08 February 2012

Wednesday's Words - Week 2

Second installment of Wednesdays Words and I already find myself running behind! Its barely still Wednesday, and I have no post on the go. I shall blame this on the pitiful quotes to choose from (“Buildings should be good neighbours” – Paul Thiry; really? Should cars be pen pals as well?).
Anyhow, I have found one worthy quote from the list that I will do my best to write a quick spiel on before the p.m. moves to a.m.
“Newspapers are the second hand of history. This hand, however, is usually not only of inferior metal to the other hands, it also seldom works properly.” - Arthur Schopenhauer
Meet Arthur Schopenhauer. For those of you who don’t know him, he is the pessimistic philosopher who gave us such gems as “Only a male intellect clouded by the sexual drive could call the stunted, narrow-shouldered, broad-hipped and short-legged sex the fair sex”, “ If we were not all so interested in ourselves, life would be so uninteresting that none of us would be able to endure it”, and "Almost all of our sorrows spring out of our relations with other people".
But as grim and sexist as some of his thoughts may be, the man did have a keen mind when it was employed in more rationale pursuits, and his philosophical writing (though over 152 years old), is refreshingly easy to read. Especially for a philosopher.
His above quote I like good enough as it is, but I also think the thought behind it would go well updated a bit for our modern era.
Newspapers, though they aren’t dead yet, have definitely been overtaken in terms of currency as a source of projecting the news of the day. Indeed, its no longer sufficient to have our news delivered daily, we need it hourly, by the minute, or updated by the second. This is the age of Twitter after all, and if you lumber behind, saving your well thought out articles for 24 hour increments, you are sure to be scooped.
Perhaps the quote is best altered by a quick reallocation of positions. Lets call newspapers the minute hand of history; slow enough to appear immobile at times, yet quick enough to notice as events move on. Perhaps the hour hand would be symbolised by more permanent and steadfast forms of the written word; by books.
So now we find the second hand of history moving much closer in sync with the flow of time in the real world; where news can be read pretty much as it happens. Whether it be the instant dissemination of recent deaths, the ability to run revolutions on the ground, or even the inadvertent tweeting of significant world events; we don't wait to hear about things the next day.
But this rapid news hand of the metaphorical clock has its faults still, and as Schopenhauer mentioned, its metal is hardly the metal of its fellow hands. As the ability to report things moves into the hands of everyday people, its quality is likewise diluted (if you don't believe me, just look at the blog you are reading; written by a man with no discernible qualifications).
Sometimes I cant help but feel that the tendency of news and events to form a self perpetuating loop these days is all the more increased as the spread of information becomes easier, and more wide-spread. News is news simply because it is news. The more people report on speculation, the more weight that the speculation seems to have. It is a worry when things can become so distorted, where news and information can spread so fast and unverified, whilst our mindsets are still set in days where we put stock in such things.
How often do you hear of Twitter and 'social media' being quoted on the news, or of the number of hits a YouTube video received, without any proper context being given (is a million hits really lending credibility here?).
The new second hand of history moves so fast and so erratically that people confuse it with the more steady motions of the minute hand. But at the end of the day, I am still much more entertained by the history this clock reveals, that I was before it developed.

Anyhow, this post didn't really have much of a point, nor much of an end; I just thought it an interesting concept.
Good night all.

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