The Cost of Information, Good and Bad

 

Is there something about the decreasing price of information that makes it harder to sift the chaff from the wheat? I have investigated this phenomenon before with respect to poetry. The barriers to entry for writing and publishing poetry have come down significantly over the centuries, and especially over the last few decades. There is much more poetry, but not necessarily any more good poetry. Thus, it becomes more of a chore to find good new poems. (Trust me, I once published and edited a poetry magazine.) The same seems to be happening with “news” and other information sources. There seem to be more outlets serving fewer real facts. Finding these facts becomes more and more difficult.

What are you seeing out there, Ricochet?

Published in Journalism

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  1. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Arahant, I think you’re absolutely right. However, I do like the democratization of information,. But as you say, finding the good stuff is more difficult than it was a few decades back.

    For one thing, the flood of opinions, data, essays, etc. lacks good editing — or lacks any editing at all. 

    • #1
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    I do like the democratization of information

    I agree with this. People like Project Veritas are doing very good work that only the big news organizations could afford to do forty years ago. And since Big News has given up on news, it’s necessary, too.

    • #2
  3. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Poetry is one of the first chapters that gets skipped over in writing and literature classes. One might think that would mean fewer people would try their hand, but that is not the case as everyone gets exposed to lyrics. 

    So right out of the gatekeeperless gate the would-be poet is without quality works to compare his efforts to. Next up, he types it into a computer where it can be uploaded to all kinds of forums for free. 

    Also; who actually buys new poetry? 

    There is not cost to being bad and not much incentive to get good. 

    We should probably turn the mighty engines of government funding to the problem ;) 

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    TBA (View Comment):
    We should probably turn the mighty engines of government funding to the problem ;) 

    Harry Reid tried that with some sort of Cowboy Poetry thing in Nevada.

    • #4
  5. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Getting rid of gatekeepers is usually a good thing. Technology is usually helpful there.

    Cable bundlers (to take one example) ratcheted up prices to bring you packages including things you may not have wanted–I’d guess Logo TV would make many of your lists–and until their recent humbling, cable was pretty arrogant about it. Over the top services and streamers have taken away much of the economic security of the cable giants. 

    But we should acknowledge there’s sometimes a price tag to de-bundling. Almost every local cable system in America has been guilted into carrying BET, but also channels many conservatives would like to keep alive, like EWTN, Eternal Word Television Network, which similarly would suffer if the channel was bought as an add-on instead of a free one that’s available almost everywhere. 

     

    • #5
  6. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Arahant (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):
    We should probably turn the mighty engines of government funding to the problem ;)

    Harry Reid tried that with some sort of Cowboy Poetry thing in Nevada.

    I like folk. I like folklore. But I loathe the folksy. 

    • #6
  7. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Was this too obvious a thing to discuss? Is everyone looking at it and saying, “Well, duh!”

    • #7
  8. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Back in the dark ages of office automation (I’m talking, like, 1981), it was widely believed that the ability to read and correct the output virtually, on a screen before printing (I’ve been using the word “virtual” in that sense since about then, Lord, I’m old), and that the ability to control the output through fonts, text size, and emphasis, would lead us to a new age of better, and more professional-looking printed output, with very few mistakes in the final product. We also believed that all this stuff straight out of the pages of science fiction would lead to the holy grail of Office nirvana (sorry, jumbled metaphor there): less (and eventually no) paper!

    And we know how that worked out.

    I think it’s sort of proportional that way, with technology and most other things. As I always used to say to department heads who, two or three days (if that) before they had to submit their budget for the next fiscal year, would call me up and ask me what dollar numbers they should put in for the project, if I were to come in and automate their departments for them: “When you try and automate a mess, what you get is an automated mess, and the only difference is that your mess just gets faster and bigger, because you can produce a lot more of it in the same amount of time.”

    I think most fields (even poetry) were devolving into mess before technology showed up. The difference technology has made is that the messes in every field are just about uncontrollable (cue the robots) and that far too many of us have reached a point where (shades of George Orwell) we actually love, and can’t live without, that mess.

    • #8
  9. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    She (View Comment):
    I think most fields (even poetry) were devolving into mess before technology showed up. The difference technology has made is that the messes in every field are just about uncontrollable (cue the robots) and that far too many of us have reached a point where (shades of George Orwell) we actually love, and can’t live without, that mess.

    So, how does this apply to sifting through the news for the average consumer?

    • #9
  10. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Arahant (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):
    I think most fields (even poetry) were devolving into mess before technology showed up. The difference technology has made is that the messes in every field are just about uncontrollable (cue the robots) and that far too many of us have reached a point where (shades of George Orwell) we actually love, and can’t live without, that mess.

    So, how does this apply to sifting through the news for the average consumer?

