future shock

future shock by alvin toffler

from wikipedia:

Future Shock is a book written by the futurist Alvin Toffler in 1970. In the book, Toffler defines the term “future shock” as a certain psychological state of individuals and entire societies. His shortest definition for the term is a personal perception of “too much change in too short a period of time“.

i do believe we are all experiencing this phenomena. In personal, global and societal ways. All at once. For me my microcosm became semi unmanageable with the entree of 3 new social sharing networks launching into my life within 3 weeks. Two of them I had been on for a while, but nobody else was. But this month…whoa.

Pinterest, Path and now Chill are running rampant in my network. Yeah yeah yeah – I know. My netwrok is different than the average person’s network. I know this. But if I can’t handle all of this “future shock” how in the world is my friend Sarah going to adapt/adopt?

I’m also thinking that my nieces must just be ready for all of this – that they can handle the splintering of their personalities and interests into different networks because they are digital natives. Of course my designy friends are on pinterest, it seems that Path is for friends who want to track waking sleeping and lots of physical exercise (seriously…this is what my path feed looks like: yoga, running, yoga, barre method, walk, run)

At any rate…my nieces. They don’t use alot of different networks. I’ve been trying to get one of them to really dig into instagram with no luck.

I just feel lost right now….i had no idea what the details were on all the Tebow stuff…none. But i did know that Jerry Yang was leaving Yahoo seconds after it happened. I had no idea what Chill was when peoiple started tweeting about it – but that new Bahamas record? Yes. Love.

They say one person can’t know everything. I think that is more true than EVER. But if we are supposed to be well rounded individuals, yet aware of the world around us — right now the world is too BIG!

Future Shock. I’m going to wear an alvin toffler t-shirt to my next start-up meeting.

Love Lies and What They Learned

love, lies, and what they learned
I *loved* this article. Nobody likes to admit that they date online – but then it is also becoming so common in certain circles it’s hard to wonder how anyone is really meeting anyone new if you aren’t online. But the lying. The lying sucks. And there is so much of it. I’m not married (yeah right) I’m in a good place in my life (wrong) I know what I want (but i might just pick up and move next month) I’m interested in all types of women (but then i understood what curvy and about average “really meant”)
The stats in here are pretty fascinating. It is amazing how much people lie ONLINE – lying that they would not do in person.
I have to say I have had some personal experience with this. There have a been a few situations that blew me away. One of the larger ones had nothing to do with MEETING online….in fact it was social networking and facebook that blew the lid off of the fact that the “lawyer” I had been seeing on and off was an IT guy at the firm and about ten years younger than he had let on.   Walking around pretending to be someone else all the time? It must be EXHAUSTING.
These days I have to say that I do not trust people who don’t have a digital footprint. If i can’t find at least 4 things that mention you or see that you have up  a flickr album etc – even if its blocked for private users. If you are invisible out there? You have got to be hiding something. Match should have a direct link to linked in. (and if you have zero connections? syanora baby!)
November 12, 2011

THERE are millions of Americans seeking love on the Internet. Little do they know that teams of scientists are eagerly watching them trying to find it.

Like contemporary Margaret Meads, these scholars have gathered data from dating sites like Match.com, OkCupid and Yahoo! Personals to study attraction, trust, deception — even the role of race and politics in prospective romance.

They have observed, for instance, that many daters would rather admit to being fat than liberal or conservative, that white people are reluctant to date outside their race and that there are ways to detect liars. Such findings spring from attempts to answer a broader question that has bedeviled humanity since Adam and Eve: how and why do people fall in love?

“There is relatively little data on dating, and most of what was out there in the literature about mate selection and relationship formation is based on U.S. Census data,” said Gerald A. Mendelsohn, a professor in the psychology department at the University of California, Berkeley.

His research involving more than one million online dating profiles was partly financed by a grant from the National Science Foundation. “This now gives an access to dating that we never really had before,” He said. (Collectively, the major dating sites had more than 593 million visits in the United States last month, according to the Internet tracking firm Experian Hitwise.)

Andrew T. Fiore, a data scientist at Facebook and a former visiting assistant professor at Michigan State University, said that unlike laboratory studies, “online dating provides an ecologically valid or true-to-life context for examining the risks, uncertainties and rewards of initiating real relationships with real people at an unprecedented scale.”

“As more and more of life happens online, it’s less and less the case that online is a vacuum,” he added. “It is life.”

Of the romantic partnerships formed in the United States between 2007 and 2009, 21 percent of heterosexual couples and 61 percent of same-sex couples met online, according to a study by Michael J. Rosenfeld, an associate professor of sociology at Stanford. (Scholars said that most studies using online dating data are about heterosexuals, because they make up more of the population.)

Dating sites and academics have gotten cozy before; the biological anthropologist Helen Fisher of Rutgers, for example, is Chemistry.com’s chief scientific adviser, and she helped develop the site, a sister site to Match.com.

But scholars are also pursuing academic research using anonymous profile content given to them as a professional courtesy by dating sites. Often the researchers supplement that with surveys and in-person interviews by recruiting online daters through advertisements on campuses, in newspapers and on Web sites like Craigslist.

Here’s some of what they have learned, including maxims for singles: why opposites don’t attract and honesty is not always the best policy.


Do online daters have a propensity to lie? Do we really need scientists to answer this question?

If you are curious about numbers: about 81 percent of people misrepresent their height, weight or age in their profiles, according to a study led by Catalina L. Toma, an assistant professor in the department of communication arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who wanted to learn more about how people present themselves and how they judge misrepresentation. On the bright side: people tend to tell small lies because, after all, they may eventually meet in person.

Professor Toma; Jeffrey T. Hancock, an associate professor at Cornell; and Nicole B. Ellison, an associate professor in the department of telecommunication, information studies and media at Michigan State University, interviewed online daters in New York City, weighed and measured them, photographed them, checked their ages against their driver’s licenses and studied their dating profiles.

