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Tuesday, 13 December 2011

We are all trolls...............

The morning ritual:

I become aware of a soft tickling on the nose. The tickling becomes a scratch, which then becomes a persistent pressure, half tickle, half scratch, accompanied by a constant rumbling. One eye opens and delivers the news to a brain that's still mostly floating round an alternate universe of dream, in which I'm usually some sort of Road Warrior, that its still dark. Then the unmistakeable, and unique, sensation of a vicious scimitar of keratin gently picking at the flare of my nostrils.

"Hi Tosh" I say to the cat that's sittng on my head, "Morning is it?". We trundle downstairs to the kitchen door so he can go out, an exercise that's as ritualistic as any religious service. He sits in front of the door, gently miaowing at it and glancing up anxiously at me, apparently concerned that this - of All Days - will be the day foretold in cat lore - The Day The Door Didnt Open. ,Then as soon as the slightest crack appears, he sticks his paw through as if he's Indiana Jones desperately struggling to prevent the massive boulder sealing the Tomb of Neferitititi. Once the door is opened he jerks his head forward, sniffing. A victorious little cry and he hops out, mission focused without even a glance back.

Three hours later, and at the decidely more civilised time of eight thirty, and having returned to bed, I gradually arise properly. If RHB hasnt already allowed the cat entry, he's at the window of the back door, clawing at the glass, miaowing. Once he's in , we both hit the food bowl hard - me marmalde and toast, him reconstituted something or other. Then he hops onto my knee and we read the moring papers. Opposite, there is usually RHB, with a slightly smaller cat on her knee, similarly reading.

But this tradition, this comfortable and comforting lifeway that we've developed as we've co-constructed our culture over the years, is about to change for good. Frankly, I've had enough and have decided I have better things to do. Not, I should speed to mention, of the cat. Nor, of RHB. And most definitely not of marmalade on toast. But of newspapers, and the contents thereof, and most of the content on the internet, television and radio, I am done. I'm also a bit sick of literature as well, particularly previous staples like science fiction, biographies of ancient historical figures, anything anthropological. I have never really enjoyed 'funny' books or detective works, hate reading plays and morning's too early for serious literary work that requires thinking. Autobiographies are, by definition, unbelievable and I find a source of previous excitement - lay accessible science or political works - a genre exhausted and diluted by too many poor imitations. My most reecent acquistion in this genre - "How to teach your dog quantum physics" was not only badly written, but as Tosh pointed out, used the sickeningly cutesy device of anthromorphising the author's pet in a cheap bid for readership.

I think I am justified in this disillusion based on quality alone . If 99.99% of what one recieves through media is utter rubbish (or too good to be read in the morning - an important point that would earn itself a footnote if this was an academic paper that I would not, by self definition be reading in the morning) then paying attention to media in the morning is a total waste of time. Despite this justification, I feel I need somone (other than me) to blame. and here I turn to a recent ongoing discussion between RHB and self about the interactive nature of contemporary life.

A long time ago, at the dawn of the internet, when mammoths still roamed past our apartment window near Dutch Village Road, Halifax, we eagerly welcomed the appearance of "Comments" sections in newspapers. As Comments became enabled on various sites of interest, I registered
eagerly -in all cases immediately forgetting the username and password - anxious to contribute to the growing, and welcome democracy provided by the Web. And for a few years, all was fine: environmental forums were friendly places where healthy debate would flop around aimlessly, political comment sections would host ill-informed, but lively, discussions on competing economic theories, football columns would be exercises in thinly disguised bias. Soon, interactivity became ubiquitous - every newspaper column had a space for comments, every webpage had some sort of forum or comments facility. Radio shows respond to twitters and tweets and texts and are supported by an online prescence with accompanying comments sections, even if they are just meterological forecasts. Books have websites that have more content than the original text and websites have websites about websites - all commented, noted, forumed, ranked and tweeted.

Accompanying this have come the trolls - the subject of the debate between self and RHB referred to earlier. Troll and trolling have become familiar terms to anyone usng the net and are usually defined as either corporate stooges pushing a lobbyist line, or agent provocateur of some description who just like a good argument (I suspect late teenage boys figure prominently here). Both have cluttered up comments, forums and interactive sections of the web, its true, but my meaning for the word troll is broader perhaps than most definitions. By troll, I mean anyone who posts anything online, anywhere, about anything.

How so, you might ask? Well, I reply, its because contemporary media, through its interactive nature is a great big baby. It has developed into a pre-sentient creature that, is designed to elicit (demand actually) baby talk responses from us - when newspaper columns write 'provocative' articles that allow climate sceptics space in their comments sections I feel a need to respond, but space denies anything longer than a few sentences, so a whole ecosystem is reduced to a cartton strip. When a book is accompanied by a website and asks for a review, I am duty bound to post something but all that is really required, and read, is three, four or five stars. When a radio show calls for texts or tweets, limited-character opinions flow in on subjects that require a treatise. The content doesnt matter really, its the response which is important.

So I have decided to stop responding, at least in the morning. I realise my list of material that I am self-prohibiting means there is not a lot left for me to listen to, or read in the morning. But there are solutions. This morning I read 'Bosch Operation Manual: Model 4564'. It was a good start - I am now much more informed on the operation of my fridge via content rich material, and was not obliged to respond in any way. It was a much more satisfying start to the morning than the previous one when i ended up shouting at the radio, computer and newspaper in a growing circle of frustration. I already have my eye on tomorrow's literature "Sharp Autocook MicroWave: A User's Guide".

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