Posts Tagged 'bars'

Death by entertainment

[by JSC5]

I can’t help but take issue with some things my colleague says in his interesting post, “Death by information“.

First, our points of agreement. I, too, think that we as a culture are far behind the learning curve in terms of our ability to successfully integrate into our lives the massive amount of new information that the web makes available. The dopamine rush of clicking the next link, reading the next email, reading that next little piece of insightful analysis of today’s news … that’s all very real.

Where I part ways with JSC7 is where I look for a solution. He calls for technologies that give our internet experience more structure, with pre-commitments to self-limit time or locations while online. That seems a bit off to me.

The problem isn’t so much “death by information” but rather “death by entertainment“. We shouldn’t treat the next item in the RSS feed or the next email in the inbox as information that we’re gathering in a (misguided) attempt to make ourselves more productive. Instead, we should treat the next unread item in the RSS feed as entertainment, pure and simple. It’s not the case that we were thirsty and came to the internet faucet for a drink of water and just end up lingering a longer than is optimal. Instead, we were bored and went into the Internet Saloon for a drink, and our drunkeness is the predictable result.

One outcome of looking at the problem as death by entertainment rather than information is that the obstacle to optimizing internet use isn’t necessarily structure, but rather personal creativity and imagination. While bars are fun and great places to pass the time, all but the most incorrigible souses agree that it’s just not healthy for a bar to be the main source of entertainment. There’s a bunch of other great places to find entertainment, like triple-A ball parks, Do-It-Yourself artisan groups, folk music festivals, and so on. It seems to me that we all overconsume bars and underconsume all the other great entertainment options — not because we’re alcoholics, but because it’s an easy, sure place to find some fun without having do the work of scrolling through the list of alternatives and picking one.

To bring this back to the internet, I guess the lesson is that online communication can be great for spreading information and increasing productivity. But my personal overconsumption over the internet has little to do with the information I’m getting and everything to do with my failings as a creative, active pursuer of entertainment. I have all the tools I need to structure my online experience. It’s just that sometimes I’m simply not creative enough to find better modes of entertainment than reading the day’s news and commentary.

So maybe the solution isn’t additional technologies to structure the internet experience. Maybe the solution is additional effort in cataloging, searching, and settling on alternative modes of entertainment. The relevant barriers there are in higher entry costs, uncertainty, and inconvenient access.

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Japan musings

I came back about a week ago from a weeklong trip to Japan. We covered a fair amount of ground in the week, seeing a few big cities (Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto), some smaller towns (Nara, Obuse), some villages (Tsumago, Magome) and a lot of nature in between (the Kumano Road being probably the most impressive stretch). There’s a quote that floats around expat circles about how after a month you can write a book about a place and after a year you can’t say anything, or something like that, so any observations I had are probably the result of an overzealous instinct for generalization, but what the hell. Here are my thoughts, in order of decreasing frivolity.

You remember Lost in Translation, how Bill Murray is a foreign big shot actor doing a silly whiskey commercial? Probably based on a true story. Here’s Leo DiCaprio trying to charm the Japanese into buying tires, and then there’s my favorite, Tommy Lee Jones, the “BOSS”, showing off the tough guy look that pretty much had to have been intelligently designed for the sake of selling small vending machine cans of café au lait. It could be worse though, they could be advertising the milk cartons filled with sake that you can occasionally find in city vending machines (check the bottom right hand corner of this picture). Continue reading ‘Japan musings’


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This is a group blog. JSC5 currently writes from the US. JSC7 writes from behind the Great Firewall of China.

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