Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"Democracy by sound bite"

As soon as I can figure out how to load pictures from my digital camera onto my PC, I'm switching to a photo format instead of all this blah, blah, blah.

I like ideas and information, it's the way my brain's wired. For about 10 years now--the length of time I've been really using this interwebnet thing--I've found myself increasingly sucked into the vortex of ideas and information the Internet offers.

If I'm bored with what I'm working on, I just jog on over to a news site. (If I'm bored but not feeling very awake, I'll check out a snark site like Overheard in New York or Go Fug Yourself, or I'll visit my various and manifold fashion sites.)

My brain gets nicely filled with ideas. I feel more knowledgeable. I'm in touch with my world. I'm participating in the democracy of information that is the Internet.

But does it really help me or enrich my life in any way, or does it just keep me occupied (And seated. On my expanding, pregnant ass.) ? Because, despite all these ideas and information circulating online, I don't know if I'm getting any more enlightened.

I have a sinking feeling that enlightenment requires the precise opposite of the quick-and-dirty info promise of the Internet: it requires slow, deep, focused thought. It requires...(gasp!) limitations. (And maybe...books? Sorry, Internet. Sorry, forests.)

So I was kind of tweaked when I heard about BigThink.com on last weekend's CBC Sunday. I was a little dubious about the founder's claim that they were doing something different or new--I mean, is that really possible on the Web these days? I wondered.

I've been spending some time on BigThink and I have to say, I remain undecided.

One of their feature videos right now is a heavily edited pastiche of opinions from American politicians and assorted brainiacs on whether "the American political system is broken."

Ironically, one of the commentors (his clip flashed by so fast that I didn't catch his name) makes the blunt statement that America is about "democracy by sound bite" today. I think he's right, but maybe it's not just America's political system that's suffering this sickness--maybe it's larger than that. Much larger. And that certainly includes the very format BigThink is using.

Is the Internet, and especially sites like BigThink, simultaneously making us more broadly informed yet factually dumber? Do we really make political decisions on the basis of sound bites? God help me, I hope I don't...but maybe I do. Bottom line: does it do us any good, and if so, what good does it do us? I ask that earnestly, not facetiously.

Another commentor said something that caught my attention: "I am so sick of politicians running on a platform 'against government.'" That rang a few bells with me. But what exactly does she mean? I'll never know.

Because BigThink is just a bunch of sound bites.

So stay tuned for some lovely photos of my recent walk to the mailbox...


Post a Comment

<< Home