Monday, February 9, 2009

More On The Death Of Print

From Andrew Sullivan:
E-book veteran John Siracusa has a long, smart article on the future of digital books. Why will they win out in the end?:
Take all of your arguments against the inevitability of e-books and substitute the word "horse" for "book" and the word "car" for "e-book." Here are a few examples to whet your appetite for the (really) inevitable debate in the discussion section at the end of this article.

"Books will never go away." True! Horses have not gone away either.

"Books have advantages over e-books that will never be overcome." True! Horses can travel over rough terrain that no car can navigate. Paved roads don't go everywhere, nor should they.

"Books provide sensory/sentimental/sensual experiences that e-books can't match." True! Cars just can't match the experience of caring for and riding a horse: the smells, the textures, the sensations, the companionship with another living being.

Lather, rinse, repeat. Did you ride a horse to work today? I didn't. I'm sure plenty of people swore they would never ride in or operate a "horseless carriage"—and they never did! And then they died.


taco said...
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taco said...
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taco said...

Take all of your arguments against the inevitability of Hanna-Barbera Aerocars and substitute the word "horse" for "car" and the word "car" for "Aerocar."

DNRTFA but if the rest is as hypothetico-deductive as the selected excerpt, I wouldn't say it was very smart. Maybe that's precisely why Sullivan did.

Christopher Patton said...

Why speculate on the rest of the article if you haven't read it? And why do you keep commenting about things you haven't really read? What's the point?

taco said...

You're not a computer scientist or an engineer. What's the point of you blogging about technology?

Want to puff out your chest again about how highly educated you are, and how out of my league I am posting here? Please! Don't hold back on my account, it cracks me up every time!

You need to grow up and stop acting so smug all the time. There's at least as much value in my reaction to the 11-M post and this one as there is in you and Radley Balko pretending to put words in Micheal Phelp's mouth.

Your posting about 11-M is a big elephant in a small room. The difference in the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration's interior design schemes (and the Spanish government's, for that matter) don't matter at all. We still have an elephant.

And this post is just good feelings and empty analogies. The excerpt you quote is an intellectual flatline, setting my expectations extremely low. I don't have time to read seven pages of blogger rambling when word of new trillion dollar government spending decisions are hitting the wire on an hourly basis this week.

Christopher Patton said...

I write about computer science and engineering issues because they fascinate me. But I also spend a great deal of time reading a wide variety of literature on these subjects (many of the sites on my reading list are linked from this blog's sidebar). Opining on what I think about what I read is my job as an opinions journalist. It's my job.

What I don't do is read a few excerpted paragraphs from an article a senior editor at a major magazine like the Atlantic has described as "long" and "smart" and dismiss the whole thing as silly. Especially not when that article happens to be dealing with a subject that Sullivan, as a best-selling author, magazine editor, and exceptionally popular blogger, seems to know something about: publishing. Go ahead and knock me all you want. You're just an anonymous commenter on a blog maintained by a college student--your approval isn't exactly a pillar of my self-esteem. However, I think it's pretty childish of you to keep on commenting that you think the material I link to from this blog is garbage if you're not actually checking it out. In reality, you're the one who's being ridiculously arrogant.

taco said...

Look who's calling people arrogant.

"As I recently pointed out to another commenter, I'm a law student at the UI College of Law and earned a solid A in the constitutional law class that covered the Bill of Rights. It's my professional legal opinion that the police acted illegally in arresting me on Sept. 4 in St. Paul. I was there and I know the law. You weren't and you don't--at least not as well--so you're a bit out of your league here, taco." -January 16, 2009 9:19 PM

You're not entitled to object on that point. At least I can furnish explanation of my quote-unquote arrogance. Writers are not above criticism because a source you favor publishes them, and in post-modern politics, especially on the internet, you don't need to read every crackpot's 7-page rant to find fault with it. If you disagree you're not as smart as I was giving you credit for. (And if you agree, thanks for being a troll and wasting my time.)

Christopher Patton said...

So when I write about something I'm not an expert in, you criticize that--and when I point out that I am an expert in one particular area, you criticize that even more. Furthermore, you not only feel qualified to assert that I don't know what I'm talking about when I'm writing about issues in academic fields that I've studied in detail, but also go ahead and act the same way in response to the writings of journalism professors, magazine editors, and even tech writers who actually do have engineering degrees and computer industry experience. And on top of all of this you remain anonymous.

