Friday, March 09, 2012

Is content king? Not in a social culture, perhaps.

I appreciate comments on blog posts when they address the content of the post, even if critical.

I do get a lot of comments unrelated to the posts that seem to offer generic comments and links to cheesy products (in the past, fake anti-virus software).  Most of these I do reject.

I also get a lot of emails based on the names of one of my blogs, offering a link to a page “10 things….”, for example, “10 reasons to keep dialup”.  Some of these are interesting, but they have nothing to do with the particular blog. (My COPA blog is very often picked as the "wrong blog".)  They obviously attempt to generate page requests and ad visits. 
So I understand the pressure that people find to achieve quantifiable results (sales) with whatever they do on the Internet. 

Since the 1980s, even before the Internet came out of its institutional closet, the world has tended to play an increasing emphasis on individual performance, in content creation and testing.  I experienced that as a computer programmer.  It has gradually become less respectable to make one’s way in the world through social skills. For example, about ten years ago we saw a rapid increase in resistance to telemarketing, unwanted emails (spam), door-to-door selling, and hucksterism in general.  Even so, the Internet seemed designed to facilitate sales (e-commerce), but did so in such away as to drive down legacy neighborhood retail stores.  For insurance professionals, the mechanics of developing and trading leads developed, whereas the interpersonal skills necessary to sell to people directly probably waned. The social media came along and provided all kinds of ways to quantify social connections (monetizing “likes”), but probably discouraging actual in-person friendship (partly by putting a “friending test” up as a potential barrier).

I’ve always been more concerned about the originality and meaning of content, than just with the “numbers” it can generate when deployed.  Yet, as we know, Internet business models, allowing free entry, are all about “numbers”.

I wonder, when I hear about arrests of teenage hackers, why people with so much talent and ability aren’t deploying their skills more productively or constructively (ok, maybe Wikileaks is constructive).

The social conservatives (especially Rick Santorum) say that we’re forgetting that we need each other. We are becoming less social.  It’s as if introversion is a bad thing. 

In the public policy area, I’m a lot more concerned about issues affecting the technological (and legal) infrastructure that allows me to operate and publish (and move around without commitment) the way I do.  Energy availability or the stability of the power grid are much more important to me in a direct sense than, say, gay marriage. The infrastructure allows me not to depend on others whom I don’t want to relate to, allows me to remain Santorum’s “what a snob”, but I still am “dependent” on a broader world where people can do their jobs, even if I’ve paid them.  Major catastrophes, whether relatively local (tornadoes) or global (future wars, pandemics, or technological breakdowns) would force people to learn to interdepend locally, and would force me to accept others into my life whom I do not want.

People may welcome interdependence more when they’ve accepted the idea of the future that will follow them – a lineage – as a top personal priority.  This idea – generativity – did not seem very real to me for most of my life.  My own performance was what mattered. Having families was something that other people did by private choice, and they had to take full responsibility for that.

Since 9/11, and as I have grown older, and as I have been challenged by eldercare and other approaches from people trying to draw me back into “real life” (responsibility for others), I have come to understand what the “older” morality of the generation that raised me was all about. There’s a real issue, with being willing to bond with people based on how one (or “I”) can help them meet real needs, instead of simply bonding with people because one perceives them as “good”.  One must get something out of lifting someone else up, when that person hadn’t been “good”.  One can be drawn into matters that are not of one’s choosing.  That’s really why equality matters.   If you don’t have your own family, you’ll get conscripted to support someone else’s.
You might be called upon to help defend your homeland if there is a threat.  You have to share equal risk and responsibility. And you need to develop socially to be able to do that.
At the end of all of this moral processing we come back to the pedestal that people seem to need to put traditional marriage on, for all the other social processes to happen.
So the next time I see a silly comment, or an email trying to recruit me  ino someone else’s cause (as a “convert”), I’ll remember that many others have people depending on them.  You have to join something so your progeny has a future, perhaps. 

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