By Brian Small at Dec 17, 2010
I've been becoming more aware of my on-line and attention-spending habits since Michael Albert's Facebook Vs Civilization and Internet Worries blog posts. I think the essential TomDispatch site sending me to the cursor.org aggregator with a several hyperlinks per sentence may have started my downfall . Actually, I imagine it's more a problem of just setting limits, you can't follow the deluge 3 active mailing lists and Znet and Counterpunch and cursor.org and then expect to have time to organize your thoughts and write some quality material. I guess we have to find ways to control the addiction, like alcohol or some other new drug coming into a culture for the first time, or setting limits on hours spent watching TV in a conscientious family...
I'm wondering if coming upon a hyperlink in text really distracts from the flow? How different is it from coming upon  citation and then going to the footnote or end note? Of course you can't just click on the book title in the notes and spriral out of control with 30 tabs open in your browser while reading a book. Does this mean you can force yourself to process on-line information by taking notes (is it sacrilegious to remove your hands from the keyboard??) and refusing to leave a page until you've finished with Norman Mailer's Narrative on that particular issue?
Adbusters has a Digital Detox campaign, Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood has Screen-free week. I think I'm going to designate a screen-free day each week (hard to avoid that cell phone if only for short date-and-place-confirming for meetings) .. I'm looking forward to getting back to the book basics and scaling down screen time. Some quiet deep-processing time with Douglas Rushkoff's _Program or Be Programmed_ and _Open Source Democracy_ should synegrize nicely with some _Economic Justice and Democracy_ and _Participatory Economics_ work. I can feel a Economy 4.0 Redesign epiphany coming along just from the titles and snippets. Now it's just balancing the reading with quality face and body time while fending off the screens.
All this newly strengthened self awareness and technology consciousness brought to mind old misgivings voiced by Noam Chomsky and Robert Fisk that seemed outlandish, even elitist, to me at the time. I can't find the entire piece by Robert Fisk where he says e-mail is trash, he'll only read stuff that requires the effort to stamp and send by snail-mail. There are allusions to his attitude in pages about 'Fisking' but I can't remember where I read his whole tirade (probably on the old Znet) but this part of it is available from the search engines I tried.
"I have to be honest: I don't use the Internet. I've never seen a blog in my life. I don't even use email, I don't waste my time with this."
Chomky's concerns in this 1995 interview with RosieX and Chris Mountford come off a bit more balanced but just as worrisome. E-mail deluge was forerunner to the physically impossible pace of Trivia interrupted by Tweats (Junk interrupted by Junk, as Normon Solomon ran with the Mailer anti-commercial article in Parade Magazine)
" Incidentally the public nets where everyone is talking to one another have, in my opinion, the same degraded character as the individual e-mail messages; people are just too casual in what comes across...the effect is you often get good things, but buried...the quality of what people are doing is actually declining because of their intense involvement in these e-mail interactions which are have such an overwhelming character when you get involved in them. And it's kind of seductive, not personally for me, but I know people get seduced by the computer and sitting there banging around at it. It has a negative potential and a certain positive potential, but I think it's a double edged sword "
Also, I think the Chomsky's observation that the fight over the internet has a lot of similarities with radio in the 20s. "Incidentally the whole thing is simply reliving things that have gone on with earlier communication technologies and it's well worth having a look at what happened. Some very clever left type academics and media people have charted the course of radio in US since the 20s. In the US things took quite a different course from the rest of the world in the 1920s, the United States is a very business run society with a very high class business community." is synching with Albert's recognition of Carr's concerns with google, quoted in Internet Worries(link below) mirroring 'left' analysis... Could Media Literacy, a Freire type Conscientization (conscientização) or critical consciousness towards the new media, that there's no reason you can direct the programming of your world, lead to Open Source Economics and Democracy tendencies???
Back in this 1995 interview it almost seems like Chomsky was reading the Wall Street Journal or someplace where they were foreseeing multitasking TVs with links and instant shopping.. Have people started voting on Superbowl plays yet? " Of course the ideal was to have every human being spend every spare moment alone in front of the tube and now it's interactive!"
This Tech interview is brilliant, it even mentions the same kind of revelations that Umberto Eco points out with wikileaks! Noam Chomsky says in 1995 " I know this system pretty well, and the one thing I've discovered over the years is to be complet ely public. The intelligence systems are so ideologically fanatic that they can not understand public opposition." Umberto Eco says in 2010 "The informant is lazy. So is the head of the secret service... he only regards as true what he recognises....those given to the occult only believe what they already know and what corroborates what they’ve already heard. That happens to be Dan Brown’s success formula."
As far at the battle over the Internet, what ever happened to Freenet that Michael Albert was discussing years ago? Does it have anything to do with the 'pinging' that Douglas Rushkoff is talking about as he discusses the limits of the internet exposed by the crackdown on Wikileaks?
Links in the Post above
Michael Albert Facebook Vs. Civilization
Tomdispatch (I love this site, more than making up for sending me to Cursor.org and 30 open tab hell it got me to read Mike Davis' _Victorian Holocausts_ tome after _Planet of Slums_ and _Monster at Our Door_. TomDispatch offerings are definitely NOT snippets, he's used to publishing, and writing, entire books.)
Norman Mailer on Narrative
Normon Solomon on Mailer - Junk interrupted by Junk
Douglas Rushkoff Program or Be Programmed
Open Source Democracy (I've only read this blurb but the wording is fascinating, making me think of Parecon as a Economy Redesign, and I'm impressed with the first couple chapters of his Life Inc. book)
Noam Chomsky on e-mails and quality decline
it used to be available on Znet but the Chomsky.info link is dead.
Umberto Eco on Wikileaks, Not Such Wicked Leaks.
Douglas Rushkoff on Centralized Nature of the Internet and Wikileaks.