Benjamin Kunkel on The Information Age

In an essay look­ing at the chan­ging roles tech­no­logy takes in our lives and how this changes us, Ben­jamin Kunkel artic­u­lates what many journ­al­ists have tried and failed to do in recent times: pro­duce an express­ive piece about the ‘inform­a­tion age’ without resort­ing to tired ana­lo­gies and scare­mon­ger­ing.

Cri­tiques, as opposed to mere descrip­tions, of inter­net cul­ture emphas­ize the inform­al­ity or (more judg­ment­ally) the vul­gar­ity of our promis­cu­ous mes­sages. These com­mu­nic­a­tions, in their ease, inex­pens­ive­ness, and abund­ance, suf­fer less pres­sure than before to be or seem import­ant, mean­ing­ful, or definitive—in oth­er words, to last in our minds. In their clam­or­ous com­pet­i­tion with one anoth­er, they more often strive to be the first noticed. […]

My hope is that these remind­ers will keep me from suc­cumb­ing any fur­ther to a pas­time that has already cut deep­er into my more ser­i­ous read­ing and writ­ing than I’d like, and that has led me to par­ti­cip­ate in the great ongo­ing sui­cide (by free­load­ing con­tent) of the intel­lec­tu­al class.

Stat­ing that a blog­ger­’s “pop­ular­ity is no index of their wor­thi­ness”, Kunkel points to more truths with these ‘five secrets’ from Lee Siegel­’s Against the Machine:

  1. Not every­one has some­thing valu­able to say.
  2. Few people have any­thing ori­gin­al to say.
  3. Only a hand­ful of people know how to write well.
  4. Most people will do almost any­thing to be liked.
  5. “Cus­tom­ers” are always right, but “people” aren’t.