    I think it’s almost impossible, in the face of the continual onslaught. The only thing to do is reduce the input by ignoring most of it and finding a few sites you think are worthwhile and using them as your inputs. But since people choose different ones to represent their own views of what’s real, when those folks start talking, you just get more cacophony. For better or ill, it was easier when there were three news networks on TV and a few news services, and they all served up pretty much the same thing. Short answer: no idea. Perhaps in a small way, participating in a site like this one which, for all its faults, is largely composed of smart people of goodwill seeking truth, helps. 

    • #10
  11. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    I don’t much care for gatekeepers because you end up with the same problem as now, only less obvious – the hidden motives of gatekeepers can still cause bad information to come out, but no one knows better than to question it. Its the whole Protestant vs Catholic vernacular Bible vs Latin Mass bit – corruption occurs if the people can not verify on their own. Weren’t there a lot of Peasant Revolts that occurred simultaneously to the Protestant Revolution? I keep thinking there were. Almost like that religious transformation was a part of the political revolt itself.

    Thing is is that history and current events are largely determined by gatekeepers and witnesses. So here, the problem of getting to corruption is way harder even if you can read.

    However, I do think this idea that the press should be free to do whatever the hell it likes is detrimental to good information. If there’s no risk to publishing, are you getting sound information? And if they aren’t willing to suffer for the truth, is what they are saying really true? There must be a reason why the church thrives under persecution and dies when it is free. Is that a proxy for the truth? Is it more likely to come from persecuted spaces than from spaces that are lauded and have high positions of authority?

    Now I’m not going to go on BitChute and claim every YouTube demonetized or banned video that makes its way there is good information. But I think that when you separate hated truth and crackpot theories from propaganda, its a lot easier to figure out what the hated truth is when its only being compared to crackpot theories.

    • #11
  12. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Was this too obvious a thing to discuss? Is everyone looking at it and saying, “Well, duh!”

    No. It may seem so because the phenomenon and the experience are so familiar. But the understanding of it would need a room full of books written by intellectuals from every branch of human culture.

    Did you happen to see the recent Nova show, “A to Z: How Writing Changed the World”? It addresses the impact of the technological trend you speak of on East Asian, Middle Eastern, and European civilization? It started with how papyrus is made…

    For me your question brings up a cloudburst of thoughts which whelm over my mind.

    • #12
  13. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    Did you happen to see the recent Nova show about the impact of the technological trend you speak of on East Asian, Middle Eastern, and European civilization?

    I’m at least thirty years behind on television viewing.

    • #13
  14. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Arahant (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):
    We should probably turn the mighty engines of government funding to the problem ;)

    Harry Reid tried that with some sort of Cowboy Poetry thing in Nevada.

    Harry Reid was greasing somebody. With our grease.

    Thanks, Harry.

    • #14
  15. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Percival (View Comment):
    Harry Reid was greasing somebody. With our grease.

    He was a Democrat, but I repeat what you said.

    • #15
  16. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    She (View Comment):

    Back in the dark ages of office automation (I’m talking, like, 1981), it was widely believed that the ability to read and correct the output virtually, on a screen before printing (I’ve been using the word “virtual” in that sense since about then, Lord, I’m old), and that the ability to control the output through fonts, text size, and emphasis, would lead us to a new age of better, and more professional-looking printed output, with very few mistakes in the final product. We also believed that all this stuff straight out of the pages of science fiction would lead to the holy grail of Office nirvana (sorry, jumbled metaphor there): less (and eventually no) paper!

    And we know how that worked out.

    Yeah. WordPress.

    • #16
  17. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Arahant: Finding those facts becomes more and more difficult.

    It was always difficult. The difference is that now the difficulty is obvious.

    • #17
  18. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Arahant: Finding those facts becomes more and more difficult.

    It was always difficult. The difference is that now the difficulty is obvious.

    Good point.

    • #18
  19. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Arahant: Finding those facts becomes more and more difficult.

    It was always difficult. The difference is that now the difficulty is obvious.

    On the other hand, the nature of the “new” journalism causes people such as Mollie Hemingway and others to shame the mainstream press into paying attention to cases such as Kermit Gosnell.

    • #19
  20. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    I remember entering a few poetry and story contests a long time ago, and I was amazed at what passed for the winners. I stated to look at the big writing awards, and they were handed out for very depressing works. It seemed to be a trend as I looked at past year winners.

    The control of social media is driving much of what you mention – 

    • #20
  21. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    I remember entering a few poetry and story contests a long time ago, and I was amazed at what passed for the winners. I stated to look at the big writing awards, and they were handed out for very depressing works. It seemed to be a trend as I looked at past year winners.

    Yes, and it’s often not very good at all.

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    The control of social media is driving much of what you mention –

    Some of it, especially creating echo-spaces.

    • #21
  22. Bethany Mandel Editor
    Bethany Mandel
    @bethanymandel

    Definitely an observable phenomenon with all literature, I find it especially with children’s lit.

