Thanks For Sharing; Gratitude to Social Recommendation and Cool Friends
In the massive cluster of content that is the world wide web, means have been established to filter out the deluge of information. Netflix and Amazon have sophisticated algorithms to process user interests. Community aggregation websites like Digg and Reddit have soared in popularity, allowing web users to democratically rate and consume the best web content. Facebook, in a manner similar to Google Plus, has recently incorporated and automated a “friends list” to prioritize activity of ‘closer’ contacts over more casual acquaintances.Even with these tools in place, as a perpetual Internet user, I remain overwhelmed by the massive amounts of content. Information overload.
Admittedly, I often disengage. My Internet browsing is limited to a few favorite blogs on my carefully tailored RSS feed. On occasion, I allow myself to digress into a hyperlink wonderland, though often to regrettable ends (Did I really just spend an hour watching President Obama holding babies?). Frustrated by the pervasiveness of endless (often poorly articulated) opinions and mired by the trivial, sometimes dubious, online content, I believe (particularly as a student of New Media) it is important to transcend and to remain connected online. To this end, I find, the only reliable way to carry on with exploration of the Internet, allowing the potential of the digital realm to reveal itself, is to champion one’s own trustworthy and well-informed trendcasters.
You know the type; the trendsetting (forecasting) friend. The trendcaster is always ahead of the game. They are the first to expose you to a viral meme, they already have a profile on that new social network, when you click on their shared links – it always inspires a smile or elicits some welcome reaction. Offline too – the trendcaster knows the best places to be and the culture they consume is the music and art du jour.
Without the trendcaster, the Internet would be a tedious and uninspired place.
“Knowledge sharing and creation is at the heart of innovation in all fields – science, art and business – and innovation is the driving force for wealth creation… Information can be transferred in great torrents, without any understanding or knowledge being generated. Knowledge cannot be transferred; it can only be enacted, through a process of understanding, through which people interpret information and make judgements on the basis of it. … Great tides of information wash over us every day. We do not need more information, we need more understanding.”
Charles Leadbeater, Living on Thin Air, 2000.
Grateful to the knowledge-sharers in my own social network, and curious about their process of understanding – I surveyed my trendcaster menagerie. In the brief interviews, I learned a great deal about the online habits and creative muses that inspire them and ultimately influence me. With a greater understanding of my network’s social capital, I feel better equipped to immerse in the interweb and embrace the innovation and inspirations the online experience affords.
Overall, I learned my trendcasters all hold tight to their smartphones (all but one specifically named use of the iPhone). Even with the constant companionship of their gadgets, when inventorying their creative influences, analog sources and famed and historical artists pervade (the Beat generation was cited by more than two friends). They self report a range of average times spent online (“Online 24 hours a day, I won’t respond to anyone if I’m sleeping, but still I’m there” vs. “An hour or so a day… [in] the morning & evening”). Yet, they never seem to be too far from an Internet connection (“Pretty much whenever my brain doesn’t need to focus on something else, I’m online”). Being without an Internet connection, doesn’t even seem to be an option, some are addicted (“I crave freedom from my digital leash… And it is rarely a luxury that I have”) others are dependent (“I use it to help me get around (Maps), find stuff to eat (Yelp), etc”).
Most of all, I learned that even when surveyed spontaneously, my trendcasters offer some amusing and insightful comments. I share with you, some of highlights:
ON THEIR ‘DIGITAL AGE’ AND THEIR INTRODUCTION TO DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY:
I learned how to type on a typewriter… Sometimes I think I ended up in IT just to prove I could overcome my Luddite upbringing.
Digital Media Producer
Portland, OR, USA
<impression voice=”crotchety old man”> Back when i learned ‘puters there weren’t no damned internet! There were no mice, only men </impression>
I took up computers around the age of 13 (circa 1982), well before the Internet was even demilitarized… It took a while to get my head around the Internet, because how disconnected all the technical pieces are, and how differently web sites are programmed from the stuff i learned in college. [Now] I scan the Internet daily like a crack addled chimpanzee, always looking for a new programming trick, a great idea, a good laugh, etc… the world at your fingertips, and all that.
Senior Software Engineer
Philadelphia, PA, USA
I mean, I’ve always been attached to my computer/Internet, but now I live in SF and work in Silicon Valley for AOL…so now it’s almost like a prerequisite.
Designer /Warlord (it’s on her business card)
San Francisco, CA, USA
ON HOW THE INTERNET HAS EFFECTED THEIR CREATIVE AND SOCIAL LIVES:
I’ve become exponentially cooler because of the Internet.
Junior High School History Teacher
Cincinnati, OH, USA
The Internet influences all aspects of my life every day. I would live a radically different life without the the Internet. Is saying “in every way possible” legit? Because that is the truth.
Cincinnati, OH, USA
I use it to find out if someone else has had the same idea as me (and represented that idea online somewhere). Maybe I don’t give the internet enough credit since it is so intertwined with “real life” that it has become difficult to separate. Sort of like the way every artist who is partnered should credit their spouse in their work. Maybe I will start crediting the internet on all of my projects.
Having an audience in general (real or imagined) has made me think more about performance while writing.
SOURCES OF FRESH INSPIRATION? INFLUENCES?
(Online) I gather it from all sites equally. (Offline) THE PUBLIC LIBRARY!!!!!!!!!!!
Artist & Imaging Educator
Cincinnati, OH, USA
Much of my creative influence comes as a reaction against something I dislike or something that annoys me. (Online Inspiration) Advice columns and Political writing. (Offline) public transit and ironically PSU MFA lectures (http://pdx.edu/art/mfa-lecture-series)
I’m very linear in my creativity; I have no idea how one even conceives of things like the more abstract Peter Gabriel videos.
Sadly, my stupid website http://fataldownflaw.com
I love having a notebook. The pure physical experience of pen in hand and the pen gliding across a piece of paper, doing exactly as you want it to do…there’s something powerful in that. I use my iPad as a notebook now, because it’s more organized, but it’s just not the same. Every time I have to pick up the iPad versus the notebook, I’m almost a little disappointed.
Special Thanks to My Cool Friends who participated in this query.