A short report on nothing at all
'O how I hate blogs,' moaned a friend of mine, who does not carry a mobile phone, and who writes for traditional media: newspapers, magazines, and a forthcoming book. His email floated in as I was chatting with friends on my various IM services, receiving Twitter updates, and thinking of a topic for my personal podcast. 'Any weasel with half a brain and half an opinion has a blog. Whatever happened to editorship? Whatever happened to meritocracy of good writing? And journalistic integrity and accountability?'
This, incidentally, is the theme of the recent thriller State of Play, starring the 35-percent-wider Russell Crowe. (Perhaps years from now, his oeuvre will be delineated by the thin vs the fat Russell Crowe, rather like Maria Callas.) It is based on a six hour long BBC series, and the screenwriters have done a magnificent job of adapting it to the big screen, losing very little of the depth of the original, and turning it into an elegy for the print newspaper and its role as the guardian of public accountability. There is a neat little dig at the new technorati in the form of a young female blogger, who is woken in the middle of the night with a distinctly Apple-like ringtone on her iPhone.
A new service has appeared on the iPhone called Audioboo, which is to podcasting what twittering is to blogging. One records short clips of whatever, and they appear on a feed in a Twitter-like manner. At the moment its celebrity user is Stephen Fry, who can make brief declamations about anything sound tremendously important and poetic; others, mumbling about their breakfast or their walks in the park, are not so lucky. I tried it out today and found myself informing my global audience that I was sitting in the kitchen and it was a wonderfully sunny day outside, and that the dog needed to go to the toilet. The truth is that there are now more avenues for self-expression than there is self to express. There is a global dissemination of inanity. Everyone twitters about what they had for lunch because eating is one of the few constants that are potentially of interest in a first-world society, and that you wouldn't be embarrassed for your parents (or your children) to read. 'Just had sex; multiple orgasms but got a bit dry toward the end' does not have its place in the Twittersphere. And now let's not go about rushing off to give a voice to the favorite flogging post of the disenfranchised, the African subcontinent: 'Nothing to eat again today; brother killed in genocide.' I'm not being insensitive, really I'm not. It's just the going off to give other people the chance to be silly is not going to make the inanity of our online lives (and let's face it, 99 percent of it is inanity) any less irrelevant.
It's true that the Chinese whispers of the social messaging sites can deliver news far more quickly than the news outlets, faster than the television stations can rush over an ENG team, and certainly much faster than the dailies can print them. A friend who was at the London demonstrations for the G20 summit noted that there seemed to be more photographers than protesters, and camera crews included a third person trailing the camera and soundman with an editing console. If the complaint is lack of news gathering and facts, rest assured that citizen journalism is alive and well wherever there is anyone with a digital camera.
My most recent acquisition is a tiny spy camera, the Minox B. With the draconian rules and general paranoia about privacy and No Photography signs everywhere, I decided that the best way to take pictures was without asking permission. The Minox was actually made for this task, designed to be as unobtrusive and silent as possible. It does not, for instance, play an artificial shutter noise through a tiny loudspeaker when you trip the tiny guillotine shutter. It hides neatly in a handbag. The time between taking the picture and holding the print in your hand is quite long: it first makes a trip to a handler in Germany, who then forwards it to Minox Laboratories, where it takes a few weeks to process, and then the whole package is sent back by post. So my post for today is quite the archetypal blog post: I went and did something perfectly banal (went to the park), took a picture, and blogged about it and posted the picture.