Monday, December 7, 2009

Data Smog

Data Smog is the name of a 12-year-old book (I haven't read it, yet) about the rapid proliferation of information on the Internet making it increasingly impossible to tell fact from fiction.

It is by now an old and widely perceived problem, but recent events -- getting to the bottom of the real story about the meaning of the hacked Climate Change e-mails; accurately understanding what to make of Sarah Palin, her book, and the facts and myths of her political life; separating, likewise, the myths, facts, hopes and fears behind the current health insurance reform legislation -- just underscore its nature.

It's not uncommon to hear media critics, especially bloggers, complain about the way the media "filter" the news, yet with so much of blogging devoted to opinions and interpretations of isolated news nuggets through a particular ideological lens, the degree of "filtering" is even greater in the blogosphere. Again, not an especially original notion.

And I'll add that I know that the media do display all kinds of bias, subtle and not so, where ideology, class, and other factors of point-of-view are concerned.


New-media triumphalists dismiss the diminution of leading journals and passing of once-revered journalists as a good thing, urging us all to read more widely and "make up our own minds" about the news of the day. Increasingly, though, I find such prescriptions facile and naive.

Who's got the time?

I suspect that among the media models yet to emerge will be one that is highly digested, comprehensive but succinct, well researched enough to persuade readers it knows what it's talking about, and thus brave enough to tell us right out what is important, what isn't, and what's absolutely irrelevant drivel. But, of course, anyone who disagrees with its conclusions will just write it off as biased, cranky, or both.

And whether it will gain enough readers to provide the necessary revenue to sustain it is an open question.

PS: I was gonna do all kinds of snazzy, awesome links up in that second graf to make this whole post look that much more hip and Internetty, but I'm just too damn busy.


  1. Total agreement that the internet has created an age in which anyone can find people to reassure them that what they already believe is true. But I wanted to address your ps: apparently, links are going out of fashion--the theory is that if you provide a reference, people will google if they doubt you.

  2. Well, that might be a trend, but truly wasn't my reason. I love posting links. And I might go back to update this one w/ some appropriate ones when time permits...

  3. I also share the link love. Maybe links will stay popular with bloggers, but not with twitterers. Or maybe it's a generational thing.


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