Last year, as part of a web site re-vamp we integrated a blog into the structure of the treemagineers’ site – leaving open whether, and how much, we were going to actually use it.
220 post later and counting I think it is fair to say that it is being used, the posts encompassing a pretty wide, wild and eclectic range of things I found interesting, funny or sad, that annoyed me, made me angry or thoughtful, that needed saying… or just spilled out of the top of my head.
The blog is frequented by a fair number of people, about 6’500 visitors per month, which is quite a bit of traffic. Whilst that is nice to know that it is being read, that in itself is not the key motivation for investing time and effort into the blog.
For me the treemagineers blog is a response to some of the superficialities that seem to have become a bit of a hallmark of social media and the way in which we use the web today – which seems a great pity. This in turn reminded me of a very interesting book written by Peter Lunenfeld, published by MIT Press, called “The Secret War Between Downloading and Uploading“. Do not be put off by the rather martial title, Lunenfeld pulls no punches and gets right to the point… here is the MIT Press blurb on it:
The computer, writes Peter Lunenfeld, is the twenty-first century’s culture machine. It is a dream device, serving as the mode of production, the means of distribution, and the site of reception. We haven’t quite achieved the flying cars and robot butlers of futurist fantasies, but we do have a machine that can function as a typewriter and a printing press, a paintbrush and a gallery, a piano and a radio, the mail as well as the mail carier. But, warns Lunenfeld, we should temper our celebration with caution; we are engaged in a secret war between downloading and uploading – between passive consumption and active creation – and the outcome will shape our collective futures. In The Secret War Between Downloading and Uploading, Lunenfeld makes his case for using digital technologies to shift us from a consumption to a production model. He describes television as the “the high fructose corn syrup of the imagination” and worries that it can cause “cultural diabetes”; prescribes mindful downloading, meaningful uploading, and “info-triage” as cures; and offers tips for crafting “bespoke futures” in what he terms the era of “Web n.0” (interconnectivity to the nth power).
I found Lunenfeld’s arguments throughout the book, some of which discuss measures to counter the risk of cultural diabetes, as he calls it, very compelling. This, according to Lunenfeld, occurs as a consequence of massive, wide-spread low-quality download, where the internet is used as a means to disseminate and share easily palatable content only, with very little meaningful upload on the other side to counterbalance it .
I certainly agree with the key point he makes: We could be using the potential that this medium has to offer better, uploading meaningful, constructive, creative content and consuming downloaded material with measure: In this way, the computer and the web can indeed become cultural machines. Yet in order for this to happen, we need to become much more considerate and self-reflective users: rather than merely posting to let the world know that we have just clipped our toe nails or are playing Candy Crush Saga (please, never, EVER send me an invite to play Candy Crush Saga, or I will be forced to instantly delete you from my universe!) to post something with depth and meaning, recounting an occurrence that touched or affected us – or actually uploading something creative and new.
Whilst I do not maintain that everything I have written makes sense or is high-quality (the mind boggles!), at least I am investing effort in it, giving it thought and attempting to give the content a degree of depth. Hopefully, if more people start doing likewise, we can tip the scales, allowing the benefits and positive aspects that the medium has to offer to outweigh the negatives: the narrow-minded, shallow and often parochial expressions of opinions with little foundation or merit.
So let us all start contributing – it does not have to be a blog – it can any number of other things, too, but let’s do this and give it some depth!