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Questions & Answers vs. Conversations

Adam Curry has a very particular pronunciation of the word “conversation” — if you listen to the “No Agenda” podcast, then you may be familiar with it. I wonder what Adam might think about what I intend to write here.

I’ve got a million friends

Bob Dylan, “I Shall Be Free No. 10”

When I was in graduate school, I did some so-called empirical research about how library school students thought about (the meaning of) titles. While doing the review of literature for this study, I found an article that had a quite significant influence on the way I thought about titles. The concept was quite simple, but the name for the concept was quite academic: it was called (something like) a “theme-rheme” approach — the idea was that the title poses a question (“theme”), and that the text is supposed to answer that question (“rheme”). Since a lot of my thinking at the time was similarly oriented towards what might be referred to as algorthmic approaches to information, this pitch went down like melted butter.

Now, decades later, I drag my weary eyes through a vast flatland of tundra, looking for an eskimo pie a blog post that might interest me. Only a fraction of 1% pass the test. The rest are some sort of cosmic debris I have no stomach for.

Frank Zappa, “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow”

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation

Henry David Thoreau, “Walden”

Most of these titles sound more or less like:

The quick & easy solution to all of your problems

or maybe

How to be happy in 12 steps (Step 1)

Are these questions or answers … or invitations to have a conversation?

Step 1 usually boils down to SIGN HERE NOW and hope that the schmuck giving you this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will actually deliver what’s promised (or a least an all expenses paid cruise on a yacht to some sunny island with primitives dancing around in circles on the beach and free drinks delivered to you, chillaxing on a recliner chair, enjoying the gentle breeze under an umbrella providing shade from the burning hot tropical sunshine).

Such is the context of textualization online — and although the kids are alright, they have by and large not been taught about the dangerous adventures of skating around on thin ice. In a world based on the philosophy of “there’s a sucker born every minute”, profit-maximizing companies are now breeding suckers like wildfire.

This is anything but equality. This is definitely not any basis for conversation. This is very basic exploitation. This is same-old, same-old.

Whether the kids will survive swimmingly or whether they are in for the shock of their lives, I guess time will tell.

This past week I had a conversation with a kid who actually told me that they prefer ignorance because it enables them to enjoy themselves more than the prospect of having to face a bitter reality — and this is a person who has just graduated from college.


By New Media Works

I'm just a regular person ;) If you want to know more, pls send me a msg -- thanks! :D

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