18 March 2011

The Hyperlocalization of News

Given the following:

All humans are enmeshed in social networks. For evidence of this see the popularity of recent films about social networks.

Networks = Television. (Television networks.)

All people are insatiably hungry for news about their friends and enemies.

TV news and other so-called old media have crews of experienced reporters and news producers whose careers have been destroyed by the internet, just looking for something to do.

Increasingly ubiquitous internet (the so-called mobile web) on continuously better, faster, and cheaper devices, with a comprehensive cloud-based service platform allowing news to be produced and consumed 24/7/365.

It can easily be foreseen that:

The news audience will be carved into smaller and smaller niches until eventually there will be a 24 hour news channel devoted specifically to each and every existing social network.

Rather than ask your friends what they are doing, or taking the time to post and review those troublesome 'status updates', you will simply tune in to your local news network to get (in video, podcast, or interactive raspberry form/flavor) a neverending stream of professionally produced news reports about the people you care about most. At the same time, as you check in on your friends, several cameras are trained on you and you are being interviewed for an in-depth feature that will air live, and then be repeated on a continuous loop for the rest of eternity, with updates every twenty minutes on the half-hour.

At first it will mainly be news, but soon enough a class of pundits will arise, offering weekly half-hour roundtables with commentary and analysis thoughtfully dissecting the slightest minutiae of you and everyone you know (with, however, a somewhat light touch). Afterschool specials will recount touching moments that will teach life lessons about everyone to everyone else, non stop. Expect crews of reporters following your every move, impromptu press conferences after every fruit salad or bowel movement, and so forth.

For the Brad Pitts and Mortimer Stokeses of this world the change may be small and perhaps even imperceptible. But for you and I and those of our ilkness, there will be an adjustment period. We may need to hire a media coach, and perhaps a personal bubble-wrapper, as we learn to negotiate the tricky contingencies of modern celebrity.

It's a good thing we have all these handy devices to connect seamlessly to the ubiquitous internetwork, because we are all going to be a lot busier in the future, and the future is getting closer and closer with each passing day. Man it never stops, and neither must we.

03 March 2011

Time Stops Again

Time itself, that cheap inviting bastard who flies when you'd have him crawl, and crawls when you wish he'd fly (e.g. when you're crawling with flies), stopped again on Thursday at 10:24 a.m., as the Central Clock went kerflooey and the fabric of the universe was once more torn asunder, whatever on earth that means. None reported hurt and no injured, Kent, no one seems to really know what happened, or if anything at all happened, and frankly some are starting to once again ponder the age-old questions, the nature of the cosmos, its source and its ultimate destiny, and the meaning of the fact that no good answer exists to the question of the meaning of existence.

People are kind of falling into two camps on this one, with one camp insisting that time actually stopped this morning, and for several days, though no on can really say how long it lasted, while the other side, in fact the vast majority of the citizenry, seems not to have noticed and continued about their business more or less as usual. There were scattered reports of a palpable weirdness, a definite oozy thickness to the atmosphere, and many if not most of the basic rules of the physical universe seem to have been suspended (one example being the law of conservation of energy, which states that great players save a little something for crunch time). Still, most assumed it was some combination of lack of sleep, gastrointestinal distress, or overindulgence in spirituous liquors, and bravely pushed on with their day.

Authorities are calling all this talk of time stopping "a lot of dangerous nonsense," fearing that any anomalies in the flow of time could cause jitters among already-nervous investors and send them fleeing for the exits in a panic that could scupper the prospects for a robust period of growth for the markets, i.e. more free money for everyone involved. Allegations in the blogosphere that the time stoppage was engineered by Goldmen Sax so that their trading algorithms could rake in another zillion remain unsubstantiated, which is not to say disconfirmed, so you just go right ahead and believe what you want to believe, apocalypse be damned.

Many who claim to have experienced the stoppage were people who were meditating, as well as some (although interestingly not all) of those who were playing music at the time. One dude speculated that what happened was that they were so in the moment that when the moment stopped, they were still able to move and flow freely, inside of it. Asked to describe the sensation, the consensus is that it was pretty, you know, like, "heavy."

And then, whether or not it actually and in fact did happen, it was over. Snap! Just like that.

Physicists at the Institute for the Study of Time said they didn't notice anything, they were 'on break' at 'the time.' Then they started parroting my questions back at me but with extensive, inappropriate uses of air quotes, all while giggling uncontrollably; after twenty minutes I got tired of waiting for them to stop and I left. I don't know what they're smoking, chewing, snorting or shooting over at the Institute these days but I'd like to boil it, distill it and slip a little into my coffee one of these Sunday mornings.

Central Timekeeping was flummoxed, no one from the department could give a good account of what happened. Conflicting stories about the readings on their instruments at the critical moments in question were leaked to the media, and all we could get was an assurance that they would look into the matter thoroughly in due course. In other words, don't hold your breath.

Questions regarding this alleged event or non-event are many and perhaps, in the end, unanswerable.

If it did happen, how could it be verified? Does time stop all the time and we just have no way of knowing? Is this why people spend so much for a Rolex?

Is it even possible for time to stop? To speed up, slow down, or flow in other directions? And not just theoretically, but for humans to actually experience the fluctuations and live to describe them in comprehensible terms?

If a glass were falling, and time really did stop, does the glass just hang there in the air?

If time stops, how do you measure how long it stopped for?

What is time?

[Pauses, looks uncomfortably at shoes.]

We'll be right back.