Post-industrial creatures of an information economy, we increasingly sense that accessing media is what we do. We have become terminally self-conscious. There is no such thing as simple entertainment. We watch ourselves watching. We watch ourselves watching Beavis and Butt-head, who are watching rock videos. Simply to watch, without the buffer of irony in place, might reveal a fatal naiveté.

William Gibson on Twitter, in 1996. Cf. Marshall McLuhan, (via)

Most of my days involve four- and five-hour stretches of what I would characterize as dicking around on the Internet.

“Sunset Portraits, From 8,462,359 Sunset Pictures on Flickr, 12/21/10”. A photo illustration by Penelope Umbrico for The New York Times. I’ve probably become inured to news images, but this was one of those rare ones that stopped me in my tracks. If there were a print of this, I’d probably buy it. Cyberspace When You’re Dead.


“Well in those days the internet was in black and white. It was only on for three hours a day. We used to get all dressed up in our Sunday best to log onto it. We’d log onto and order a gas mask and a pound of tripe. Then when we’d finished with the computer we’d switch it off and we’d all stand up and sing the national anthem.”

This waking dream we call the Internet also blurs the difference between my serious thoughts and my playful thoughts, or to put it more simply: I no longer can tell when I am working and when I am playing online. For some people the disintegration between these two realms marks all that is wrong with the Internet: It is the high-priced waster of time. It breeds trifles. On the contrary, I cherish a good wasting of time as a necessary precondition for creativity, but more importantly I believe the conflation of play and work, of thinking hard and thinking playfully, is one the greatest things the Internet has done.

One result of the internet, I think, is that it makes almost everyone smart more eclectic, whether in terms of substance or presentation.

Online monoculture and the end of the niche. In summary: online recommendation systems tend to offer a more diverse selection, but tends to reward fewer products more greatly than others:

In Internet World the customers see further, but they are all looking out from the same tall hilltop. In Offline World individual customers are standing on different, lower, hilltops. They may not see as far individually, but more of the ground is visible to someone. In Internet World, a lot of the ground cannot be seen by anyone because they are all standing on the same big hilltop.

I wish I followed the math better. Interesting stuff in the comments, too.