Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Understanding Media

Multimedia and Digital Commentary Online
Excerpts from George Gilder's Life after Television, New York: Norton, 1994.

TV defies the most obvious fact about its customers -- their prodigal and efflorescent diversity. people perform scores of thousands of different jobs; pursue multifarious hobbies; read hundreds of thousands of different publications. TV ignores the reality that people are not inherently couch potatoes; given a chance, they talk back and interact. People have little in common except their prurient interests and morbid fears and anxieties. Necessarily aiming its fare at this lowest-common-denominator target, television gets worse and worse every year.

All these developments converge in one key fact of life, and death, for telecommunications in the 1990s. Television and telephone systems -- optimized for a world in which spectrum or bandwidth was scarce -- are utterly unsuited for a world in which bandwidth is abundant.

The very nature of broadcasting, however, means that television cannot cater to the special interests of audiences dispersed across the country. Television is not vulgar because people are vulgar, it is vulgar because people are similar in their prurient interests and sharply differentiated in their civilized concerns. All of world industry is moving increasingly toward more segmented markets. But in a broadcast medium, such a move would be a commercial disaster. In a broadcast medium, artists and writers cannot appeal to the highest aspirations and sensibilities of individuals. Instead, manipulative masters rule over huge masses of people.

Television is a tool of tyrants. Its overthrow will be a major force for freedom and individuality, culture and morality. That overthrow is at hand.

From the personal computer to the fiber-optic cable, from the communications satellite to the compact disc, our generation commands the most powerful information tools in history. Yet the culture we have created with these machines is dreary at best. Why doesn't our superb information technology better inform and uplift us?

This is the most important question of the age. The most dangerous threat to the U.S. economy and society is the breakdown of our cultural institutions -- in the family, religion, education, and the arts -- that preserve and transmit civilization to new generations. If this social fabric continues to fray, we will lose not only our technological prowess and economic competitiveness but also the meaning of life itself. The chief economic challenge we now face is how to apply the new technologies in a way that preserves the values and disciplines that made them possible in the first place.

No fiscal or monetary policy, however brilliant, will be able to promote enduring economic growth and competitiveness in a society in which children spend four hours a day wallowing in the nihilistic swamp of television. Families and schools cannot succeed unless our culture upholds moral codes and disciplines and hard regimens of study. In the U.S., culture means TV. It means an endless flow of minor titillations with barely a major idea or ideal.

The force of microelectronics will blow apart all the monopolies, hierarchies, pyramids, and power grids of established industrial society. It will undermine all totalitarian regimes. police states cannot endure under the advance of the computer because it increases the powers of the people far faster than the powers of surveillance.

The new law of networks exalts the smallest coherent system: the individual human mind and spirit. A healthy culture reflects not the psychology of crowds but the creativity and inspiration of millions of individuals reaching for high goals. In place of the broadcast pyramid, a peer network will emerge in which all the terminals will be smart -- not mere television sets but interactive video receivers, processors, and transmitters.

In the world of the teleputer, broadcasters, educators, investors, and filmmakers, who thought they could never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people, are going to discover they were wrong.

T. S. Eliot addressed the problem in this poem The Rock:

Where is the life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
One might add: Where is the information we have lost in data?


At November 09, 2005 10:08 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Senior Citizen Bloggers Defy Stereotypes

Nov 10, 12:55 AM (ET)


CHICAGO (AP) - Forget shuffleboard, needlepoint and bingo. Web logs, more often the domain of alienated adolescents and home to screeds by middle-aged pundits, are gaining a foothold as a new leisure-time option for senior citizens.

There's Dad's Tomato Garden Journal, Dogwalk Musings, and, of course, the Oldest Living Blogger.

"It's too easy to sit in your own cave and let the world go by, eh?" said Ray Sutton, the 73-year-old Oldest Living Blogger and a retired electrician who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. "It keeps the old head working a little bit so you're not just sitting there gawking at TV."

