Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Good post about taking too long to finish the PhD. There's a lot in there, but I point you to it for the financial analysis of stretching out the PhD.

Two articles I read in a row worked together nicely. The premise of this article is that the internet allows for extreme participatory democracy, where a million battles are raged over tiny causes that everyone else ignores, where the combatants are polarized rather than engaged. The second article focuses on the early days of the American newspaper, which in some ways is similar to internet democracy. Newspapers had no ambitions of objectivity, and everyone was allowed to participate. Yet according to this piece, this was a good thing. So why is internet democracy so different?

My first stab at an explanation is the sheer scale of the enterprise. The number of participants in a local debate in 1775 was much lower than the number of potential participants in anything on the internet today. (And even national debates were fought in the local presses then.) Add to that the sheer difficulty of "posting" back then; even those folks who could easily toss off a vituperative missive had to get it printed to share it, and according to the second article it took 16 hours just to typeset a weekly paper. This means that saying anything required more investment.

But I wonder to what degree the commentators of 1775 were really more intent on converting minds and hearts than are the commentators of 2009 - and to what extent today's commentators are simply bad at it rather than uninterested.

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