If you're so knowledgeable about such a wide variety of fields, then why don't you say who you really are? For all I know, you're a precocious 16-year-old girl ranting at me alternately from your parents' basement and a computer lab at your school. So who's wasting whose time here?

taco said...

I gotta give it to you Chris, you're more right than you know. I am a pragmatist. It is central to my political orientation and part of my self-defense mechanism to protect myself from empty millennial political rhetoric from both sides. I'll furnish criticism of an expert as quickly as for a nonexpert, because being an expert doesn't make one's thinking infallible. Any REAL expert will readily admit that there are plenty of things they don't know. I judge ideas on their merits as ideas, and conscientiously avoid charisma, flowery prose and hype. You should try it sometime, it's very compatible with the libertarian outlook you espouse.

I don't pretend to be an expert in many of the topics I comment on. I'm not an economist. But I do insist on observing Occam's Razor and bringing a basic level of common sense and levity to any topic. And judging by how often that seems to back you into pointless tangental conversations like this one about who has more expert experience and wanting me to identify myself to you in public - rather than addressing my comments themselves and propelling dialogue - I can't help feeling a little successful.

Christopher Patton said...

I write without "flowery prose and hype" when I'm doing academic work. A popular audience requires an incentive to get engaged. Jon Stewart and his writers' insightful media criticism could be delivered via scholarly papers of the kind journalism professors write, but his audience would be orders of magnitude smaller if he did that. Deciding how much showmanship to include in one's delivery is a balancing act and getting it right depends on the nature of the target audience. And remember, I'm writing largely for college students.

The problem with common sense when it comes to a field like economics is that it's often wrong. Economic activity is profoundly strange. Many counter-intuitive phenomena are well established. Computer science is similarly complex and potentially confusing. I'm not an expert in either of these fields, either. But, for whatever reason, you seem more comfortable than I am simply dismissing experts' opinions if they run afoul of your conventional wisdom. Yes, I am also inherently skeptical of anyone's claims of absolute certainty. But when a substantial numbers of people who have dedicated their lives to the study of a particular subject are in general agreement about something, it only makes sense to give extra weight to such an opinion. None of this means that the opinion in question is necessarily true, just that it is more likely to be than an opinion lacking such backing.

I want to know your educational and work background so I can judge how much weight to assign to things you assert. Doing so is part of my standard Internet research methodology. Determining the credibility of online sources is extremely important since there's so much noise and nonsense available in the enormous, diverse free marketplace of ideas that is cyberspace. I don't follow anonymous bloggers. Not a single one. The people I read are mostly either skilled journalists or experts in the field they write about. Yet, rather than actually doing the background reading necessary to offer an informed criticism, you just declare such views to be stupid if you don't immediately agree with them. That's profoundly anti-intellectual behavior and I just don't understand what the point of it is.

taco said...

"The problem with common sense when it comes to a field like economics is that it's often wrong."

The medicine for this is, as you know, research and cited sources. I'm not an expert, but I am not anti-intellectual nor uneducated either. I am anti-rhetoric, and I invite you to reconsider the implications of that.

Occam's Razor is only the precipitate. Unless its a matter of obviously bad comparison or choice of words (as I insist with the Madrid bombings "satire") I dig until I find out the whole story, and I'm always ready with the data or expert commentary I dug up that grounds my views. Remember my comment on the ASCE story on the main site last week?

Just being from an educated source is not enough. Review my comments on this page. Experts do make mistakes and can also pose weak arguments. It's not that they're stupid. They just get so wrapped up in the subject matter that they can lose the bigger picture in the cloud of nebulous and confusing detail. I use the lessons from my partial J&MC education and my natrual faculties to cut through the cloud and seek the essential truth.

Christopher Patton said...

"The medicine for this is, as you know, research and cited sources."

I do research and cite sources. You then proceed to dismiss their content without actually reading them. If your goal is to goad me into endless rhetorical battles with you, then you're doing pretty well. But if there's some deeper purpose to your off-handed dismissal of sources I cite, I'm still not seeing it.