Last year, I got a sudden burst of referrer links to my Great Failure of Wikipedia speech. In fact, the links were all variant amounts of criticial attacks, some strong-willed, others mis-informed. I started to respond to a few until I realized that they were doing it for a class, a class in Blogging, actually.
As it turned out, the class was being held within a couple hours of my house, so I called the teacher and asked if I could show up to that evening’s class and talk about my speech. He accepted.
The whole dynamic of this is probably worth going into; here people were just posting stuff according to the class’s requirements, writing their dashed-off thoughts on a speech, and suddenly the asshole who gave the presentation is there in class. I wish I knew what went through their minds about that.
Well, obviously I know what some of them thought about it, because they weblogged it (blogging class, right?) one of them even decided to speculate on her weblog about my lack of a date for the prom and got a response from me disputing her guesses. Her helpful response? Delete the entire weblog entry. Luckily, there’s such a thing as a browser cache, so I saved her entry for posterity. Isn’t the client-server model great? The best part is that she’s a schoolteacher; great lesson there for your students!
Luckily, I followed my own rule of never speaking in public without having a digital recorder going, and I have the entire exchange recorded to MP3. It made it a lot easier to refute someone saying ‘He interrupted people” to go “Well, I have the tape, and that never happened.”
It was a great time (for me, anyway). I think it’s a case that as I get older, the face-to-face dynamic is becoming just as enjoyable as the online one, and brings different joys. During my “face-to-face” time, however, an exchange happened that shows my (perhaps overly cynical) take on things. Let’s throw that out there.
The teacher was also, when not teaching a class on blogging, a radio show host. There’s an exchange in there where we were discussing using Wikipedia, and he mentioned using it on his radio show during breaks to be able to look up something quickly. After all, he said “My job as a radio show host is to inform my audience.”
No, I said. Your job as a radio show host is to keep your audience listening steadily through a number of commercials and keep their numbers large enough to allow your station to charge more for those commercials.
Maybe people know this, and maybe they don’t; I see a lot of different reactions from people that imply that they don’t. The purpose of a television channel is to make you watch that channel’s advertisements. The purpose of a newspaper is to make you read the advertisements. The purpose of a radio talk show host is to keep you listening long enough to hear the advertisements.
This is a critical thing to understand if you’re listening to, say, a show in which there is “controversy”. Media that is commercially driven has no incentive to end controversy. If it is required to do horrible, illogical things to maintain that controversy, it will do so. If two sides came to an “agreement” at the end, and could see each other’s side, why would you keep listening? There’s no sparks, no attacks.
When watching entertainment, the entertainment’s job is to keep you satisfied long enough to have thought you got a good deal. If you are seeing the entertainment for free, then that entertainment is likely doing “stuff” to ensure its existence; either selling commercial time, or gearing the activities into a direction of worth for a commercial entity. (Product placement comes to mind, but there’s also Opinion placement and other “placements” in effect).
You are, essentially, Fuel that is driving an engine, an engine that has no interest in stopping. To maintain you as fuel, it needs to keep your interest. Keeping someone’s interest is not the same as working in their interest. Once this understanding is clear, you can save a lot of time: of course this talk show host is going to be skeptical and stupid about internet technology! Of course this interviewer is going to ask unfair questions to get a rise out of the interviewee, or, ask insane softball questions to get the interviewee (who you can’t help but look at because they’re famous or beautiful) to sit there longer so the audience will stay around longer. Holy crap! We’re all fuel!
There is nothing wrong with being fuel! Just don’t act all surprised when you’re treated as such.
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