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Monday, March 16, 2009

Potpourri V

Here's a roundup of the sections of the internet where I prowl:

  • Ray Kurzweil finally responded to the Singularity questions sent by Darlene the Science Cheerleader, me, and our readers. We'll have those answers dual-posted on Science Cheerleader and Rhetoric & Rockets Thursday, when Darlene gets back from South by Southwest (SXSW). Darlene is on a panel titled, "Back Off, Man. I'm a Scientist," which will be discussing "user-generated discovery." That should be interesting.
  • Darlene has posted cheers developed by the Philadelphia 76ers cheerleading squad on the 18 concepts people should know for science literacy. Did I mention that Dar rocks?!?
  • The new Star Trek trailer is worth a look.
  • Some interesting reading from the American Enterprise Institute by Charles Murray and Irving Kristol, as well as commentary by Jerry Pournelle.
  • The Space Shuttle finally launched, and I missed it. Shame on me. Of course the more I learn about these things and what sorts of things can go wrong, the more nerve-wracking they become.
  • Matt Labash has another interesting bit in The Weekly Standard, this time on my latest e-addiction, Facebook. Suffice to say, Mr. Labash is not a fan.

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I've been having a rather long discussion at work about newspapers and their imminent demise at the hands of the internet and talk radio. My buddy Martin keeps trying to sell me on the glories and greatness and Almighty Traditions of Impartial Reporting, which the Internet is Going to Destroy. First of all, that "tradition" can be (and has been) easily exposed as anything but impartial. However, even if I accept his first premise, I still believe that objective journalism and thoughtful analysis and commentary can be found on the Internet. The problem (and Martin is right about this) is that people are not particularly interested in reading "objective" accounts of anything anymore, or they don't believe such things exist. You can thank postmodernism for that.

Obi-wan Kenobi: "That's the truth!"
Qui-gon Jinn:
"From your point of view." --Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

While I won't mourn many of the local papers I've read in my lifetime, the capitalist in me still wants to know from the net-heads how they expect writers who develop content to make money. My buddy Doc has pointed out that writers like John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow manage to keep selling books even though they give them away on their web sites. Great. What will they do to make a buck when the dead-tree option is no longer available to them?

However, if I understand the problem correctly from Martin and Tracy, who are both former reporters, there are not enough advertising revenues to support high-powered staffs of eminent writers used to serious money (proof enough to my hard-core Republican friends that liberals, too, are capitalists). On the flip side, I might argue that the ethos or credibility of certain reporters could easily transfer to new forms of media. Maureen Dowd, Thomas Friedman, et al., manage to write the same quality of English for WashingtonPost.com that they do for the version that comes from dead trees. But seriously, can't these folks write books (electronic or otherwise) to make a buck? The problem is crystallized by a guy I went to grad school with. He was an early adopter of the Internet, Linux, open sourcing, etc., and his big thing was that "The internet should be free, man." To which I still say, "Fine, dude. But how are you gonna pay for all your hardware?" Blank stare.

I don't expect Tracy, Martin, Doc, or me to solve the Demise of the Newspapers or the broken internet business model, but it beats the usual yakkity-yak water cooler talk about SEC football, doesn't it?

1 comment:

Science Cheerleader said...

no, YOU rock! :)