Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Social Media is stupid

Remember chatroulette?  Does anybody still go on there?  Chatroulette was/is the best illustration i can think of, of the real essence of social media.  Somebody had an idea, and the idea was to connect, with anyone and everyone.  Anywhere in the world (with an internet connection).  For a little while, it was great!  People used it to talk to random strangers, do creative things, post silly pictures and little vignettes of random art and music.

Then very quickly, it degenerated to being an endless stream of close ups of wanking.

Now.  Keep that image in mind (eurgh), and go look at twitter.  Endless wanking by endless wankers.  It could have been great, same as facebook and myspace could have been, but very very quickly it became the place that people went to argue with those they considered stupid.  There is a lot of good information and insight on there but it's buried in that place where the 'wisdom of the crowd' becomes the mentality of the mob.

Whether its the american god-botherer conveniently ignoring the fact that the 'science' they're being so sneery at created the very machine they're using to condemn it, or the fundamentalist atheist reminding them of that fact, twitter (other social media services are available) has become a place where people go to look for a fight.

So, best to stay away then? Ah. But since writing the first bit of this and then saving it as a draft while i tried to think of a last paragraph, i must admit, dear reader, i have gone back onto twitter.  Who knows, perhaps in all the shouting and mayhem, there can be something beautiful, something freer, more like the web was supposed to be.

Or maybe its just the jeremey kyle show in 140 characters or less.

Still, only one way to find out... #plungingin

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

I don't like the drugs but the drugs like me.

I almost thought about writing this in the fashion blog, because drugs in the dystopian future of the 21st century are as much brands as Gaultier or Apple.  Prozac, Ritalin, Zoloft, Heroin. You know them by their brand names, not their generic or chemical names.  But do drugs belong in the tech blog?  Well, drugs are technology aren't they?  They're just chemical and biological instead of electrical or mechanical.  They're the first tech humans learnt to make, probably

We, that is, mammals, have a thing for getting out of it.  Or, into it. 

Full disclosure: i've been on prozac on and off, since the early 90s.  For me, its a performance enhancing drug.  A steroid for the mind.  Can i cope without it?  Well, yeah. Cope.  At least once i get past the nasty withdrawal symptoms.  But who wants to just 'cope'?  I don't.  Without it i get on and off nasty depressions followed by manic self-destructive highs. Horrible horrible mood swings, the black dog, all of it.  I have, over the years, learned to cope with that, but coping isn't good enough.  I've got things to do, places to go, people to be.

We use tech to enhance what our bodies can do, is chemical technology any different?  With the aid of machines i can enhance my muscle power to allow me to travel faster than i ever could by just running.  Its called a bike.  If i want to go further and faster, the tech is a car or a plane. If i need to remember detail, there's my smartphone or my laptop.  Command an orchestra?  Samplers and sequencers.  Talk to the other side of the world? I'll just bounce an electric signal off a satellite, easy.

So, getting back to prozac, or fluoxetine to give it its 'low calorie cola' generic name.  It was prescribed to me when i was looking for methods of disposing of my existence that wouldn't hurt too much or leave too much of a mess.  That's its emergency use, its medical intent.  Now?  Life improves, you learn to cope, you get by.  But its the 21st century, the high pressure adrenalised modern world we keep seeing in adverts for cars and tablet computers.  'Get by' isn't enough.  I use my 'happy pills' in the same way that i use the gadgets that enhance the rest of my life.  It helps me concentrate. It puts the brakes on my mood swings.  It helps me to be productive, it controls the 'crazy' into 'creative'.  It enhances my performance.  It's technology, just the same as my phone or my bike or my PC. 

I don't like the drugs but the drugs like me.

Also, i quite like the drugs.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Freedom (of speech) isn't free (if you're being paid).

Flippin' 'eck it's all kicked off in the last couple of weeks hasn't it?  If you're part of that sector of the internet and media anyway.  Short version:  A writer wrote something containing an insensitive throw-away reference that could have suggested a deeper prejudice.  Someone called them on it on twitter saying effectively, hey, that was insensitive and could suggest a deeper prejudice, care to comment?  And was told roundly to fuck off, followed by a whole load of tweets that confirmed the deeper prejudice (in a lot of readers' eyes).
The writer then wrote something else that basically went 'the people i was rude about (and their friends) are now being mean to me!'  It escalated from there and ended with a flounce from twitter followed by a friend of the writer proving the old 'don't need enemies' adage by writing one of the most abusive articles i've ever seen in print.
No i'm not linking.  If you know the story you'll know what i'm talking about, and while i'd love to get the extra page hits from all the people googling for it, they'd probably leave nasty comments and make  me sad.
Where we currently stand is that now the community that was actually the target of the horrible nasty writers has been forgotten, and the argument has come about freedom of speech.  Which raises an issue.  Its a discussion point as to whether you have the right not to be offended - and i don't know the answer.  I don't want to be offended, but i know that people may be offended if i for instance, say that Toby Young is a bald smug tory or Julie Burchill hasn't been relevent since 1976 and doesn't appear to have had a new byline picture taken since 1986.  However, by the rules of libel (as gleaned from QI), i can't get into trouble for saying these as i'm stating a fact: that Toby Young is clearly bald, and some honest opinions - that his politics appear to be of the right, that i find him smug, and that I honestly believe that i appear to have been seeing the same picture of Julie Burchill since i used to see it in my parents' Daily Express in the 1980s.
Freedom of speech.  And that also includes name calling as it's 'common abuse'.  As i understand it. 
One element of this debate that hasn't come up though, is do these alleged journos have the right to freedom of speech when they're being paid to write, in a publication that carries advertisers, even if the publication is free to read?  I haven't bought the Observer or the Telegraph (for instance) ever, so can i claim to be paying to read it?  Well, the adverts all over the page are paid for, and the writers get paid out of that revenue.  And the readers buy the products, that's how it works.
The words are bought.  The writers are paid, its their job. So do they have the right to write an offensive article under the idea of 'freedom of speech'?  Maybe, back in the olden days before the internet, when the idea of being 'silenced' or 'voiceless' actually had credence, they did.  Maybe it was their job to seek out new people and new ideas to piss them off with.  Now?  Now, as i went on about at length in the previous blog, (sort of) the idea of anyone with a usable internet connection and the ability to use language being 'voiceless' and 'silenced' is laughable.  Social media, blogs, website hosts, youtube, soundcloud, even good old myspace and livejournal are all there and all free at the point of use. 
And yes i know, that still excludes a lot of people.  But there are free to use internet services in most places big enough to have a library, and training centres exist to help people learn how if they don't know.  I used to work in one. The word that always comes up when there are these discussions about who's allowed to say what and who's allowed to be offended, is privilege.  Privilege means being able to go about your daily life without getting abuse for just existing. Privilege means being able to get a job, because you're educated or clever or have both legs or are just plain ordinary. Privilege means being paid for something you're good at, and that makes it also a responsibility.
Being abusive about people you don't like, that's freedom of speech.  Sticking up for your  mates when they're feeling threatened, that's freedom of speech too.  Getting paid to do both?  Nope. That's privilege.  Use it wisely.