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On the State of Information

March 7, 2013

Ah, monthly updates… It’s a bit of a cop out, seeing as I used to force myself to update every day (with terrible, non-existent content). On the other hand, I did once say I wasn’t going to post any more and I still am, so yay… or my condolences, if you were hoping that was true.

Also you might have noticed I changed the theme. Black, white and red are a great combination on race cars but when it comes to reading on a dark background then shifting back to a light background afterwards, it just makes my eyes burn. So neutral colours it is.

The following was handwritten, mostly because I have a lot of unused journal/diaries. I wrote this in a 2011 diary with a thin nibbed green marker. If anyone cares.


“Information as entertainment”.

It appears that the information we receive these days is largely focused on media – as Kurt Cobain (RIP) once said, “I feel stupid and contagious. Here we are, now entertain us!” Cue heavy rock riffs and energetic banging of heads. Yeah…. yeah………….!

But let us look at the popular Internet uses of yesteryear¹. In the early days it was largely the BBS/Usenet networks which connected people. Key points include intelligent, civil discussion among intellectual peers. Then blogging came into vogue and the conversationsal patterns turned inwards – one wrote by oneself and propagated information as if it were a message in a bottle. The discussion still existed, but in the comments, rather than as a two-way conversation. The word “comment” itself excludes discussion: to comment, says Google, is to “Express an opinion or reaction”, as opposed to a “forum“, where “ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged”.

Moving on, social networks came into play and increasingly the exchange of information became more focused on the creator than the content: “So mad my lecturer didn’t believe my grandmother just died!”. A central figure disseminates to the masses, but – generally speaking, of course – content becomes increasingly spare. Take Twitter, for example. The latest progression is Tumblr, a variation on blogging but with easier re-sharing capability. So rather than writing or originating a piece, one Tumblr-s a picture of someone else’s cat but interjects with a pithy personal opinion to demonstrate one’s incisive, cutting wit. “I had fun once. It was horrible.“²

The devices we use have mimicked this trend of consumption – or is it the other way round? The advent of touch devices contribute to this characteristic of avoiding boredom with Internet sliced doses of dopamine releasers. There was a study on that, I believe. Viva la Google.

Back to input. Touch lends itself well to information consumption. When we touch something either we expect interactivity, or we touch something to investigate the state it is in (ie rough wood, soft pudding, slippery soap, fluffy plushies, etc). What we touch responds, or we respond to what we touch.

Against that is the pen, which has always been an input device from which we ‘externalise’ our minds into a medium, be it paper, walls or a screen. It is similar for a keyboard (but not entirely), but not for a mouse, which is closer to interactivity like touch. So we have “controller” functions, like touch, mice and game controllers, versus “input” functions such as keyboards and pens. The former tends towards rewarding action with reaction while the other encourages ‘creation’, to recording a state of mind, or just writing  boring reports and spreadsheets.

How fascinating that these are the respective angles in which Apple and Microsoft devices have been aligning towards in recent years.

And on that bombshell it’s time to end this post.

¹ Is this a benefit of ageing? Being able to look back? Oh dear.
² “Hold on”, you say, “that’s not Tumblr”. Yep, it’s not. Sorry. Assume I’m talking about memes in general. Plus grumpy cat is great.


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