Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Another Read Write Web Chuckler

Haven't I said that Read Write Web is a great place for Internet humor?

Check this one out.

No, the concept of every tweet twitted since 2006 going into an archive at the Library of Congress isn't the chuckler here, though you have to wonder what kind of academic research could be aided by the meaningless twattle on Twitter. Here's the howler:
When the Library of Congress was founded in the year 1800, publishing was very expensive and relatively few people did it. Today, thanks to blogs, YouTube, Facebook and certainly Twitter it's a new world. Publishing is far faster, easier and more accessible today than at any point in human history.
Yes, it's as if the following, taken from Britanica Online, never happened, and likely would not have brought printing and publishing within the realm of the common man until, you guessed it, the Internet.
In the 19th century a whole new era in publishing began. A series of technical developments, in the book trade as in other industries, dramatically raised output and lowered costs. Stereotyping, the iron press, the application of steam power, mechanical typecasting and typesetting, new methods of reproducing illustrations—these inventions, developed through the century and often resisted by the printer, amounted to a revolution in book production.

By the 1850s the application of the new techniques of mass production had brought down the price of an inexpensive reprint to one shilling, as in the Railway Library of novels (George Routledge, 1,300 vol., 1848–98), for instance, or in the three series of classics issued by H.G. Bohn in 1846, 1850, and 1853. Later reprints were cheaper still.
Yep. Relatively few people could afford books back then, but no matter since relatively few people were printing them. This is also forgetting the advent of the penny press and the boatloads of pamphleteers and itinerant printers that littered the nation with weekly papers and snowed us under with printed matter.

Yes, the advent of the Internet means there are a lot more people out there publishing. But cost and accesibility are relative terms -- you have to have a computer to read what I've just published, whereas to read a penny paper, all you really need are your eyeballs. And sometimes folks in this digital age forget that that old-fashioned printed matter, it got passed around. A lot. As did the papyrus and the clay tablets and such before it.

Then there's this one, from Read Write Web, same article:
It's hard to imagine a more significant milepost in social media's early march toward becoming an essential component of our social experience.
One of the difficulties with Twitter is preserving context. Because tweets are limited to 140 words, and because many tweets include links to other Web pages, one has to wonder if the preservation of this data by the Library of Congress includes the linked matter as well -- or will that be left to things like the Wayback Machine and its ilk? It's probably being preserved somewhere, but sorting through all this published data, even with the use of computers, will be daunting. Doable, but daunting. but funny here is that Read Write Web seeks validation of all this Twitter nonsense by preservation by an old-fashioned academic institution that attached a patina of scholarship to our daily Twitter (and, let's face it, social media in general) drivel.

Yes, maybe it's all stuff not "intended for publication," as postulate the experts cited by Read Write Web and Ars Technica -- but then doesn't that negat the ubiquity of publishing they chirrup about earlier on? I don't know. Preserve it. Mine it for data all you want. Just ease off on the generalizations.

Now, I know journalism is the realm of the sweeping generalization, but betimes Read Write Web really has perfected them. It's their niche.

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