I saw two mashups recently which gave me pause about the future of the internet. One was an alleged news story about Wikileaks which was actually a Rickroll, albeit one done in the format of a diplomatic cable. The other is the fake Amazon product review, which, it was suggested the other day, might be an emerging literary micro-form.
Although I found each of these amusing, I then thought about someone who might actually be looking for Wikileaks news or uranium ore reviews. They would probably find these quite annoying and a waste of time. I also remember seeing a story that either Anonymous or Wikileaks was suggesting that would be provocateurs post wikileaks with fake tags like JustinBieber to increase surreptitious dissemination of the documents. This reminded me of a scene from Neal Stephenson’s Anathem where he uses bogon in an unusual way. instead of referring to an invalid IP address, Stephenson uses bogon to mean a bogus document. At some point, as already happens with pop culture topics, the quantity of intentionally mislabeled content “gums up” the system and makes it hard for people to find the information they want and need. So, particularly when we satirize, are we also creating “noise” in the channel? Would it be better if things were more clearly labeled as subversion, or does that defeat their subversive purpose? Finally, how do we better enable peaceful coexistence between creative and pragmatic uses of information space?
I can only imagine the questions I’ll start asking once the class actually starts.