insular habits of mind, more alone than ever, burn the books and the ideas survive

The Internet has changed many things, but not the insular habits of mind that keep the world from becoming truly connected

A central paradox of this connected age is that while it’s easier than ever to share information and perspectives from different parts of the world, we may be encountering a narrower picture of the world than we did in less connected days. During the Vietnam War, television reporting from the frontlines involved transporting exposed film from Southeast Asia by air, then developing and editing it in the United States before broadcasting it days later. Now, an unfolding crisis such as the Japanese tsunami or Haitian earthquake can be reported in real time via satellite. Despite these lowered barriers, today’s American television news features less than half as many international stories as were broadcast in the 1970s.

The pace of print media reporting has accelerated sharply, with newspapers moving to a “digital first” strategy, publishing fresh information online as news breaks. While papers publish many more stories than they did 40 years ago (online and offline), Britain’s four major dailies publish on average 45 percent fewer international stories than they did in 1979.

Why worry about what’s covered in newspapers and television when it’s possible to read firsthand accounts from Syria or Sierra Leone? Research suggests that we rarely read such accounts. My studies of online news consumption show that 95 percent of the news consumed by American Internet users is published in the United States. By this metric, the United States is less parochial than many other nations, which consume even less news published in other countries. This locality effect crosses into social media as well. A recent study of Twitter, a tool used by 400 million people around the world, showed that we’re far more likely to follow people who are physically close to us than to follow someone outside our home country’s borders, or even a few states or provinces away. Thirty-nine percent of the relationships on Twitter involve someone following the tweets of a person in the same metropolitan area. In the Twitter hotbed of São Paulo, Brazil, more than 78 percent of the relationships are local. So much for the death of distance.

I use Twitter much like I used to use an RSS reader. While I subscribe to narrow specialized topics like astrobiology for instance, I also subscribe to international news. One is a very good Australian internet based newspaper. As the conservative war on women rolls on here, it is interesting to see the issues faced by women in Australia – very easy to fall into homelessness and poverty. That news is also interspersed with news about human rights about women and humanity in general n countries like Turkey ( which seems to be taking a half step back at the moment). Yet both Australia and Turkey look less awful in comparison to Saudi Arabia or Syria. While we are caught up in our issues, which do seem overwhelming – currently there are approximately 400 separate bills in state legislators right now that infringe on women’s rights, and by proxy men’s rights. I can click over and sign the occasional petition – who knows if those are even read by those in power, but despite the power of the internet, time still does not expand to allow that naive, if noble notion of global connections. Plus, like most people I need some time to decompress. That means consuming some lighter news, watching TV or just watching the birds outside the window. In the never-ending race to save the world people do need to save their sanity. Backing off all that connectedness a little bit is one way to do that.

Via here Going Solo: A Brief History of Living Alone and the Enduring Social Stigma Around Singletons.

In the 4th century BC, Aristotle admonished:

The man who is isolated, who is unable to share in the benefits of political association, or has no need to share because he is already self-sufficient, is no part of the polis, and must therefore be either a beast or a god.

[  ]….Until recently, most of us married young and parted only at death. If death came early, we remarried quickly; if late, we moved in with family, or they with us. Now we marry later. We divorce, and stay single for years or decades. We survive our spouses, and do whatever we can to avoid moving in with others — even, perhaps especially, our children. We cycle in and out of different living arrangements: alone, together, together alone […] [T]oday, for the first time in centuries, the majority of all American adults are single. The typical American will spend more of his or her adult life unmarried than married, and for much of this time he or she will live alone.

I’ve noticed people in abusive families or personal relationships over the years and noticed how people stay in them. Sometimes they have no real choice because of financial considerations or geographic isolation. Other times I think people stay because they are of something like Aristotle’s observation. Better an abusive relationship – emotionally abusive – than the beast of being alone.

And by way of here, these amazing creatures –  Aliens Are Living Under the White Sea. I’m just posting the one shot, but all of them are worth a look. They were captured by the head of the diving department of Moscow State University. The White Sea at Wikipedia.


A counter and contrarian argument for book burning – Can an E-Book Be Burnt?

I myself believe the Qur’an is a rich historical document, one among many others, and for this reason I hope you will understand that I can’t really convince myself that burning it would shake up the cosmic order any more than the incineration of old newspaper (a pastime at which I have much experience). I particularly don’t enjoy thinking that fear of reactions outside the United States should prevent people within the United States from performing a perfectly legal and merely symbolic act such as the burning of whatever book it is that they happen not to like. What would ordinarily be a distasteful gesture from a clueless yokel such as Jones is for me transformed by the threat of a violent reaction into a question of sovereignty and freedom.

I am against book burning. Any book burning. Though doing so is largely symbolic. If you burn the Bible or Slaughterhouse-five or a flag, you just make people who like those things like them even more. It is ultimately counter productive. In some instances as in the Qur’an burning is is about people who have neither the imagination, emotional strength or ideas to combat what they see as wrong. There is a lot of awful religious writing out there and even more people who will take even the best of what is available and still do evil in its name. It’s a battle of ideas. The burners have generally surrendered. They reach for a match instead of a better argument.

paint colors wallpaper

Susan Wright, mother of the Wright brothers, was brought something to her marriage her husband did not. A fair amount of mechanical know how she learned growing up. She passed on that aptitude to the kids.

“We were lucky enough to grow up in an environment where there was always much encouragement to children to pursue intellectual interests; to investigate whatever aroused curiosity. In a different kind of environment, our curiosity might have been nipped long before it could have borne fruit.”– Orville Wright


Inside the New York Times ‘Lively Morgue’. Video about the NYT  archives, not death.