Monday 3 September 2012

Falling Victim

We are relative newcomers to the internet.
The reason is not as much about resistance as it is about availability.
Living away from population centres keeps you out of step with popular culture and technology.
High-speed has never been an option until this year, so it's natural to eschew what you cannot have.

Nevertheless, there was some element of protest by staying off-line.
I always felt that the internet draws a person away from the moment, much like television does.
Don't get me wrong.
I like a bit of screen time as much as the next guy, but not at the expense of real life.
Media has a nasty potential for replacing quality content.

My early experience with the internet was disappointing in regard to finding information.
It just happened that I was actively seeking information within the motorsport sector.
The usual experience was that information was being offered for sale.
I made the assumption that most of the on-line experience was similar.
That's still prevalent in certain circles.
But for what we are interested in these days, I find that there is an incredible sense of responsibilty when it comes to sharing information.
And so much the better.

And while the internet is being hailed as a liberator of information,
serious concerns remain.
Certainly there are unsavoury elements on-line, but that's not what I'm talking about.
The fact is that the internet, though being two-way communication, is media.
It is not information.
It contains information.
But it contains that same amount of information as disinformation.

Marketing science has come a long way in recent decades.
In fact, marketing technique has evolved right alongside the advances in media technology.
Anyone who wishes to make a convincing pitch will use the most recent understanding of human susceptibility to media marketing.
This is well beyond the realm of understanding what people want and how to best demonstrate the virtues of a product.
Sophisticated marketing employs psychological manipulation to compel consumers to buy.
In order to be objectively critical of media, the consumer must remain as sophisitcated as the techniques themselves.
We all know that hasn't happened.

Beyond product sales, the internet has become an exchange for political debate and exposition.
Communities and individuals are better able to share information which helps equal the field by empowering the underdogs, and gathering allies.
Public relation battles ensue, each side vying for the higher share of support.
Of course, in any battle, the first victim is the truth.
And so, the role of the internet changes from a platform of information exchange, to a media nightmare.
Passion tends to usurp good judgement and critical analysis of media fails.

Then add the professional marketers.
Inject their expertise into a media war.
Then expect to be lied to.
Not the kind of lies that you recognize.
It's the kind of lies that you may unwittingly support.
The kind of information that you believe works in your favour,
but is, in fact, undermining your cause.

The fast paced delivery of information requires proficient sorting skills.
And though the new generation, having grown up with the internet, is supposed to be adept at sifting through information, it does not mean that the necessary critical analysis skills naturally develop alongside.
A slow reader is often a better reader because the information is more carefully digested.
A high-paced information environment lends itself to error in judgement, thus creating vulnerability to those with the motive to deceive.

We are very passionate about many issues facing our current world.
Never before has it been so simple to share the passion with so many others.
But there are times when I watch the flow, and become discouraged.
There are details that slip by, unnoticed.
Events are twisted to represent specific causes; taken out of context.
It is the groundswell that I fear most.
So many well intentioned people.
So many passionate supporters of positive change.
So many people caught up in the moment.
It would be relatively simple to do the wrong thing,
by accident,
if someone wanted you to.

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