Interface Culture  JAN 07 2004

Interface Culture

How well does the 6 year-old analysis of how we use and will use information technology contained in the pages of Interface Culture hold up? Not too bad, actually. Consider the following paragraph from the "Windows" chapter on what metaforms the Web might be capable of supporting (paragraph breaks and links mine):

Over the next decade, this stitching together of different news and opinion sources will slowly become a type of journalism in its own right, a new form of reporting that synthesizes and digests the great mass of information disseminated online everyday. (Clipping services have occupied a comparable niche for years, though their use is largely limited to corporate executives and other journalists.)

Total News gives us a glimpse of what these new information filters will look like, but the site neglects the defining element of a successful metaform, which is an actual editorial or evaluative sensibility. Total News simply repackages the major online news services indiscriminately; it may be a more convenient format, but it adds nothing to the actual content of the information. More advanced news "browsers" will include a genuine critical temperament, a perspective on the world, an editorial sensibility that governs the decisions about which stories to repackage. The possibilities are endless: a filter for left-leaning economic and political stories; a filter for sports coverage that emphasizes the psychological dimension of professional athletics; a filter that focuses exclusively on independent film news and commentary.

The beautiful thing about this new meta-journalism is that it doesn't require a massive distribution channel or extravagant licensing fees. A single user with a Web connection and only the most rudimentary HTML skills can upload his or her overview of the day's news. If the editorial sensibility is sharp enough, this kind of metajournalism could easily find enough of an audience to be commercially sustainable, given the limited overhead required to run such a service.

When the whole blog thing blew up huge and then people like Rafat Ali, Andrew Sullivan, and Nick Denton started making money off of them, Johnson must have danced around the apartment in his underpants (perhaps like Tom Cruise in Risky Business) shouting, "I told you so, I told you so, I called the hell out of that one! In your face!"

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