Justin Who?

Admittedly, until a few months ago, I had no idea who Justin Bieber was and because I don’t watch the Disney Channel or listen to much Top 40 radio, I had to look him up on youtube and listen to a song in order to research for this very post. I had never heard anything before this, so my annoyance with the kid is miniscule, but that doesn’t stop me from showing you this Firefox plugin that blocks any mention of the tiny-tot singer.

Below is the video which displays the application in action, but the song that plays probably is not suitable for work. I’m embedding it because I want you to see it in action and not just to make fun of the kid. Just keep that in mind.

Justin Bieber Shaving from Greg Leuch on Vimeo.

Isn’t this fascinating!? That someone would spend the time, money, etc., just to eliminate an annoyance from their web experience? I can see how it may diminish that particular aggravation for a user, but at the same time, it reminds me of an ostrich sticking its head in the sand. While the focus of this tool is to block one seemingly insignificant pop culture reference, what if one were to use the tool to block any mentions of, say, the Gulf Coast oil spill. Would that be merely believing in the “ignorance is bliss” mantra? It’s a thought.

Another: in a world where information is so easily accessible, how do we stop a stream of unwanted information–stuff that we consider purely a nuisance? Like this? With plugins, applications, and utilities? Is this just us adapting to the changes that this information age has inflicted?

Hey, I haven’t had much contact with the Bieber, so I don’t have much use for this tool, but if I could get rid of any mention of Farmville, I just might.

via CNET

Promiscuousness of Promiscuity

I just started going through a book called The Information Society Reader, a collection of foundational readings on the study of the Information Society, and a few pages into the editor’s introduction I had a déjà vu moment with this oddly familiar statement:

It can seem that the [concept of “Information Society”] is used with abandon, yet as such it is capable of accommodating all manner of definitions. Readers should look carefully for the definitional terms used, often tacitly, by commentators in what follows. Are they, for instance, emphasizing the economic, educational or cultural dimensions when they discuss the Information Society, or is it technology which is given the greatest weight in their accounts? One might then ask, if the conceptions are so very varied and even promiscuous, then what validity remains [. . . ]? (p. 10)

Webster, Frank (Ed). (2004). The Information Society Reader. London: Routledge.
(Or click here to see the text in Google Books)

Is this warning not incredibly similar to those we hear about the study of rhetoric? Varying definitions, an undefined scope of study, questions of validity? Lately I’ve felt lulled into a (likely) false state of security. How many times do we hear of academic programs stating with pride that they are interdisciplinarity, crossdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity, multidisciplinarity? Promiscuity is a characteristic more and more fields of study display with some pride. This crossing of borders has become something of an academic movement, but all movements have a beginning and usually an end, or even if it has lifecycles and never entirely dies out, the times when it tapers out can be painful – as the history of rhetoric can attest to.

What’s interesting to me about the study of the Information Society is that its inception has been some sort of uber-manifestation of interdisciplinarity. It’s flowed and found nodes of connection in the same manner as the Network Society itself. It’s almost like the global community’s entry into the Age of Information is what has made this move toward interdisciplinarity possible in the first place (both in terms of technology and of an emerging climate that condones and even celebrates such behavior), and it’s quite fitting – if not problematic – that the field purporting to study this new age should mirror it as well.

But I can’t help but think there’s bound to be a tide building against such breadth and promiscuity. And if so, I wonder when its time will come, what it will look like, and what the alternatives may be.