Web logs, or blogs, are online journals where people write about anything and everything that interests them. Blogs tend to be topical, and typically offer links to other Web sites, photos and opportunities for readers to comment.

Bloggers say their hobby keeps them up on current events, lets them befriend strangers around the globe and gives them a voice in a society often deaf to the wisdom of the elderly.

"It brings out the best in me," said Boston-area blogger Millie Garfield, 80, who writes My Mom's Blog with occasional help from her son, Steve Garfield, a digital video producer. "My life would be dull without it."

And it's brought her a bit of fame.

In June, Garfield was invited to speak at a Boston seminar for marketers on how to use the Web more effectively. A short video of the event, posted on her blog, captures the professionals laughing at her wisecrack about the benefits of a man who can still drive at night.

Sutton, the Oldest Living Blogger, has also enjoyed some limelight. He was asked to take part in a talk radio debate on a controversial high-voltage power line after he posted his views about it on his blog.

Three percent of online U.S. seniors have created a blog and 17 percent have read someone else's blog, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Compare that to online 18- to 29-year-olds: Thirteen percent have created blogs and 32 percent have read someone else's blog, according to Pew.

Joe Jenett, a Detroit-area Web designer who has been tracking the age of bloggers for a personal project called the Ageless Project, said he has noticed more older bloggers in the past two years.

"Isn't that phenomenal? And their writing is vibrant," Jenett said. He noted that sites such as give step-by-step instructions and free hosting, making it simpler to self-publish on the Web.

"It's easy to start one if you can connect dots," said former Jesuit priest and retired newspaperman Jim Bowman, 73, of Oak Park, Ill.

Bowman writes four regular blogs: one on happenings in his city, one a catchall for his opinions, one on religion and one offering feedback on Chicago newspapers. Bowman once had eight separate blogs, but has let some lapse. The blog topics he doesn't keep up with anymore include ideas for sermons, Chicago history and condominium life.

"Like any other hobby, you've got to make sure it doesn't take over," he said.

Mari Meehan, 64, of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, has been blogging since July. It's given her a voice in her small resort town where, as a relative newcomer, she felt rebuffed in her efforts to get involved.

Inspired by other local bloggers she'd found on The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.) newspaper's Web site, Meehan discovered it was easy to get started.

"If you can read, you can do it," she said. She titled her blog Dogwalk Musings and based it on the premise that she would write about her thoughts during morning walks with her St. Bernard, Bacchus. Her posts range from nature sightings of a kildeer's nest with four eggs to rants about local and national politics.

When readers started mentioning Dogwalk Musings as one of their favorites on a newspaper columnist's blog, Meehan said she felt compelled to post every day.

But now she's backing off. "Lots of times, I'll walk away from it for three or four days," Meehan said. "I'm not going to let it take over."

Response from blog readers does keep many older bloggers returning to their keyboards day after day. If they skip a day, readers will e-mail the older bloggers, asking if they're sick.

In the two years since 92-year-old retired Tennessee poultry and egg farmer Ray White started Dad's Tomato Garden Journal, the blog has been viewed more than 45,000 times.

White's daughter, Mary, said the blog keeps her father interested in life. White now has friends he's never met in England, Portugal, Germany, Canada and all 50 states, he said.

"You'd be surprised how many questions I get during the tomato season," he said. "There's always somebody having a problem."


On the Net:

The Ageless Project:


Oldest Living Blogger:

Chicago Newspapers: The Blog:

My Mom's Blog:

Dogwalk Musings:

Dad's Tomato Garden Journal:

At November 09, 2005 10:41 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Anybody can blog; it's as easy now as setting up an email account. This one was created in an hour at , which produces an address

Then you write whatever you want to -- and delete it just as easily. What one wants to do is create a presence on the Web that a representation of one's best -- and not one's worst. That is what one will be known (and should be known) for. You don't want to create an anonymous blog just so one can do dishonorable things one doesn't want to be identified with.