On average, the women described themselves as 8.5 pounds thinner in their profiles than they really were. Men fibbed by 2 pounds, though they lied by a greater magnitude than women about their height, rounding up a half inch (apparently every bit counts).

People were most honest about their age, something Professor Toma said is probably because they can claim ignorance about weight and height. Even so, in a different study she found that women’s profile photographs were on average a year and a half old. Men’s were on average six months old.

“Daters lie to meet the expectations of what they think their audience is,” Professor Toma said.

A paper to be published in the Journal of Communication used computer analysis to show that four linguistic indictors can help detect lying in the personal essay of a dating profile.

Liars tend to use fewer first-person pronouns. Professor Toma said this is an indication of psychological distancing: “You’re feeling guilty or anxious or nervous.” Liars use more negative words like “not” and “never,” yet another way of putting up a buffer. Liars use fewer negative emotion words like “sad” and “upset,” and they write shorter online personal essays. (It’s easier not to get caught if you say less.)

Scholars say a certain amount of fibbing is socially acceptable — even necessary — to compete in the online dating culture. Professor Ellison’s research shows that lying is partly a result of tension between the desire to be truthful and the desire to put one’s best face forward. So profiles often describe an idealized self; one with qualities they intend to develop (i.e., “I scuba dive”) or things they once had (i.e., a job). Some daters bend the truth to fit into a wider range of search parameters; others unintentionally misrepresent their personalities because self-knowledge is imperfect.

The standard of embellishment can frustrate the honest. “So if I say I am 44, people think that I am 48,” said one man interviewed by Professor Ellison and colleagues in a separate study.

But there is an upside to deception: it may inspire one to, as Professor Ellison put it, “close the gap between actual and ideal self.” One interviewee lied about her weight in her profile, and it was all the motivation she needed. She subsequently lost 44 pounds while online dating.


“Stick to your own kind,” goes the “West Side Story” refrain, a phenomenon that sociologists call homophily: love of the same. And they have observed this among online daters. But here is what they did not expect to discover: a very high rate of same-ethnicity dating.

“One of the theories of how the Internet might affect dating is that it might erode the tendency of people to mate with people like themselves,” said Professor Rosenfeld of Stanford. “I really expected there to be more interracial relationships for meeting online. And it wasn’t true.”

Research on a major dating site between February 2009 and February 2010 by Professor Mendelsohn and his colleagues shows that more than 80 percent of the contacts initiated by white members were to other white members, and only 3 percent to black members. Black members were less rigid: they were 10 times more likely to contact whites than whites were to contact blacks.

“What you’ve got is basically the reluctance of white Americans to date and to contact members of other ethnicities, particularly African-Americans,” he said. “We are nowhere near the post-racial age.”

Professor Mendelsohn set out to study relationship formation, not ethnicity. Yet along the way he found that white more than black, women more than men, and old more than young prefer a same-race partner.

Some people indicated that they were willing to date different ethnicities, but they didn’t. “What people say they want in a mate and what qualities they actually seek don’t tend to correspond,” said Coye Cheshire, an associate professor at the School of Information at Berkeley who has studied this with Mr. Fiore, Professor Mendelsohn and Lindsay Shaw Taylor, a member of the school’s self, identity and relationships lab.


Gender parity, it seems, isn’t sexy. Women want men who are — wait for it — tall and wealthy, according to online dating research by Gunter J. Hitsch and Ali Hortacsu at the University of Chicago, and Dan Ariely of Duke. The researchers have examined thousands of dating profiles that included height, weight and, in many cases, photographs. They found that women prefer men who are slightly overweight, while men prefer women who are slightly underweight and who do not tower over them. These were the women who had the best chance of receiving an introductory e-mail from a man.

And even though men may get away with carrying a few extra pounds, they are also burdened with the expectation of carrying a fatter wallet: The scholars found that women have a stronger preference than men do for income over physical attributes.


Decades of findings about political ideology suggest that it is in part passed from parents to children, said Rose McDermott, a professor of political science at Brown University. And because previous studies show that people in long marriages align politically (the crackling example of James Carville and Mary Matalin aside), she wanted to study how people end up with like-minded mates.

Professor McDermott and colleagues at the University of Miami and Penn State examined 2,944 dating profiles, and few people were willing to express a political preference or interest in politics. Professor McDermott suspects that this is because they wanted to attract as many dates as possible.

But though it could make for an interesting campaign year, such daters could be making a mistake if they are seeking long-term partners.

“I was personally really shocked,” said Professor McDermott, whose study was published this year in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. “People were much more likely to say ‘I’m fat’ than ‘I’m a conservative.’ ”


Using Today’s Tech to Map Social Networks of the Past

republic of letters

Exploring Correspondence and Intellectual Community in the Early Modern Period (1500-1800)


This project by some students at Stanford is pretty fantastic. One thing I have noticed over my adult years is that I read more biographies. As I read and read and read – and realize certain connections; it gives me a perspective that I feel like my history classes never could. For instance – reading Katherine Graham’s autobiography and learning that it was her mother that supported the gallery that forwarded Alfred Steiglitz’s photography as “art”; that made photography and art at all! – it was an “aha moment”. I’ve often thought that professors should require biographies more often as part of reading lists.

Back to this post…. I love reading collections of letters – there is something about the voyeuristic nature of them that allows me to feel as though I am uncovering truth. Even in today’s blogosphere and all of the social networking – how will it be archived? How will future historians trace the twitter feeds between the luminaries of today? One of my favorite books long ago was Posession by Byatt. Two PhD’s, a love story, history – all unfolded through the discovery of a piece of paper locked away in a box. (Even enough to tolerate a it being turned into a not so fabulous movie…more than one viewing admittedly!)

I love the idea of using modern mapping technology to bring a deeper understanding to the connections throughout history. Click the image to see the project — and make sure you have an hour or so!

