Our bodies are programmed to consume fat and sugars because they’re rare in nature. Thus, when they come around, we should grab them. In the same way, were biologically programmed to be attentive to things that stimulate: content that is gross, violent, or sexual and that gossip which is humiliating, embarrassing, or offensive. If were not careful, were going to develop the psychological equivalent of obesity. Well find ourselves consuming content that is least beneficial for ourselves or society as a whole.
In a world of networked media, it’s easy to not get access to views from people who think from a different perspective. Information can and does flow in ways that create and reinforce social divides. Democratic philosophy depends on shared informational structures, but the combination of self-segmentation and networked information flow means that we lose the common rhetorical ground through which we can converse.
We give power to people when we give them our attention and people gain power when they bridge between different worlds and determine what information can and will flow across the network.
To be relevant today requires understanding context, popularity, and reputation.
Making content work in a networked era is going to be about living in the streams, consuming and producing alongside “customers.” Consuming to understand, producing to be relevant.
…the tools that consumers need are those that allow them to get into flow, that allow them to live inside information structures wherever they are, whatever they’re doing. The tools that allow them to easily grab what they need and stay peripherally aware without feeling overwhelmed.
via “Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media”. Citation: boyd, danah. 2009. “Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media.” Web2.0 Expo. New York, NY: November 17.
I highly suggest reading danah’s entire talk. Something I didn’t paste because it would have been a bit long, was her reference to (one of my favorite guys) Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow” and how “Those who are most enamored with services like Twitter talk passionately about feeling as though they are living and breathing with the world around them, peripherally aware and in-tune, adding content to the stream and grabbing it when appropriate.” When explaining this feeling to others I’ve often used the phrase “passively digesting.” Passively digesting and therefore keeping up the things you care about.
Those danah describe live in a world where 140 character updates from close friends, possibly family, maybe bits of news and a celebrity or two are delivered to our phones, via SMS, as they happen. I can see the flow metaphor for sure.
That said, danah’s talk reinforces that “Prejudice, intolerance, bigotry, and power are all baked into our networks. In a world of networked media, it’s easy to not get access to views from people who think from a different perspective. Information can and does flow in ways that create and reinforce social divides.”
Here’s another one to think about.
“All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.”
– Bill Bernbach