When exactly did reading news become an altruistic gesture?
May 28, 2008
Apparently web users are getting 'more selfish'; they can't be bothered with all the editorial promotions and content media organisations would like them to spend time on, but 'ruthlessly' cherry pick the articles they're interested in and ignore the rest.
I must admit I bulked at this headline over the weekend, but as there was an interesting story to be explored about changing media habits here, I couldn't blog about it until I'd published a follow up on this (in Norwegian), by which time I find the headline has been changed from 'more selfish' to 'more ruthless' (a bit annoying that late edit, as I need to change my link to the cached story as soon as I get in to the office today, so our readers won't think my translation is incorrect).
I understand that the words 'more ruthless' and 'more selfish' belong to Dr Jakob Nielsen, the world-renown usability expert quoted in the article, but I was left pondering when exactly reading website content (and the language here is all framed around media content) was considered an altruistic activity?
It brings to mind all sorts of unfortunate scenarios such as the one an editor of mine suggested yesterday, imagine readers thinking thoughts like: "I'll be really nice today and read all the boring stories on xx's news site, every single one of those dull and uninformed pieces of rubbish".
A bit like what you might think doing other really boring chores, or taking 'a nasty cough syrup - necessary for the greater good, such as the survival of democracy, but irredeemably foul-tasting' (text in italics a slightly adapted quote from Neil McIntosh' excellent post on'Serious journalism's broccoli complex').
And you wonder why the media is in such a bad state?
This is just hilarious.
In the media's defense, I do have to say this, though: there might be a difference between selfishness and ungratefulness. It's one thing for a blogger to selfishly take from me and do what is required to give me credit.
It is another thing to display ungratefulness, to act like all I exist is for serving his whims.
One thing that has come up in the dissertation topic, but in a way that involves talking through 324727497 obscure passages: for Xenophon, gratefulness is what keeps people civil. The relation between a right and responsibility in modern thought is abstract: one just magically presupposes the other. In Xenophon and in ancient thought, gratitude needs to be a habit, to make sure right and responsibility are always linked.
Posted by: ashok | May 28, 2008 at 11:32 AM