Why I Love Jonathan Lethem

jonathan lethem

A few years back I went to see Lawrence Lessig and Jeff Tweedy debate the idea of remixes/mashes/samples and it was moderated by Wired Magazine’s Steven Johnson.  It may be one of my penultimate moments as a digital media, wilco fanatic, and nerd all at once.  Wilco had just gotten sued for the sample inside “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”….It was one of the best discussions on creativity, influence and inspiration I’ve ever attended.  Worth at least what one might learn in an entire semester in an art class at college. Truly. If someone had told me when I was 16 I’d be sitting inside the New York Public Library listeneing to a lawyer and one of my favorite songwriters talk about sampling…well…you know…yeah right.

And THIS is why I love Jonathan Lethem. I’ve been a Lethem fan since Fortress of Solitude. I feel connt\ected to his path in that we have lived in the same cities and pats of the country and he writes about neighborhoods I’ve lived in – and my true conversion as a complete and utter junkie came when I read The Disappointment Artist. It’s rare that you read a memoir and then want to go back and read every book that the author wrote…but I did. To learn that Lethem ran the Philip K Dick fan club? His obsession with Star Wars? Music…it all made sense why I had been following him.

He recently took up head of the department post at Pomona college….i hadn’t visited his blog in a while. Am in the finishing chapters of Chronic City. And then…then I saw the below. And once more I thought. Damn I love Jonathan Lethem. This is a writer who is SO modern in his process, in his voice and here we see in his attitude. I love the collaborative process, love that he is “throwin it out there to those that want to participate” – it’s just so refreshing to see someone BEING intellectual with their PROPERTY rather than trying to hoarde it.

You get what you Give. And Lethem’s Giving ALOT.  Read this man’s books.  They are fantastic. I swear.

Image by Tony Fitzpatrick


A couple of years ago, after writing a piece for Harper’s called “The Ecstasy of Influence”, I decided to start giving away some of my stories to filmmakers or dramatists to adapt. (I also write some song lyrics and invited musicians to help themselves to those.) You can see some of the results here. The project continues, and anyone should feel free to leap in. The stories are available non-exclusively — meaning other people may be working from the same material — and the cost is a dollar apiece.

There’s a simple written agreement to sign, imposing a couple of minor restrictions. That’s it — once you’ve paid your dollar and signed the agreement, you’re free to adapt or mutate the story as you please, for whatever purpose, whimsical, commercial or otherwise.

Frequently Asked Questions

What gives?

I like art that comes from other art, and I like seeing my stories adapted into other forms. My writing has always been strongly sourced in other voices, and I’m a fan of adaptations, apropriations, collage, and sampling.

I recently explored some of these ideas in an essay for Harper’s Magazine. As I researched that essay I came more and more to believe that artists should ideally find ways to make material free and available for reuse. This project is a (first) attempt to make my own art practice reflect that belief.

My thinking along these lines has been strongly influenced by Open Source theory and the Free Culture movement, and by Lewis Hyde’s book, The Gift.

Some of the Project’s stories are available here on-line, others can be found in my books. In either case, I’m assuming they’ll have more readers as a result of this project, and I like that, too.

Are all your stories available?

No, just the stories listed here. The rest I’m keeping, for the time being, for more controlled and exclusive uses.

Which rights are you giving away, and which are you keeping?

I should emphasize that these texts themselves may not be copied in any medium, or reproduced in anthologies or websites (except of course for fair-use excerpts). My publishers are the only ones I’ve allowed to do that, and the health of my partnership with them frees me to continue writing new novels and stories, so don’t monkey with it, thanks.

What I’m offering is the right to adapt these stories into stage plays and films.

What are the ‘few restrictions’?

The first is that I’d ask that films be held to the length of half an hour or less, keeping them firmly in the category of ‘short’. Similarly, I’d ask that playwrights keep to a ‘one-act’, or forty-five minute, limit.

For the most part, I’ve offered material that seems proportionate to shorter work. Though if someone wants to propose an exception, I’ll consider it.

Neither playwrights nor screenwriters should publish any adaptations of these stories in book form. Anything like that would put me in breach of my agreement with my publisher. The goal is to let short films and plays happen, not to create rival texts.

And of course, I’d ask always to receive credit as the writer of the source material.

Are there other artists doing things like this who were sources of inspiration to you?

Yes, lots. A couple of examples: playright Charles Mee’s (re)making project. David Byrne and Brian Eno’s My Life In The Bush of Ghosts download/remix/share site. The web is also full of great examples of appropriated and reused cultural materials of all kinds, some of it created with permission, some not.

Though there’s nothing “digital” about The Promiscuous Materials Project (apart from the fact that you’re probably learning about it on the internet), it’s probably safe to say that it tends to be digital music and web-based-art (and aesthetic theory) which is pointing the way in this area, while those (like me) working in more traditional forms come around more slowly.

Why not call them ‘Open Source Stories’, or put them under a Creative Commons license?

I like the comparison to Open Source projects. But that description has mostly covered software, and the terms of most Open Source agreements are slightly different than mine. It could be misleading to use that name.

As for Creative Commons, I’m a fan. I’m strongly influenced, in this effort, by Lawrence Lessig’s writings. But my own plan had some specific contours which didn’t fit any of the Creative Commons licenses. So I invented my own type of agreement with other artists.

What if someone makes money from adapting one of your stories?

Great. Most short films and small theater pieces don’t make money. By offering these stories cost-free, I’m alleviating just the first of the financial hurdles an adapter is likely to face. If someone working from one of these stories does find distribution or other support that brings financial reward, I’m delighted, as I would be for any artist. For me, while I’m happy to make money from partnerships elsewhere, The Promiscuous Stories aren’t about that.

Are these just stories you figured nobody wanted? Why presume anyone cares to adapt them?

Of the sixty or seventy stories I’ve written, only a handful have ever been optioned by filmmakers (and at this point, just two have been filmed). None has ever been adapted for the stage. Many inquiries have come over the years, but often from younger artists easily discouraged by the cost of hiring a lawyer to negotiate exclusive rights, even when those rights are being made available inexpensively. I want to make material easily available to precisely such folks.

