Wednesday, May 23, 2007


It would appear that Andrew Keen wanted to be more than playfully self-referential when he wrote a blog post entitled "Blogs are boring." (I sure hope so. The last thing the blogosphere needs is a surfeit of Douglas-Hofstadter-like self-referentiality!) Now, while I agree with the premise, I am hoping that I can explore it a bit without getting mired in boredom.

Perhaps the problem has to do with reading. One of the things that makes a good author is the ability to deliver a message that does not bore the reader. (This is why Hofstadter-bashing is one of my guilty recreational pleasures!) This is particularly the case when the author happens to be writing about "the history of ideas," because, in the interest of good writing, you end up reading about the ideas and the paths leading to them. All the dead-end paths are excised from the historical account. It's not that different from reading mathematics: You read the proof of the theorem rather than the tortuous and frustrating process that eventually resulted in that proof. To appropriate the idea behind the title of an essay Seymour Papert once wrote, you are reading mathematics rather than reading about being a mathematician because the interest-level of the former vastly exceeds that of the latter.

So, if the Internet is the new "foundry" or "crucible" for new ideas, it stands as a corollary to the preceding paragraph that the whole Internet is boring! The interest comes only from evangelists and historians (if there are any) and the filters they apply. This then leads to another corollary: Guess what? Life is boring (at least most of it).

Now let's take this as an Oblique Strategies move and try to come "part way back." If we take a hermeneutic stance, then blogs, the Internet, and life itself are what you "read" them to be. The interesting is always there to be mined, but it will not shoot up of its own accord like the gusher in Giant. It is the product of our ability to react to what we encounter both cognitively and emotionally (without playing games about sides of the brain). As Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki used to teach at Columbia, with the right kind of examination and over enough time, the boring can become interesting!

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