Choicelessness

Preemptive Blogging

Posted in technology by johnsnavely on November 24, 2008

So I never tied that David Foster Wallace passage to any concrete thoughts, mostly because those thoughts were fluffy and dumb. This recent post by T got me piqued enough to try. Long story short, T noticed a link on his fathers delicious feed and decided to preemptively blog post about the link. The content of the link and the post are both quite interesting, but what I’m focused on is the preemptive blog from a piece of life stream. T subtly asserts that his father might have deliberately delicious-ed that link in order to provoke an argument.

Which is awesome.

Life streams or life casts are a big thing right now. (Think facebook updates) In future, our life streams will probably be more fleshed out and include a lot of data sensed, mined or sampled from activities, but a good chunk of it will just as it is now: personally constructed. And like all constructed things (read: “the built world”) it has the capacity for falsehood as easily as truth.

Like the video phone face masks of David Foster Wallace, people are just as interested in constructing alternate lives as they are in broadcasting their own. Take this site for example, that, given a few key words, builds a “clever” twitter for you post. Or this story from election time, of a woman who lied (via twitter and flickr) about getting beaten and mugged for wearing a McCain sticker. Or even how Kottke’s RSS feed has Kottke Recommends “Sponsored by…” ads inline.

Last night, I read an article in the NYTimes Mag about advertising in the age of the internet. It kind of made me sick to my stomach. (Although, since my job is mostly marketing, I’m probably cut from the same moral cloth.)

Anyway, what I find exciting behind the practice of false lifestreams is the idea of narrative peeking through. It’s an odd (and somewhat communal) way of writing a story. One of my favorite books, Miss Lonelyhearts, was supposedly written on notecards, a sentence at a time, one sentence per card. Nathanael West might have written his novel on twitter or delicious with equal aplomb.

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14 Responses

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  1. son1 said, on November 24, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Well, let me be 100% clear. My father would never do something like that to intentionally provoke me — he is, honestly, one of the sweetest, mildest, most easy-going people I’ve ever met.

    But, when it comes to several key issues, he and I don’t necessarily share the same (political) viewpoints.

    My worry was that he was saving that link, so that he’d have it handy when he wrote (what I assumed to be) a follow-up post about one of those issues. And I (pre-emptively!) didn’t want to have yet another go ’round on the blog. Even though we did start it in order to argue. But those arguments often upset me.

    So I tried to cut him off ahead of time — to get out in front of the issue, and own it for a little bit. I’m the child who’s not sitting around the dinner table these days, so I have to work other things to my advantage.

    Anyway, just thought I’d try to make that completely clear… he wasn’t provoking me, I was accusing him of preparing to do something that might accidentally provoke me. Which provoked me.

  2. johnsnavely said, on November 24, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    Anyway, just thought I’d try to make that completely clear… he wasn’t provoking me, I was accusing him of preparing to do something that might accidentally provoke me. Which provoked me.

    Yes, my language here is not quite as sensitive as it should be. I did not intend to provoke you. 🙂

    My point was that: where there is the ability to lie, there is the potential for narrative.

    Even in situations where everybody’s telling the truth. Deliberateness is no longer an assumed part of the medium.

  3. son1 said, on November 24, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    …where there is the ability to lie, there is the potential for narrative.

    We’re in complete agreement on this, of course.

  4. jkottke said, on November 24, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Just a point of clarification: my RSS feed does not include “Kottke Recommends” ads. They are clearly marked sponsorships, available to (almost) anyone who wants one and is willing to pay the asking price. They are not recommendations.

  5. johnsnavely said, on November 24, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    My apologies. Sponsorships, they are. And I’m glad they’re clearly marked.

    It does make me question how many of my other feeds might be padded, but unmarked. Kanye West’s blog, for example.

  6. sun, too said, on November 25, 2008 at 1:51 am

    Also, nans, keep in mind that s1 really doesn’t know why that article showed up in dad’s del.icio.us feed. What actually happened is that s1 linked to that op-ed (which you probably know), with some comment like, “Does this make sense at all?” etc.

    Then I saw the link in s1’s feed and his comments and thought it looked cool (but didn’t actually go look at the op-ed). What I did do was mention it to horbrastar and tattoolady when we were eating lunch that day.

    Then I saw the article show up in dad’s feed later that afternoon. But you know, dad uses del.icio.us way different than s1 does (i.e. as a simple repository for links as opposed to a micro-blogging platform).

    So there’s really no intentions behind his links, he’s just trying to keep track of websites he needs.

  7. sun, too said, on November 25, 2008 at 1:55 am

    Which is not to say that people in general don’t use lifecasts to simulate/enhance their actual lives, but I think s1 jumped to the wrong conclusion in this case… 🙂

  8. johnsnavely said, on November 25, 2008 at 4:54 am

    he’s just trying to keep track of websites he needs

    which is true. But it means something different to have a public storage facility for this type of behavior, which is why I’m interested.

    Delicious conversations that happen when T poses counter arguments in his url description, or when we send the same link (for:) back and forth with comments, start to get at dialogue which happens well before the blog post.

    The fact that s1 jumped to the wrong conclusion was exciting because he basically wrote an entire story of intent from a delicious link. That’s a really weird and awesome thing to do. I like the mind-set.

    I’ve been trying to sort out intentionality as well….for work mostly. Many versions of future technology have a seamless world in which things are “intuitive”, “predictive”, or simply “transparent”. Intentionality and action are so tightly knit with future tech that if you can think it, you can do it. We all know this to be false and it’s very easy to find many little counter examples (Jan Chipcase’s blog does this with a thoroughness you can’t find anywhere else), but still it’s very hard to back away and rebuild a more complete picture.

    I’m finding that I’m not very good at this, either.

    Anyway, my point was that I’ve been a little naive.

  9. son1 said, on November 26, 2008 at 5:29 am

    Kottke’s in yr blog, clarifyin ur points about clearly marked sponsorships.

  10. johnsnavely said, on November 26, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    yeah, it makes me want to make more egregious claims, just to double my readership to 2 people(s)…

  11. old man boldty said, on December 4, 2008 at 5:54 am

    I read your blog, so that’s three.

    I downloaded kottke’s silkscreen font before, he’s internet-famous. This brings you one degree closer to Kevin Bacon’s facebook page.

    The other day I twittered, got life stream on my hands and had to wash them.

  12. son1 said, on December 5, 2008 at 11:16 am

    You have a twitter feed, boldty!?

  13. johnsnavely said, on December 6, 2008 at 1:37 am

    seriously, boldtz… are you on twitter? (both son1 and i are.)

  14. […] is “social-bookmarking” or alternatively “url lifecasting” and as I’ve mentioned before it’s real power is in conversation and narrative. Delicious needs to buttress up these areas […]


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