Rob Hyndman talks with Nora Young, Mark Schneider and Mark Federman at Mesh07.

I often find myself flipping back and forth between my real work and a bunch of webpages to get my information hit, and realize that I seem to have a shorter attention span these days. When I mention this to others I get a lot of comments that blame the internet. “Of course it’s the internet.” But really, have we lost the ability to go deep in conversations because of our constant need for information bites? Has the internet in particular hastened the decline of our ability to think about complex issues?

With the advent of television, early commentaries bemoaned even back then, there was a tendency to a shorter attention span. But perhaps more problematic are the negative aspects that surface during online conversations and comments that lead people to think of the internet a huge amplifier for some less desirable parts of the human psyche.

But didn’t the printing press change things back in the 15th century? Now we are all literate, but back then it turned things upside down for those citizens. Bloggers of the time were called ‘pamphleteers’, they were subversives back then. Effects people predict are linearly extrapolated from what we at the time know. So it is difficult to see what some of the effects will be from the current explosion based on our current knowledge, so in my view it is important to try things, and see if they work by asking users.

Bill Joy wrote a article called “Why the future doesn’t need us anymore.” Is there a way that we can step back and evaluate what is happening in this new medium? This would be a nice luxury, but we are part of history and hard to stop the clock.

There is a place for long-form perspective journalism, but we are changing what it means to construct an argument. What we think of as an argument is more open ended and more multi-perspective. Life becomes more like a Venn diagram. We need to take multiple contexts and put them together. The concept that there is more than one right answer needs to stem from a multi-dimensional way to understand the world.

But this often is not really viable or evident (see flame wars).

Where is the value in NowPublic? If something newsworthy happens because of ubiquitous proximity, there is a chance one of the members can record it. “This matters to me and there is value in sharing it with others.”

TV in its early days was bringing reality into the living rooms (eg the Vietnam war). It has become a hypnotic medium; you sit down and zone out. People’s engagement with the Net is similar to TV; it initially felt the same way. But as a new generation comes about, it creates an effect that TV never could when editors and cameras that faced in one direction only. The internet can bring together all these bits of information and allows user to create a picture. Every little bit of info by itself is not significant but together provides a more complete transparency into issues and concepts.

Does meaning evolve over time? We used to have a newspaper or story, but now we understand that media is emergent, and we will come to understand that nothing is ever completely finished.

We don’t consume media, (this was an old concept), we produce media (we contribute to YouTube or contribute to a blog).

“Information doesn’t want to be free- it wants to be valuable.”

There is a great divide between those socialized with TV and the idea of separate channels and those that have less division (see the TV show Heroes and the combination of the show and the website and the graphical novel to have more engagement with the story and concept.)

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innovation