Thursday, January 28, 2010

Information Is A Commodity

Our relationship to information has changed. I became aware of this not for the first time but somehow more acutely just recently when helping my 8 year old daughter Nina, with her homework. Back in the day...when I was a child and had a report to do I went right straight to the encyclopedia, which I understood to be the fountain of all truth. I would dutifully look up my subject and copy out all the information found there, re-arranging some words and adding  a little color and bam, that would be my report. As I grew older and more pages were required I would go to the library check out a few select books and pull together my story from their, all properly cited of course. But again the truth was right there in the pages on the shelf.

Today my daughter and I go to the online version of the Encyclopedia Britanica, where there are big colorful pictures, links and videos and animations and my daughter who has come to expect information to be this way scrolls down the page until she finds a video or animation or link she likes, prints the photos, copies the caption and thinks her work is done. I have to continually prod her to read the whole article, state all the facts, which is as much a matter of age as anything. But I get nervous when she clicks away from the encyclopedia. I am all too aware, thanks to Howard Zinn and that Jason guy who posed as a NY Times reporter and Fox News, that history is in fact written by the conqueror and hard news isn't and that every story is told through the eye of the beholder. Even "articles" on the web make me think twice. I know that what is published as content is rarely vetted and even rarer still, cited. Hell, even the Bible has been 'edited' my dear Constantine to better control the masses and  it hits me, information is a commodity, like any other.

And as a consumer of information I begin to understand that it is collected by those with the resources (Facebook, Google) and doled out to those who are willing and/or able to pay the price; be it the labor of research, the tenacity of the hacker or the money of the wealthy. And the purity of your purchase is a direct reflection of how much you are willing to pay.


May the gods of open source always win!

Cheers,
-elena

Posted via email from Elena's posterous

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