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BloggingOn 10.3 - "The Truth Is A Virus"

As I tried to relay in one of those akward and nondescript audio posts, I went to see Jarhead last night, and it left me wondering about our status as "information sharing animals".

I suppose it was brought on, in part, from that oh-so-familiar-feeling that arises after two hours in a dark/loud movie theatre: why did I just watch that? Not in the I-want-my-money-back sense, or in the I-just-wasted-two-hours-of-my-life sense. The movie was actually quite good, but it left me wondering just exactly what was being expressed.

My friend C.S. (nay-Lewis) summed it up pretty accurately, I thought. She said Jarhead was about (and I'm paraphrasing here) the necessity of sacrificing our "selves" in order to survive in a "crisis" situation, and how sometimes we never really get our selves back. I'm not sure that covers all the bases, but it seems about right.

So what's the problem. Well, information sharing animal that I am, I decided to go see this movie. I paid my money, sat down, watched, listened, tried to interpret what I could by making decisions about this and that, and in the end I should have been the rightful owner of some new informational content, right? But what was the nature of that information? Even if it is what C.S. posits, what good does that really do for me?

If I ever find myself drafted into the armed forces, maybe I'll have a road map that will better equip me to navigate the psychological and metaphysical perils that lie ahead. But is that really why we watch a movie like Jarhead?

If it is, then the conduit for relaying that information is rather flawed. Let's assume that Jarhead did have a "message" (any message) that you or I or anyone else who saw it should be able to easily decipher. Does the medium make that task more difficult than it needs to be? Does the medium even make that task possible? The medium is the message, right? So after two hours of verbal and visual shock-and-awe isn't it far more likely that the sensory overload is going to make that sort of information relay difficult if not impossible?

If I'm going to go to the trouble of expressing something useful or utilitarian to someone else, I'm going to attempt to be as clear and direct about it is possible. Do blogs disseminate information in a clear and direct way? What sort of information? What sort of blogs?

Forgive me, I digress and I digress some more. Part of the problem is that I have lots of thoughts about this, but no clear ideas. I think what I really want to get at is this (which is of course not a definite statement, but a string of open-ended questions): if we are information sharing animals, what is the nature of that information? What is its useful purpose? What motivates us to share information? What do we gain, as a species, by disseminating information?Do we do this more efficiently/successfully by disseminating it via the internet, or television, or cell-phones, as opposed to simply in conversation one-on-one?

You might expect that the act of sharing information would increase our chances of survival in one way or another. Is there any information here, here or here that serves that purpose? What's the specific utility involved in this little piece of information, and other pieces like it?

It's often suggested that what distinguishes us super-fancy two-legged upright-walking lifeforms from all the others is our ability to engage in rational thought. Perhaps. But when the energy we expend on that rational thought results merely in more-spohisticated means to eat, reproduce, and defend ourselves, and possibly find pleasure - actually, let's just say find pleasure and avoid distress - then what's the big feckin' deal? Isn't that what our less fortunate slimy-scaly-fuzzy-feathery friends are up to?

Aldon says:
It is about Emergence. The human condition is to read and think until we do know what the theme is. It is what we do while waiting, and blogs are yet another place where we read, write and think, while waiting.
My apologies, but I just can't help but just pose one more question that I can't entirely answer... waiting for what, exactly?

Waiting until all of this information amounts to a clear direction, a course of action, an end to the waiting and a beginning of the acting/doing? If that action is only a plan to find pleasure and avoid distress, maybe we had best keep waiting - or we'll be forced to admit that nothing really separates us from the "animals" save for more elaborate means of seeking pleasure and more significant attitudes about the nature of our distress.

1 Responses to “”

  1. Anonymous jenn 

    This is interesting for a number of reasons, one of which is that i found myself somewhat interested in seeing Jarhead (from the previews) but i couldn't for the life of me tell you why. and the answer may be that i'm seeking an experience that i won't otherwise have. (not likely i'll be signing up for the Marines anytime soon). i think your friend C.S. probably is right about the movie (even though i haven't seen it, i think that's the theme of most war movies, really, or at least one of the themes that most modern war movies incorporate.) If you are the owner of any new informational content, that content is probably what the filmmaker (or script writer) thinks war in the desert in the modern age is like. The two hours of shock and awe and the sensory overload may in fact be the intended "message".

    i don't think films (or literature) are as much about information sharing as (vicarious) experience sharing, something a lot more vague (and thus not meant to be communicated as directly and clearly, because we're not dealing solely with facts, or maybe with hardly any facts at all, we're dealing with perception, and emotions and lots of other imprecise things.)

    This may be one way blogs can be like literature (can be, certainly many are not), they can share an experience, a set of perceptions, emotions, that we ourselves would not otherwise have. (the twins blog is another example. not having a twin, you're not likely to have any of those experiences). And the people who are writing blogs of this nature are quite possibly writing them for the same reason people write literature, or films, they have an experience, a set of perceptions, and/or a point of view that they wish to share. And the people who read them are looking for that experience and those perceptions, which are a sort of information, just not a precise, factual type of information. what do you gain from this kind of information? perhaps empathy, or understanding of a situation that is foreign to you. Or validation of your own point of view, values, etc. if it is an experience that you have had.

    Certainly there are blogs that share factual information. Whether that information is useful to you depends on your informational needs and desires. To you, it may not make a whit of difference if two bad pop singers break up, but to some twelve year old girl somewhere, it probably is a very big deal. To a publicist who specializes in damage control, it's also probably somewhat useful. Blogs about ISKCON happenings are probably not of interest to the same people who follow the pop singer breakup, nor are they intended to be.

    This is one thing that makes blogs an efficient means for disseminating information-- the target audience is seeking out the information, in a place where it is easily available. People seeking certain types of information (types of factual information or types of experiential information) read certain blogs because they know they can find what they want there. in this way, yes, it can be more efficient to use the internet than spreading the information directly, because not all the people who want this information know each other in real life, or live near each other, (or have limited social skills and/or limited time for social interaction) and the person who ends up consuming this information may not know it exists, but finds it while looking for something else, but nevertheless it's useful to them, even if only as an entertaining diversion.

    and finally, as for your last paragraph, yes, you're absolutely right, we're not so different from the animals. animals share information too, some of it utilitarian ("There's food over there," or "This tree is in my territory") and some of it is sharing experiences (a despondent mother cow mooing communicating "they took my calf away from me and i'm very sad"). they just don't do it on the internet. (though i heard a comedian on the radio yesterday describe the way that his dog sniffs the same tree every day on his walk as "checking his pee-mail". ("You've got pee!"))

    i'm not sure how to tie this all up neatly, nor am i certain that i've stated anything at all clearly, but it's late and i'm going to sleep, so i hope some of this makes sense and contributes a little to your dialogue.

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