ideological self-flagellation

Last year I had an internship where I had to take along my own crappy netbook. On it, I hadn’t shelled out for a copy of Microsoft Office, and was instead using the mostly excellent LibreOffice. The person I was working for eventually noticed all the files I was sending them were coming out strange when they opened them in Office, and I had to explain why. After I had explained the reasoning behind not using Word etc, they said something along the lines of “so you’re subjecting yourself to inconvenience for ideological reasons?”. As much as I don’t like to admit it, I think this comment hit the nail on the head. The sad reality of open source software – and the open source movement more generally – is that yes, using free alternatives does involve subjecting yourself to relatively constant annoyances and inconveniences. Continue reading “ideological self-flagellation”

history in the digital age

It seems to me that the digitisation of information over the last few decades throws up all sorts of interesting questions about the storing and accessibility of information into the future. The emergence of web 2.0 and participatory websites has meant an explosion of information on the internet – anyone with an internet connection can publish their views easily on the web.

I think the interesting question is, assuming this stuff is worth keeping, is it going to last? Continue reading “history in the digital age”

Reading vs internet

My mother frequently nags me to stop playing on the computer and read a book.  I got thinking, something about the internet makes it so much more attractive to me, as a form of entertainment, than reading a book. On the computer I can catch up with friends, read news, listen to music, play games etc, and in comparison a book just doesn’t have that much appeal most of the time. Then I got thinking about the long-term ramifications of the choices I am making now, as well as the consequences of the choices that young people like me are making.

Most of the things I do on the internet are very inconsequential. When I look at my Tumblr dashboard, for instance, what I see is often a whole series of nice looking photos and ‘deep’ quotes offering some interesting perspective on life/love. Every day I religiously catch up on Twitter with all the tweets I missed. As I was lying in bed I started to think about what all the time I devote to this stuff really amounts to.  Sure, it’s fun, but I don’t really achieve anything trawling through all this stuff. I might look at an image for five seconds then move on without it having any lasting impression.

I guess it comes down to a matter of priorities. If I just want to have fun then maybe the internet is the place to do it. But if my goal is to have fun and further my horrendously incomplete knowledge of the world, then perhaps I should be reading more.  I think books have a much greater potential to leave a lasting imprint on you, for the memory of that novel or non-fiction text to stick with you. Perhaps sitting down and reading a good book will also help to extend my horrifically short attention span as well. When I’m browsing the web I’m constantly flicking between this tab and that tab and sometimes I just can’t be bothered reading long articles. I think that this form of entertainment is just training myself to process information in artificial little snippets and making it difficult for me to sit down and read a textbook when I need to for university.

Even though I’ve come to this conclusion that reading is ultimately a more productive activity, I’ve been finding it hard to shift away from spending so much time trawling the web. I think I’m almost addicted to the internet, I have this strange desire to keep up with everything, even though I always seem increasing the amount of information that I follow. I can’t help but think I’m not alone in my struggle to curtail my computer use as well, it’s probably a widespread phenomena. Are we breeding a whole generation of young people with short attention spans who pick the internet instead of reading? Ultimately though, I think it’s in my best interests to train myself to enjoy reading again and stop spending so much time on this infernal computer and the instant gratification it provides.

Popularity

friend-visulisationcropped2

I’ve recently become swamped by social networking – I’m drowning in a torrent of status updates and news to read. I use Bebo, Facebook, Twitter and now Virb (2.0 has just been launched!). Keeping up with the endless stream of things popping up in my RSS reader and on TweetDeck and checking social sites is becoming too much. I think I’m going to have to cull a few feeds from Google Reader.

I ask myself: why do I maintain all these social networking sites? And I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because I have a -somewhat closeted- desire to become popular. I think social networking sites (ie Facebook) have facilitated and stimulated an already present desire in people (me included) to have a lot of friends, be very social and to generally flaunt their popularity. By maintaining all these social networking profiles I think I am attempting to become as popular as I can. But when you think about it properly, the number of friendships doesn’t matter at all, it’s the quality that is important. Internet popularity runs on a quantitative model which is deeply flawed. The most intriguing thing though is why I feel a desire to become more popular, to improve my social status. It certainly doesn’t reflect well on me.

I think my motives for writing a blog are the same as frequenting social networking sites. Writing for a blog that next to no one reads, I can’t help but entertain the fantasy that one day I will wake up and overnight the entire internet will have come to recognize that this is worth reading. A scenario that is perhaps a tad unrealistic, but if I didn’t think more people might read this blog at some point in the future, why would I still blogging? To entertain the handful of people who do read my incoherent ramblings?  I also can’t help but feel that my situation is shared by countless numbers of bloggers around the world who want nothing more than for a few people to hear what they have to say. With the advent of easy accessible blogging websites, creating a website can take only a few minutes and as a result the internet is veritably flooded with people voicing their opinions regardless of whether anyone is listening. And I think at the end of the day most people blog because they want to become famous. They want to make it big.

Also, the image for this post is from Nexus friend grapher – a tool that creates a picture out of your network of friends on Facebook.  It’s fascinating to see how my different groups of friends and family relate to each other.