Friday, May 20, 2011

news consumers consumed by newsgatherers

how much distraction can a single person ingest?

that's the question that besets all of the members of this media generation -- or more aptly, the media degeneration that we currently give life to through our passive participation.

i run down the left column of the good news aggregator, and am greeted by a series of names in the news -- a kind of shorthand for the short attention span-afflicted consumers of this never-ending torrent of tripe.

randy savage, israel, barnes & noble, lance armstrong, johnny depp, dominique strauss-kahn... you get the picture, or rather the thousands of words, pictures and videos that titillate and amuse us until our eyeballs pop out and we're drooling and whacking off at the same time.

randy savage never made it to the rapture, as he suffered a fatal heart attack and wrecked his jeep down in the sunshine state. who knew he was a wrestling superstar? lance armstrong, on the other hand, is the guy who asked if we were tired of being tired, while pumping some performance-enhancing drug with the same vigor as his bicycle pedals.

what they have in common with the other people and places on the list is notoriety. we've heard of them, so what they do is assumed to have potential to draw us in with a click. the click will expose us to the scrutiny of a computer algorithm, which in turn will assess our propensity to purchase an advertiser's product. it's a very hi-tech flim-flam, where we trade a bit of our cognitive space for a glimpse of some headline-grabbing entity.

we call this news.

it isn't a whole lot different in theory, i suppose, than the way things were at the newspaper where i used to work. but it feels a whole lot different. for one thing, there's no such thing as the anonymous consumer of the content. i can understand the concept of reader/viewer as a "product" google delivers to the advertiser, but i never used to feel like the medium was a one-way mirror -- looking back at me while i was looking at the news. now that is a creepy sensation that seems to follow almost any site one visits.

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