25.2.05

In our own worlds

According to Andrew Sullivan, society is dead, we have retreated into the iWorld. An excerpt that I can attest is true, just from my first few days with my iPod:

These are the iPod people. Even without the white wires you can tell who they are. They walk down the street in their own MP3 cocoon, bumping into others, deaf to small social cues, shutting out anyone not in their bubble.

(Link via By The Way).

Actually, I keep the volume on my iPod low enough that I can still hear my cellphone if it beeps or, you know, have ample warning of traffic that might be barrelling down the street at me. (Why I'm in the middle of street and vulnerable to traffic is another matter.) Also, I'm wary of going deaf-by-iPod.

But I can appreciate Sullivan's sentiment, especially when he talks about how people access only information that they already have an interest in or read only those blogs written by people who think along the same lines as they do. Guilty, as charged. There are times when it's a little like living in an echo chamber --- bloggers swopping links to each other because everyone's talking about the same thing, finding the same few links propagating throughout the blogosphere --- but it's a lot better than being forcefed a diet of something that you didn't want to read in the first place, or that isn't enriching in any way.

Take the whole furore over The Straits Times charging for their online edition, for example. Personally, I don't intend to read it anymore, not if I have to pay for it. Yeah, I get that they want to make money off it, but I get Salon for US$30 a year. That works out to US$2.50 a month or roughly S$4.30, as compared to the $12 a month ST is proposing to charge. As a point of comparison, Salon updates everyday too, and it's a purely online publication which can't rely on a print edition to support the web costs --- and it's Salon for goodness's sake. It's in a whole different league from The Straits Times.

I've actually been ST-free for several weeks now. On the one hand, I kinda don't really know what's going on. On the other hand, my life doesn't seem to be adversely affected by it, so maybe I didn't need to know what was going on in the first place.

12 Comments:

At 2/25/2005 7:30 pm , Blogger Pei Chi said...

ST was useful for me to catch up on local news and gossip while studying overseas. But because of their shitty writing and constant social alarmism (study mamas! gay men running the economy! OH NOES!), my demand curve for ST is pretty inelastic and certainly my willingness to pay is nowhere near what they're charging. So I guess I'm going to have to rely on my echo chamber of blogs to get all the lowdown on Fiona Xie's latest exploits.

 
At 2/26/2005 11:12 am , Blogger Cowboy Caleb said...

I blast my mp3s at full volume. They are even louder after I used euPod.

 
At 2/26/2005 12:49 pm , Blogger wahj said...

We were already walking around in personal music bubbles with walkmans and discmans. The only thing is that iPods make it more stylish to do so ... = )

 
At 2/26/2005 1:28 pm , Blogger Tym said...

Pei Chi --- The thing I wonder about ST is: It's got great international news coverage, but one can get that from a variety of reputable sources. How's it do on local coverage? That runs the gamut from ribbon-cutting events by some bigshot to nonsense news, e.g. some joker cavilling about taupok in JCs or Zoe Tay's new baby (who gives a fuck?). Not much of it is hard news, even though they try to present it like it is. And as mr brown's implied in his Today column, local blogs can fill that void quite easily. So what's ST left to do? (Admittedly, this doesn't include business news, which might be worth paying for.)

Cowboy Caleb --- Good luck to your ears :) I have enough hearing difficulties as it is.

Wahj --- I think Sullivan's point is that the sheer capacity and ease of use of an iPod allows a person to tote around their entire music collection, wherever they go. That's a whole different dimension of self-involvement compared to what Walkmans and Discmans could do.

Speaking of which, I saw someone on the MRT using a Discman the other day (this was in my pre-iPod days), and I was like, man, that's an artefact of a bygone era. I should check if my old (pink!) Walkman and Discman are still lying around somewhere...

 
At 2/26/2005 4:57 pm , Blogger Agagooga said...

Congratulations on attaining Straits Times-free Nirvana!

Now you need not read about who got killed, raped, molested, knocked down by a van or conned into buying a Magic Stone.

Or read about the latest subjects that obsessive and anally-retentive idiots rant shrilly about; if you wanted to read that, there's always the Chinese Newspapers that we were (or at least I was) forced to read during Chinese lessons to find out the latest issues bothering the Chinese Community: such subjects of earth-shaking importance as the phenomenon of 避年 (Bi4 Nian2), where people who know better go overseas during Chinese New Year. Evidently it did not strike the letter writers that it was the attitudes and behaviors of those such as they which pissed the people who left during Chinese New Year off.

 
At 2/26/2005 4:58 pm , Blogger Agagooga said...

To say nothing of error-filled and illogical op-eds and naively positive spins on government policies.

 
At 2/26/2005 9:02 pm , Blogger Pei Chi said...

What really bugs me is that ST is a >150-year-old institution, sends its scholars to fancy-schmancy overseas universities, presumably has vast physical and media resources, BUT it spends its money on pointless layout revamps every 5 years and produces boring, bland articles that are sophomoric in style and content.

And the old ST-is-pro-govt cliche is so worn-out but true that it's not funny anymore. I'm not one of those contrarian anti-govt-for-its-own-sake kids and I really hate BigO Magazine/X'ho-type unfocused political rants, but is it really too much to ask for less arse-licking from the national newspaper. Isn't it time we weaned ourselves off 'nation-building'?

 
At 2/27/2005 2:13 am , Blogger Tym said...

Sophomoric --- now there's a great word to describe ST.

Agagooga --- don't blogs similarly focus on "the latest subjects that obsessive and anally-retentive idiots rant shrilly about"? :)

 
At 2/27/2005 11:43 pm , Blogger cour marly said...

I read a great article about how we are all increasingly leading segregated lives, given how easy it is these days to find like-minded folks to the exclusion of all others.

Very much guilty as charged.

 
At 2/27/2005 11:56 pm , Blogger Tym said...

I still listen to and read opposing views. Then I tear them apart in my head and move on :) And even if I don't read ST (much) anymore, I suspect I won't be entirely immured from nation-building news.

 
At 2/28/2005 12:26 am , Blogger cour marly said...

I used to. Know thine enemy. Then it just got tiresome. Thine enemy is an eejit.

Truth is - I still keep my ST print subscription alive despite the fact that I barely read it and rant when I do. End of the day, I am a current affairs junkie. No two ways about it.

 
At 3/01/2005 2:20 am , Blogger Daryl said...

Um, the Sullivan column seems to basically rehash the points made in this old New York Times article, although it adds the echo-chamber dimension.

 

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