Wednesday, July 21, 2010

who needs to know?

Lee Siegel in Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob:

"'Convenience' is also the rote answer to another fundamental question: Why does anyone not employed in the news media need a constant flow of news and information? One of the Internet boosters' proudest claims is that the Internet can deliver the news to its users with unprecedented immediacy. If someone gets shot in a supermarket parking lot in Flagstaff, Arizona, an Internet user in New Jersey will know about it hours, maybe even days before someone who depends on his local evening news. But who really needs to know that?"

siegel's question sounds like a tossoff but it's a legitimate one we oughtn't take for granted. what difference does it make that I know about the cop shootings in oakland, ca, this past sunday morning or that the shooter was, according to his mom, motivated by his recent news-watching to take up a gun? in my specific instance it might make some difference--I can use the information to jumpstart a classroom or sermon conversation about the way we react to things or what we do with what we know. but that's just my making use of the information for my particular situation. in general, what does it mean that a guy living on the rim knows in real time about something happening elsewhere?

the flippant answer to who needs to know and what good does it do might be "no one and nothing." it might mean something somehow if you know nothing about the case of angel torres and I introduce you to the video of his hit-and-run. but really, what are you going to do with that information? can you do anything with it, besides use it to bolster your already solid sense that the world is chaotic and people suck?

my sense is that it does matter that I was aware of neda agha-soltan's death within minutes of its happening but I don't have any method for quantifying that sense. unlike siegel's contention, raised elsewhere in the book, that information is only good in culture if it's profitable--a concept he does not approve of--I think information is valuable for its own sake if for no other reason than that it informs our experience of the world. it's a question of what we do with that information that says something, not about the information or its practicality, but about us.

No comments:

Post a Comment