Everyone isn't talking, not yet anyway

9 years ago

The Washington Post published an article—or maybe it was an editorial or maybe it was an ad, I can't decide—called If Everyone's Talking, Who Will Listen recently. It was written by Dusty Horwitt.

The article says there it too much information, especially from the overly talkative blogosphere, to the point that information just gets diluted, not spread in a useful way. Horwitt suggests that information outreach is impossible online. He states,

The overload siphons audiences and revenue from newspapers such as The Post and other outlets that can spread important information.

He throws around some ideas to show that information should be consolidated in places like newspapers. He cites examples that supposedly support his position that information should be confined to places like newspapers with statements such as,

Without broad media coverage, the civil rights movement might never have succeeded.

At this point, I'm beginning to wonder if this guy is joking. Maybe he's trying to be funny. Then he says,

Rather than call for government regulation of technology itself, perhaps the best way to limit the avalanche is to make the technologies that overproduce information more expensive and less widespread. It could be done via a progressive energy tax designed to keep energy prices at a consistently high level (while providing assistance to lower- and middle-income Americans).

An energy tax on bloggers who overproduce information? But not on newspapers, who apparently use no energy and consume no resources at all? If he isn't joking, he should be.

At Play in the Field of Ideas posted Oh, WaPo, We Knew You When, in which librarian Genevieve Williams "unpacks" the article bit by bit. She carefully looks at each point, but starts with,

My first thought is that Dusty Horwitt should read some history. Specifically, of newspapers and journalism. Particularly of the 19th century.

My second is that Horwitt's piece is pretty profuse, itself. You can throw as many statistics on the printed page, or the computer screen for that matter, as you want, but by themselves they don't add up to an argument.

Liz at Composite: Thoughts on Poetics and & Tech, posted Halfwitted journalist thinks only rich people should blog. She says,

This is so awesome I thought for a minute it was satire. Dusty Horwitt, pissant little environmentalist, lawyer, and journalist (and Bill Clinton impersonator, on the side) thinks blogging is the death of democracy.

Apparently democracy means a few rich people talk, while everyone listens. You... yes you... have the right to shut the hell up and be a good audience. Stop blogging! You're polluting the infosphere! You're killing newspapers, communities, democracy, and the environment, and if you're in the U.S., you're forcing jobs overseas! All by creating an "information avalanche". God knows we should all beg to go back to the days when we apparently sat around getting a political "education" from notorious anti-Semite and Hitler fan Charles Coughlin... as Horwitt suggests.

Dusty Howitt is indeed a Clinton Impersonator, a Singer and Songwriter, and a lawyer for the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The EWG's mission: "to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment." How do they carry out this mission? Using a web site, of course. Over-informing via RSS feeds.

All this might be just a passing flurry, earning Dusty his 15 minutes, as staghounds suggests, and everyone would go on with the business at hand.

Except not to me. That's because the same day I read this article, I finished reading Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism by Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Prize winning creator of Grameen Bank and the microcredit revolution that has brought thousands of people out of poverty.

I was busy thinking about how the power to connect can make so much difference in people's lives. Not just by consuming information but by creating it as well.

In the chapter of the book called "Information Technology, Globalization, and a Transformed World" Yunus talks about The Power of IT to Help the Poor. A few of his points:

- Properly applied, the new IT can largely eliminate middlemen who fail to add unique value, allowing people in the poorest countries to work directly with consumers in the developed world.
- The new IT can promote self-employment among the poor, liberating them from reliance or corporate employment or government make-work programs and unleashing their creativity, energy, and productivity.
- The new IT can bring education, knowledge, and skill training to the poor in a very friendly way.

Not too much information, not to much energy consumption, but access, choice, empowerment and multi-dimensional relationships.

People with access to the Internet like bloggers do things like particiate in Blog Action Day. On that day, maybe I can use my little information spreading !st Amendement machine called a blog to help spread the word about what a concept like "social business" is and how it might help end proverty.

Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

No, Dusty, I don't think near enough people are sharing information. Not near enough.

Virginia DeBolt
BlogHer Technology Contributing Editor
Web Teacher
First 50 Words

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