Some of The Promiscuous Stories have never received any inquiries, others have gotten several. One of them, “The Spray” has been the most-requested story I’ve published. In fact, it was the urge to allow more than one filmmaker to make a version of “The Spray” that partly inspired this project.

Anyway, I’m not pushing the material on anyone, only making it available.

It’s worth adding that I don’t believe there’s anything unusual about an artist giving away some permissions, more or less as I’m doing. Many writers occasionally agree to allow some underfunded filmmaker or theater director to adapt their work on the basis of a minimal option (often a dollar). Even if the contract promises a larger purchase price down the line, this future payment is usually a remote prospect. For me, the urge simply to free another artist to make an adaptation has often been much stronger than any concern over getting paid.

Will you add or subtract from The Promiscuous Stories?

If this goes well, I’ll probably add stories eventually. Since this is an experiment, I might also withdraw the whole thing if it leads to confusion or abuse. Or, if a problem emerges, I may adjust the terms somewhat. What I won’t do, as a matter of principle, is reverse myself and sell this material for exclusive use.

Are you interested in seeing the results? Do you want to collaborate with other artists on these projects?

I’m eager to see the results – who wouldn’t be? (Though if this project takes on any scope I may find myself hard-pressed to respond in detail.) But I’m not seeking to collaborate with other artists on these projects, no. My preference is to relinquish creative control of the material, in favor of seeing what someone else might do with it.

Isn’t it strange to have multiple films derived from the same source floating around simultaneously? What if they were exhibited side-by-side, say, at the same festival?

Yes, strange – but, for me, strange in a good way. And perhaps not much stranger than having multiple ‘cover’ versions of the same song recorded by different artists. I think it could be wonderful to see several adaptations from the same material exhibited together.

In fact, a few independent film producers and DVD distributors have expressed some interest in gathering the results, when and if they’re substantial enough to make such a gathering interesting.

You wouldn’t ever do such a thing with one of your novels, would you?

One of the instigating factors for this project was my being approached simultaneously by a film director and a theater director for the adaptation rights to The Fortress of Solitude. I wanted to say yes to both.

Ordinarily, this is seen as impossible: when a writer sells or options a book to a filmmaker or film studio, the theatrical rights are bundled in the package (along, with things like television rights, sequel motion picture rights, and theme park rights).

I decided to ignore precedent and find a way to allow both projects to move forward simultaneously. As of now, both are. (It may be that either the filmmaker or the theatrical director will find themselves hamstrung by some unimaginative investor’s requirement that all rights be controlled. I hope not. We’ll see.)

Most feature-length films are massive collaborative undertakings, requiring long preparation and loads of money. It probably wouldn’t be practical to deny a filmmaker exclusive feature-film rights: the risk of someone else adapting the same material would likely destroy any hope of gathering the collaborators and investors needed to begin a feature. For that reason I doubt I’ll be offering a Promiscuous Novel anytime soon. But I do have something different in mind for my next novel, You Don’t Love Me Yet. Watch this space.

What about the Promiscuous Songs page? What’s that about?

Why don’t you go there and have a look?

Did anyone really ask these ‘frequently asked questions’, or did you just make them up yourself?



If you’ve selected a story and you’d like to make an agreement, please contact: jonathansassistantlucy@gwi.net

32 feet of books for every man woman and child

digital declutter

De-cluttering your digital life can set you free

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We’ve got multiple e-mail accounts, social networks, media streams, blogs, websites, electronic calendars, instant messages, phone contacts, online bills, passwords coming out of our ears and screen after screen after screen of computer stuff to back up, share and sync.

That doesn’t include the virtual reams floating in the ether, enough to fill the Library of Congress more than 40,000 times, said Douglas C. Merrill, former chief information officer for Google, Ph.D. in cognitive science and dude who wants to help us better manage our digital clutter.

“That’s 32 feet of books for every man, woman and child in America. We’re drowning in information,” said Merrill, who nearly wrecked his health helping to manage the details of taking Google public.

Merrill, once an information scientist at the Rand Corp., struggled with dyslexia as a kid, so de-cluttering — digital and otherwise — is a huge priority for him, so much that he’s written a book on the subject with James Martin, “Getting Organized in the Google Era.”

We all know about clutter offline, but our digital selves have filled up in a huge way, too. We’re suffering, but we can’t dig out or keep up with rapidly changing and proliferating tools. Geeks do. They track products and reviews — and have the time and skills to test them. The rest of us fret and stress.

“I have several e-mail accounts. I have several websites. I’m constantly behind returning phone calls. It’s a good day if the number of unread messages is below 200,” said Berit Brogaard, a St. Louis college professor and single mom to a busy 6-year-old whose life also needs to be managed.

Anybody looking for a non-urgent e-mail reply from Brogaard might be waiting awhile. She relies on a few canned e-mail responses that she stashes in Gmail and rolls out when she’s swamped, like this one for close friends:

“Hey there! Miss you. I am insanely busy. Sorry for being so lame. Will fill you in soon.”

Merrill, who left Google for the music company EMI, then his own financial startup in Los Angeles, said a good place to begin a digital de-clutter is accepting that our brains are lousy multitaskers, among other bad things. They need all the help they can get in clearing out space, just like our computers and smart phones.

Another good place to start is taking heart in the array and flexibility of today’s tools. He offers these tips, acknowledging there’s no one-size-fits-all answer:



Abandon the notion of “filing” and “folders” as a way to alleviate anxiety over a messy computer desktop, Merrill said. Folders, the paper and digital kind, must be maintained, and your brain must remember what you’ve put in them.

“The problem is we can never find the information we’ve stored, so we wind up with folders and folders we don’t know what to do with,” Merrill said. “Search is the new organization. Search can set us free from the clutter of our imperfect minds” by allowing us to get a little messy. No time is lost on meticulously filing and hunting for folders when well-defined searches are used.

Desktop tools don’t have to be fancy or expensive. They’re everywhere, including right there in Windows and operating systems for Macs and other computers. Tools like Google Desktop or Spotlight allow you to search with the same ease you enjoy for the Web. Quicksilver is popular with geeks.