That's what the old publishing world doesn't want everybody to know. That there is no shame in being known -- just as one would do so in the old media-controlled world. They still want you to buy into the belief that they control legitmacy and merit. The new world is open to whatever one can contribute to it.

then the only limit becomes how good you can imagine it to be -- and manifest it. Shortly, the old media and academic style becomes unreadable and uninteresting -- because the writing and thoughts on the blogosphere is so much more creative and engaging. They're here to stay.

One can also begin by submitting comments to other people's blogs until one feels the urge to try one's own. Participating in popular forums would be a way of generating traffic to your own blog -- by those interested in the further development of your ideas.

Almost every public person has a blog now. It's coming to be the definition of a public person.

At November 09, 2005 11:04 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

It's the mainstream media that likes to foster the notion that in order to have freedom of speech, you have to be anonymous. That's not freedom of speech if one has to fear being known, to speak one's truth.

So they are the biggest underminers of real freedom of expression and the Internet -- warning of its dangers while ignoring the constant deception, manipulation and demagoguery coming from their editors and columnists.

It's time to turn out the lights on those guys. No Save the Star-Bulletin this time around. Or the Advertiser.

At November 09, 2005 11:20 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

This is the base the mainstream media thought would never desert them. They were counting on the seniors to remain loyal subscribers to their very end -- out of inertia and habit.

But really, they are the prime beneficiaries of all the wonderful new technologies -- if they just know about them. And the mainstream media is doing their best not to let them know about them. So we have one hellacious conflict of interest looming ahead -- which doesn't look good for the old mainstream media hoping to hang on to their control. It looks very bad for them; there is no future as they get squeezed from both ends of the demographics.

What's fascinating to consider is how quickly they go under -- and the sheer terror and panic as they abandon their sinking ship.

At November 09, 2005 11:28 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Why should anybody pay for uniinformed, bigoted opinions?

At November 09, 2005 11:50 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

It's always an epiphany when the predator begins to realize he's become the prey.

At November 10, 2005 10:09 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

In the voluminous reading we all do now, what is the line of demarcation is that there are those who bring joyous news and those who see life as eternal misery -- and want everybody else to feel that way too.

Disproportionately, a lot of these morbid personality types infest mainstream media -- so the gloom and doom they wish to propagate is their values and culture of despair and futility. Many of them grew up in a generation in which they were taught that the goal of every American citizen is to become the President of the United States, and if they aren't, they are obvious (and very public) failures. Those who are the most bitter, resentful and envious, are those who have to witness and interview successful people all day -- as the journalists have to, which only serves to remind them of their own failure.

Increasingly, like "Walter Mitty," the journalist themselves become the object of their stories of imagined virtue and triumph -- while the real world is portrayed as the fake. Although most of the readers do not know these journalists personally, other than what they tell of themselves as the glorious defenders of everything good and great in America, they unfortunately have to go in to pick up their paychecks and confront the mocking stares of those who do know them personally.

Since it is no longer politically correct to kick the blind man in the snack bar, they feel justified in taking all their own frustrations, fears and failures on the symbol of ultimate success and accomplishment in society, which is of course, the President.

At November 10, 2005 10:10 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

When the time is right, things happen very quickly -- although it may take years and a lot of effort to make that time right. There is a gestation period for all things that eventually come into being. The mistake is thinking that if something is not happening as we expect them to, that it is not happening -- rather than, when the truly new comes into being, the old eyes and mind cannot see it, because it can only see the old, familiar pattern through the old familiar expectations.

But the truly new will not be in the pattern of the old -- it will be something entirely new. At this particular time, the failures and the shortcomings of the mainstream media are well-known -- and there is a better solution: the blogs and public forums like the freerepublic. We're not demoralized -- they are, but they hope we will buy into their wishful-thinking, just as they have confront their own reality. But the reality of the blogs and forums is that they have supplanted the mainstream media and everything else. Even the newspapers have become part of the blogosphere; they are just blogs like every other is. If then they have to compete only on quality, they don't have the talent gene pool.

Beware not the Borg,
beware of the Blog.


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