    • #22
  23. Hank Rhody, Freelance Philosopher Contributor
    Hank Rhody, Freelance Philosopher
    @HankRhody

    I’ve got to site the poet laureate of our age:

    Look.
    If you had one shot,
    one opportunity
    to seize everything you ever wanted,
    one moment, would you capture it?
    Or just let it slip?

    How did vikings get their skalds? How is it that a culture of serious, sober scandies who also happen to be some of the most violent raiders the top of the globe has seen developed an appreciation for poetry? Picture a viking culture without. Then imagine a stripling of a boy, can’t wield an axe worth a darn, starts spouting poetry. You don’t face the wet towels of that locker room culture if the words aren’t burning in you like fire; if you could choke them back without them consuming you.

    That proto skald writes good poetry because he can’t do anything else. Shakespeare created great art because his only other options were madness and starvation. The best stuff is always written by people who are more crazy than not. You’ll still find them in this day and age, but how can you separate them from the masses of people who penned a novel because they thought it was an easy way to make money on the side?

    • #23
  24. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Bethany Mandel (View Comment):

    Definitely an observable phenomenon with all literature, I find it especially with children’s lit.

    That’s why older is often better. It has already been vetted.

    • #24
  25. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Hank Rhody, Freelance Philosop… (View Comment):
    That proto skald writes good poetry because he can’t do anything else.

    I disagree. When one studies Norse culture, one finds that warriors were expected to excel at poetry as well.

    • #25
  26. Hank Rhody, Freelance Philosopher Contributor
    Hank Rhody, Freelance Philosopher
    @HankRhody

    Bethany Mandel (View Comment):

    Definitely an observable phenomenon with all literature, I find it especially with children’s lit.

    I could see writing a book for adults. The prospect of writing for children terrifies me. If you lie to an adult — and I’m not talking about the “once upon a time” part, I’m talking about the deeper truths about the nature of reality that a good story tells even when it’s not trying to — If you lie to an adult he’s got a fighting chance of seeing through it. A kid will too… eventually. A great deal can happen in that intervening time. 

    • #26
  27. Hank Rhody, Freelance Philosopher Contributor
    Hank Rhody, Freelance Philosopher
    @HankRhody

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Hank Rhody, Freelance Philosop… (View Comment):
    That proto skald writes good poetry because he can’t do anything else.

    I disagree. When one studies Norse culture, one finds that warriors were expected to excel at poetry as well.

    Who sold them on that idea?

    • #27
  28. Sisyphus Inactive
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    TBA (View Comment):

    Poetry is one of the first chapters that gets skipped over in writing and literature classes. One might think that would mean fewer people would try their hand, but that is not the case as everyone gets exposed to lyrics.

    So right out of the gatekeeperless gate the would-be poet is without quality works to compare his efforts to. Next up, he types it into a computer where it can be uploaded to all kinds of forums for free.

    Also; who actually buys new poetry?

    There is not cost to being bad and not much incentive to get good.

    We should probably turn the mighty engines of government funding to the problem ;)

    The dominant form of poetry in society today is in the form of popular music. This is a natural condition, Homer’s poetry shows indications of being composed to fit with musical performance. Some pieces by Chaucer, as well. Bards are almost always portrayed with an instrument, including not just Greeks and Persians, but also Snorri Sturluson. And, despite the paucity of direct evidence (no graven images), the common practices of Israel’s neighbors suggest the Psalms were sometimes performed with musical accompaniment.

    The poetry published in academic journals is mostly obscurantist Vogon prattle. The modern student reads a Shakespeare or Milton writing for an audience immersed in the classics and come away with the impression that these authors are great because they are impenetrable rather than recognizing the failure of their own educational institutions and scholarship. It produces very resistible compositions. The elimination of a common culture thanks to the Internet is further fragmenting culture and shrinking audiences.

    This is how I came to the irony of watching a pretty girl denounce poetry as boring while listening enraptured to “Sympathy for the Devil”. I laughed hard and that was well over before it began.

    I have no firm data, but I strongly believe that Vogon poetry and culture is the inevitable product of a million years of government funded arts.

    • #28
  29. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Hank Rhody, Freelance Philosop… (View Comment):
    Who sold them on that idea?

    Their Proto-Indo-European ancestors. The idea of the dumb, uncultured fighting man is rather new in the history of the world.

    • #29
  30. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Bethany Mandel (View Comment):

    Definitely an observable phenomenon with all literature, I find it especially with children’s lit.

    That’s why older is often better. It has already been vetted.

    This dynamic is particularly strong in movies. People talk about the how great movies were in the old days, and ask why they don’t make great movies like that anymore. Truth is, they mostly didn’t. They cranked out enormous amounts of forgotten crap, with a few hidden gems that are remembered.

    • #30