“The goal is to keep yourself from being overwhelmed emotionally by not making your brain do what it’s not good at. Computers are good at searching. You’re not. They’re good at remembering. You’re not.”



You’d think Mr. Google would have no use for paper. Not true.

“I think paper’s great for certain things,” Merrill said. “It’s still important.”

He uses huge sticky sheets that he plasters on his walls when he’s brainstorming a big idea. They’re easy to move around as his thoughts firm up. He also uses paper for legal and tax documents that could be scanned into electronic files only to be retrieved and printed on demand when lawyers and accountants require hard copy.

The idea of a paperless office has been bounced around for three decades. In the early days, Google itself required employees to submit a trail of paper forms for reimbursement of expenses, Merrill said.

The goal is to be more efficient, so evaluate digital tools versus paper, or digital as a backup to hard copy when trying to decide. Are you looking for storage alone? Do you need to share information with many people at work, or with a small group of trusted loved ones in emergencies? We need wills, contracts and life insurance policies on paper, but should we take the time to scan them for sharing and protection?



For the truly nervous, storing numerous login names and passwords can be done on paper, but since it’s recommended that passwords change substantially at least every six months, that could be time consuming. Merrill suggests e-mailing yourself password hints.

Plenty of software power and browser tools are available for sorting dozens of passwords. The important thing, he said, is to actually change passwords and make the changes substantial.



A paperless real-world desk isn’t realistic at the end of each day, but well organized piles by subject, project or function will do a lot of good to relieve the stress and guilt of walking away from a cluttered work space that looks like a pile of loose ends.

Merrill suggests taking an hour each week to evaluate what’s on your desk, determining what can go, what can be converted to digital, what needs to be in a physical file cabinet and what remains on your to-do list.

Some people swear by hard-copy task management planners, but the Web is full of online apps to do the same. Online to-do apps can be easily updated on the go.

Having several e-mail accounts may be another of your unavoidable realities, but they don’t need to be a source of stress. Use Gmail or smart phones, for instance, to check accounts for you so you’re not constantly jumping from one e-mail server to another.

“Get rid of the wasted effort,” Merrill said.



Twitter, Facebook and other social networks mean different things to different people. They’ve become a business tool for many but remain entertainment or a way to stay in touch for others.

Either way, many interfaces — like Tweetdeck — exist to integrate our busy social network lives that often have us posting frequent updates or sifting through the output of others.

One that Merrill likes, mostly for Twitter, is Brizzly. It offers support for viewing pictures online, expanding links that have been shortened, for people with multiple Twitter accounts, and includes some features for Facebook as well.

“I don’t want to clutter up my life with having to go to Facebook and do this and go to Twitter and do that,” Merrill said.

I wish I had written this article

this is just one of those articles that made me squirm with delight. it is so spot on with today’s cultural dilemmas – it quotes every major digital book i’ve read over the past 15 years as well as a few of my favorite fiction authors – for anyone in media it is a must read. perhaps even a few times to really digest what he is saying and what it means – because he’s right – 150% right – just not sure what it means!!!  And I hate it when I start sounding like an old fuddy duddy – I do agree with the statement “even older digerati want to think of themselves as “having an Inner Bike Messenger.””


Texts Without Context

Harry Campbell

Published: March 17, 2010

In his deliberately provocative — and deeply nihilistic — new book, “Reality Hunger,” the onetime novelist David Shields asserts that fiction “has never seemed less central to the culture’s sense of itself.” He says he’s “bored by out-and-out fabrication, by myself and others; bored by invented plots and invented characters” and much more interested in confession and “reality-based art.” His own book can be taken as Exhibit A in what he calls “recombinant” or appropriation art.

Mr. Shields’s book consists of 618 fragments, including hundreds of quotations taken from other writers like Philip Roth, Joan Didion and Saul Bellow — quotations that Mr. Shields, 53, has taken out of context and in some cases, he says, “also revised, at least a little — for the sake of compression, consistency or whim.” He only acknowledges the source of these quotations in an appendix, which he says his publishers’ lawyers insisted he add.

“Who owns the words?” Mr. Shields asks in a passage that is itself an unacknowledged reworking of remarks by the cyberpunk author William Gibson. “Who owns the music and the rest of our culture? We do — all of us — though not all of us know it yet. Reality cannot be copyrighted.”

Mr. Shields’s pasted-together book and defense of appropriation underscore the contentious issues of copyright, intellectual property and plagiarism that have become prominent in a world in which the Internet makes copying and recycling as simple as pressing a couple of buttons. In fact, the dynamics of the Web, as the artist and computer scientist Jaron Lanier observes in another new book, are encouraging “authors, journalists, musicians and artists” to “treat the fruits of their intellects and imaginations as fragments to be given without pay to the hive mind.”

It’s not just a question of how these “content producers” are supposed to make a living or finance their endeavors, however, or why they ought to allow other people to pick apart their work and filch choice excerpts. Nor is it simply a question of experts and professionals being challenged by an increasingly democratized marketplace. It’s also a question, as Mr. Lanier, 49, astutely points out in his new book, “You Are Not a Gadget,” of how online collectivism, social networking and popular software designs are changing the way people think and process information, a question of what becomes of originality and imagination in a world that prizes “metaness” and regards the mash-up as “more important than the sources who were mashed.”

Mr. Lanier’s book, which makes an impassioned case for “a digital humanism,” is only one of many recent volumes to take a hard but judicious look at some of the consequences of new technology and Web 2.0. Among them are several prescient books by Cass Sunstein, 55, which explore the effects of the Internet on public discourse; Farhad Manjoo’s “True Enough,” which examines how new technologies are promoting the cultural ascendancy of belief over fact; “The Cult of the Amateur,” by Andrew Keen, which argues that Web 2.0 is creating a “digital forest of mediocrity” and substituting ill-informed speculation for genuine expertise; and Nicholas Carr’s book “The Shallows” (coming in June), which suggests that increased Internet use is rewiring our brains, impairing our ability to think deeply and creatively even as it improves our ability to multitask.

