own image. The internet is - among other things, to be sure - a giant marketing survey, where everybody's opinion on everything is eagerly solicited and everyone's net behavior is monitored down to the last click. Social bookmarking services like Digg, and ubiquitous "rate this" exhortations ensure that everything - even news and opinion itself - is ranked, commodified, and channeled back to us as more of what we like - reality, new and improved, on the basis of our votes. Consensus trumps authority, and surely, if we're all getting dumber, that has implications. It also has implications for us librarians - we authoritarians of the controlled vocabularies and assigned subject terms (folksonomy, shmokesonomy). Some books on the topic (I think...haven't read them yet) are Andrew Keen's Cult of the Amateur (2007)(but beware, Lawrence Lessig says it's just a brilliant parody), and Lee Siegel's "Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob" I'm also looking forward to Barbarians at the Gates of Public Librarians, which I believe touches upon related matters.