Thursday, December 17, 2009

Some Ideas Whose Time Has Come (Again)

The other day the WSJ ran a story on a low-tech craze sweeping Silicon Valley—entrepreneurial evenings devoted to the board game “Settlers of Catan.”  Of course, in SV it’s called “live networking” (where we used to just call it “game night”), but it’s all the same thing: people moving off their keyboards and socializing in person.  How quaint.

That’s not the only oldie but goldie making a comeback as we round the bend into a new decade.  Look at what’s happening on TV.  The biggest hit, attracting 22 million viewers every week, is “NCIS.”   As the WSJ reports, it “barely has a fan Web site. . .its viewers seldom time-shift,” and they are anything but the “young, urban demographic” that advertisers craze.  But “’NCIS’ is proof that even if the economics of the business are in upheaval, large swathes of the audience still want traditional storytelling, righteous heroes, and reality that’s not offensively gritty.”  Producers even say they avoid parochial or offensive humor.  How quaint.

(What's next?  Do you suppose people will begin playing solitaire again with actual cards?)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Thinking About Thinking

One of the sub-industries that has developed in parallel with the growth of digitization and the Internet is one comprised of smart folks who are valiantly trying to divine what this assault of information is doing to our noggins.

If you are in your 70s, of course, you’ve been absorbing and adjusting to things like television and computers (plus civil rights, globalization and the sexual revolution) for decades--no small feat.  If you are in your 170s, there’s also been the telegraph and telephone, as well as the onslaught of print media (plus flight, the automobile, the corporation, a bunch of world wars and revolutions, and 25 different kinds of Coke, too). 

In fact, our brains have been under full-out, ever-shifting assault since at least the start of the Industrial Revolution.