Unlike “Digital Barbarism,” Mark Helprin’s shrill 2009 attack on copyright abolitionists, these books are not the work of Luddites or technophobes. Mr. Lanier is a Silicon Valley veteran and a pioneer in the development of virtual reality; Mr. Manjoo, 31, is Slate’s technology columnist; Mr. Keen is a technology entrepreneur; and Mr. Sunstein is a Harvard Law School professor who now heads the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Rather, these authors’ books are nuanced ruminations on some of the unreckoned consequences of technological change — books that stand as insightful counterweights to early techno-utopian works like Esther Dyson’s “Release 2.0” and Nicholas Negroponte’s “Being Digital,” which took an almost Pollyannaish view of the Web and its capacity to empower users.

THESE NEW BOOKS share a concern with how digital media are reshaping our political and social landscape, molding art and entertainment, even affecting the methodology of scholarship and research. They examine the consequences of the fragmentation of data that the Web produces, as news articles, novels and record albums are broken down into bits and bytes; the growing emphasis on immediacy and real-time responses; the rising tide of data and information that permeates our lives; and the emphasis that blogging and partisan political Web sites place on subjectivity.

At the same time it’s clear that technology and the mechanisms of the Web have been accelerating certain trends already percolating through our culture — including the blurring of news and entertainment, a growing polarization in national politics, a deconstructionist view of literature (which emphasizes a critic’s or reader’s interpretation of a text, rather than the text’s actual content), the prominence of postmodernism in the form of mash-ups and bricolage, and a growing cultural relativism that has been advanced on the left by multiculturalists and radical feminists, who argue that history is an adjunct of identity politics, and on the right by creationists and climate-change denialists, who suggest that science is an instrument of leftist ideologues.

Even some outspoken cheerleaders of Internet technology have begun to grapple with some of its more vexing side effects. Steven Johnson, a founder of the online magazine Feed, for instance, wrote in an article in The Wall Street Journal last year that with the development of software for Amazon.com’s Kindle and other e-book readers that enable users to jump back and forth from other applications, he fears “one of the great joys of book reading — the total immersion in another world, or in the world of the author’s ideas — will be compromised.” He continued, “We all may read books the way we increasingly read magazines and newspapers: a little bit here, a little bit there.”

Mr. Johnson added that the book’s migration to the digital realm will turn the solitary act of reading — “a direct exchange between author and reader” — into something far more social and suggested that as online chatter about books grows, “the unity of the book will disperse into a multitude of pages and paragraphs vying for Google’s attention.”

WORRYING ABOUT the public’s growing attention deficit disorder and susceptibility to information overload, of course, is hardly new. It’s been 25 years since Neil Postman warned in “Amusing Ourselves to Death” that trivia and the entertainment values promoted by television were creating distractions that threatened to subvert public discourse, and more than a decade since writers like James Gleick (“Faster”) and David Shenk (“Data Smog”) described a culture addicted to speed, drowning in data and overstimulated to the point where only sensationalism and willful hyperbole grab people’s attention.

Now, with the ubiquity of instant messaging and e-mail, the growing popularity of Twitter and YouTube, and even newer services like Google Wave, velocity and efficiency have become even more important. Although new media can help build big TV audiences for events like the Super Bowl, it also tends to make people treat those events as fodder for digital chatter. More people are impatient to cut to the chase, and they’re increasingly willing to take the imperfect but immediately available product over a more thoughtfully analyzed, carefully created one. Instead of reading an entire news article, watching an entire television show or listening to an entire speech, growing numbers of people are happy to jump to the summary, the video clip, the sound bite — never mind if context and nuance are lost in the process; never mind if it’s our emotions, more than our sense of reason, that are engaged; never mind if statements haven’t been properly vetted and sourced.

People tweet and text one another during plays and movies, forming judgments before seeing the arc of the entire work. Recent books by respected authors like Malcolm Gladwell (“Outliers”), Susan Faludi (“The Terror Dream”) and Jane Jacobs (“Dark Age Ahead”) rely far more heavily on cherry-picked anecdotes — instead of broader-based evidence and assiduous analysis — than the books that first established their reputations. And online research enables scholars to power-search for nuggets of information that might support their theses, saving them the time of wading through stacks of material that might prove marginal but that might have also prompted them to reconsider or refine their original thinking.

“Reading in the traditional open-ended sense is not what most of us, whatever our age and level of computer literacy, do on the Internet,” the scholar Susan Jacoby writes in “The Age of American Unreason.” “What we are engaged in — like birds of prey looking for their next meal — is a process of swooping around with an eye out for certain kinds of information.”

TODAY’S TECHNOLOGY has bestowed miracles of access and convenience upon millions of people, and it’s also proven to be a vital new means of communication. Twitter has been used by Iranian dissidents; text messaging and social networking Web sites have been used to help coordinate humanitarian aid in Haiti; YouTube has been used by professors to teach math and chemistry. But technology is also turning us into a global water-cooler culture, with millions of people sending each other (via e-mail, text messages, tweets, YouTube links) gossip, rumors and the sort of amusing-entertaining-weird anecdotes and photographs they might once have shared with pals over a coffee break. And in an effort to collect valuable eyeballs and clicks, media outlets are increasingly pandering to that impulse — often at the expense of hard news. “I have the theory that news is now driven not by editors who know anything,” the comedian and commentator Bill Maher recently observed. “I think it’s driven by people who are” slacking off at work and “surfing the Internet.” He added, “It’s like a country run by ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos.’ ”

MSNBC’s new program “The Dylan Ratigan Show,” which usually focuses on business and politics, has a “While you were working …” segment in which viewers are asked to send in “some of the strangest and outrageous stories you’ve found on the Internet,” and the most e-mailed lists on popular news sites tend to feature articles about pets, food, celebrities and self-improvement. For instance, at one point on March 11, the top story on The Washington Post’s Web site was “Maintaining a Sex Life,” while the top story on Reddit.com, a user-generated news link site, was “(Funny) Sexy Girl? Do Not Trust Profile Pictures!”

Given the constant bombardment of trivia and data that we’re subjected to in today’s mediascape, it’s little wonder that noisy, Manichean arguments tend to get more attention than subtle, policy-heavy ones; that funny, snarky or willfully provocative assertions often gain more traction than earnest, measured ones; and that loud, entertaining or controversial personalities tend to get the most ink and airtime. This is why Sarah Palin’s every move and pronouncement is followed by television news, talk-show hosts and pundits of every political persuasion. This is why Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh on the right and Michael Moore on the left are repeatedly quoted by followers and opponents. This is why a gathering of 600 people for last month’s national Tea Party convention in Nashville received a disproportionate amount of coverage from both the mainstream news media and the blogosphere.

Digital insiders like Mr. Lanier and Paulina Borsook, the author of the book “Cyberselfish,” have noted the easily distracted, adolescent quality of much of cyberculture. Ms. Borsook describes tech-heads as having “an angry adolescent view of all authority as the Pig Parent,” writing that even older digerati want to think of themselves as “having an Inner Bike Messenger.”

For his part Mr. Lanier says that because the Internet is a kind of “pseudoworld” without the qualities of a physical world, it encourages the Peter Pan fantasy of being an entitled child forever, without the responsibilities of adulthood. While this has the virtues of playfulness and optimism, he argues, it can also devolve into a “Lord of the Flies”-like nastiness, with lots of “bullying, voracious irritability and selfishness” — qualities enhanced, he says, by the anonymity, peer pressure and mob rule that thrive online.

Digital culture, he writes in “You Are Not a Gadget,” “is comprised of wave after wave of juvenilia,” with rooms of “M.I.T. Ph.D. engineers not seeking cancer cures or sources of safe drinking water for the underdeveloped world but schemes to send little digital pictures of teddy bears and dragons between adult members of social networks.”

AT THE SAME time the Internet’s nurturing of niche cultures is contributing to what Cass Sunstein calls “cyberbalkanization.” Individuals can design feeds and alerts from their favorite Web sites so that they get only the news they want, and with more and more opinion sites and specialized sites, it becomes easier and easier, as Mr. Sunstein observes in his 2009 book “Going to Extremes,” for people “to avoid general-interest newspapers and magazines and to make choices that reflect their own predispositions.”

“Serendipitous encounters” with persons and ideas different from one’s own, he writes, tend to grow less frequent, while “views that would ordinarily dissolve, simply because of an absence of social support, can be found in large numbers on the Internet, even if they are understood to be exotic, indefensible or bizarre in most communities.” He adds that studies of group polarization show that when like-minded people deliberate, they tend to reinforce one another and become more extreme in their views.

One result of this nicheification of the world is that consensus and common ground grow ever smaller, civic discourse gets a lot less civil, and pluralism — what Isaiah Berlin called the idea that “there are many different ends that men may seek and still be fully rational, fully men, capable of understanding each other and sympathizing and deriving light” from “worlds, outlooks, very remote from our own” — comes to feel increasingly elusive.

As Mr. Manjoo observes in “True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society” (2008), the way in which “information now moves through society — on currents of loosely linked online groups and niche media outlets, pushed along by experts and journalists of dubious character and bolstered by documents that are no longer considered proof of reality” — has fostered deception and propaganda and also created what he calls a “Rashomon world” where “the very idea of objective reality is under attack.” Politicians and voters on the right and left not only hold different opinions from one another, but often can’t even agree over a shared set of facts, as clashes over climate change, health care and the Iraq war attest.

THE WEB’S amplification of subjectivity applies to culture as well as politics, fueling a phenomenon that has been gaining hold over America for several decades, with pundits squeezing out reporters on cable news, with authors writing biographies animated by personal and ideological agendas, with tell-all memoirs, talk-show confessionals, self-dramatizing blogs and carefully tended Facebook and MySpace pages becoming almost de rigeur.

As for the textual analysis known as deconstruction, which became fashionable in American academia in the 1980s, it enshrined individual readers’ subjective responses to a text over the text itself, thereby suggesting that the very idea of the author (and any sense of original intent) was dead. In doing so, deconstruction uncannily presaged arguments advanced by digerati like Kevin Kelly, who in a 2006 article for The New York Times Magazine looked forward to the day when books would cease to be individual works but would be scanned and digitized into one great, big continuous text that could be “unraveled into single pages” or “reduced further, into snippets of a page,” which readers — like David Shields, presumably — could then appropriate and remix, like bits of music, into new works of their own.

As John Updike pointed out, Mr. Kelly’s vision would in effect mean “the end of authorship” — hobbling writers’ ability to earn a living from their published works, while at the same time removing a sense of both recognition and accountability from their creations. In a Web world where copies of books (and articles and music and other content) are cheap or free, Mr. Kelly has suggested, authors and artists could make money by selling “performances, access to the creator, personalization, add-on information” and other aspects of their work that cannot be copied. But while such schemes may work for artists who happen to be entrepreneurial, self-promoting and charismatic, Mr. Lanier says he fears that for “the vast majority of journalists, musicians, artists and filmmakers” it simply means “career oblivion.”

Other challenges to the autonomy of the artist come from new interactive media and from constant polls on television and the Web, which ask audience members for feedback on television shows, movies and music; and from fan bulletin boards, which often function like giant focus groups. Should the writers of television shows listen to fan feedback or a network’s audience testing? Does the desire to get an article on a “most e-mailed” list consciously or unconsciously influence how reporters and editors go about their assignments and approaches to stories? Are literary-minded novelists increasingly taking into account what their readers want or expect?

As reading shifts “from the private page to the communal screen,” Mr. Carr writes in “The Shallows,” authors “will increasingly tailor their work to a milieu that the writer Caleb Crain describes as ‘groupiness,’ where people read mainly ‘for the sake of a feeling of belonging’ rather than for personal enlightenment or amusement. As social concerns override literary ones, writers seem fated to eschew virtuosity and experimentation in favor of a bland but immediately accessible style.”

For that matter, the very value of artistic imagination and originality, along with the primacy of the individual, is increasingly being questioned in our copy-mad, postmodern digital world. In a recent Newsweek cover story pegged to the Tiger Woods scandal, Neal Gabler, the author of “Life: the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality,” absurdly asserts that celebrity is “the great new art form of the 21st century.”

Celebrity, Mr. Gabler argues, “competes with — and often supersedes — more traditional entertainments like movies, books, plays and TV shows,” and it performs, he says, “in its own roundabout way, many of the functions those old media performed in their heyday: among them, distracting us, sensitizing us to the human condition, and creating a fund of common experience around which we can form a national community.”

However impossible it is to think of “Jon & Kate Plus Eight” or “Jersey Shore” as art, reality shows have taken over wide swaths of television, and memoir writing has become a rite of passage for actors, politicians and celebrities of every ilk. At the same time our cultural landscape is brimming over with parodies, homages, variations, pastiches, collages and others forms of “appropriation art” — much of it facilitated by new technology that makes remixing, and cutting-and-pasting easy enough for a child.

It’s no longer just hip-hop sampling that rules in youth culture, but also jukebox musicals like “Jersey Boys” and “Rock of Ages,” and works like “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” which features characters drawn from a host of classic adventures. Fan fiction and fan edits are thriving, as are karaoke contests, video games like Guitar Hero, and YouTube mash-ups of music and movie, television and visual images. These recyclings and post-modern experiments run the gamut in quality. Some, like Zachary Mason’s “Lost Books of the Odyssey,” are beautifully rendered works of art in their own right. Some, like J. J. Abram’s 2009 “Star Trek” film and Amy Heckerling’s 1995 “Clueless” (based on Jane Austen’s “Emma”) are inspired reinventions of classics. Some fan-made videos are extremely clever and inventive, and some, like a 3-D video version of Picasso’s “Guernica” posted on YouTube, are intriguing works that raise important and unsettling questions about art and appropriation.

All too often, however, the recycling and cut-and-paste esthetic has resulted in tired imitations; cheap, lazy re-dos; or works of “appropriation” designed to generate controversy like Mr. Shields’s “Reality Hunger.” Lady Gaga is third-generation Madonna; many jukebox or tribute musicals like “Good Vibrations” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’ ” do an embarrassing disservice to the artists who inspired them; and the rote remaking of old television shows into films (from “The Brady Bunch” to “Charlie’s Angels” to “Get Smart”), not to mention the recycling of video games into movies (like “Tomb Raider” and “Resident Evil”) often seem as pointless as they are now predictable.

Writing in a 2005 Wired article that “new technologies redefine us,” William Gibson hailed audience participation and argued that “an endless, recombinant, and fundamentally social process generates countless hours of creative product.” Indeed, he said, “audience is as antique a term as record, the one archaically passive, the other archaically physical. The record, not the remix, is the anomaly today. The remix is the very nature of the digital.”

To Mr. Lanier, however, the prevalence of mash-ups in today’s culture is a sign of “nostalgic malaise.” “Online culture,” he writes, “is dominated by trivial mash-ups of the culture that existed before the onset of mash-ups, and by fandom responding to the dwindling outposts of centralized mass media. It is a culture of reaction without action.”

He points out that much of the chatter online today is actually “driven by fan responses to expression that was originally created within the sphere of old media,” which many digerati mock as old-fashioned and passé, and which is now being destroyed by the Internet. “Comments about TV shows, major movies, commercial music releases and video games must be responsible for almost as much bit traffic as porn,” Mr. Lanier writes. “There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but since the Web is killing the old media, we face a situation in which culture is effectively eating its own seed stock.”

Experiment Results: 2 Weeks Sans Facebook

online suicide

I recently conducted my own small behavioral science experiment. I quit Facebook. Now I’m not just talking about not visiting – I’m talking deletion.  Not as far as committing “online suicide” via the folks at SuicideMachine.org – but i did just erase myself. There were a number of reasons. But mostly I wanted to see what would happen.

The Results List:

10 emails from people telling me they went to find me on FB and then asking me “where i went”?

5 emails from friends asking me “are you okay?”

i missed 4 birthdays of people very close to me – meaning I was a day late remembering – that’s missed.

I didn’t get to see my friend’s vacation photos while he was traveling over the holidays.

Both of my brothers picked up the phone and CALLED ME. TWICE.

I spent 3 hours at a time on the phone with a few different friends catching up.

I finished 2 books.

I cleaned the house, got more laundry done and in general made more progress “around the house”.

I was aware of less news – not that I missed Haiti or anything – but i didn’t know about it IMMEDIATELY. Despite having NY Times alert on my iphone.

I missed all the esoteric links that a few friends post regularly – the “fun links” that are the bizarre and interesting articles that suck you in to websites you haven’t heard of.

I looked at my email less often purely because I was looking at the Iphone less often due to not facebooking continuously.

This said – I paid more attention to my surroundings but was frustrated by the thought of not being able to share them. I missed being able to post photos to communicate what i was seeing.

I noticed that my brain now “thinks” in “status updates” language – stop  sort of like I constantly have a western union telegram in my head – stop.

I missed SCRABBLE! BUT – I will tell you this – my dog plays scrabble online. With MY scrabble friends – how dare he. (this was the absolute one thing i couldn’t give up!)

I went on AIM more – but i felt like i was cheating whenever i logged on.

I blogged on my own website!

I’m still a bit skeptical of foursquare.  Online USED to be a mystery to people…there was something interesting about being a part of the “small community” that got it….now that it’s big and EVERYONE “gets it”….I’m not so sure.

Maybe I have more in common with my 12 year old niece than I think – she doesn’t want me to see everything on her profile and I’m not allowed to make comments. Aunt Erin is just not “cool enough” i guess!

I’m back but i do think i’ll be limiting my time. Not sure if I will reinstall the facebook app for iphone just yet….