Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ad Facebook

Each of our themes this semester represents a timeless human question that popular technology is quick to try to answer. Hit the jump break for more incredibly informative sentences.

Ad Fontes - Ad Fontes is addressed by two fronts, I think. First, there is a large group of marketers that want to use the past as a source of authority by idealizing it above what it really was. Think about the last time you heard of, say, a business being around "Since 1923" (hint: they were out of business for six of those decades), or an offhand statement by one of the Founding Fathers wielded as a timeless moral doctrine (even though, apparently, they were fallible men), or a blatant appeal to nostalgia like "Make America great again" (ask the nearest black person, woman, or homosexual to name a year in America's history when it was great for them). The Ad Fontes appeal here is little more than a culturally-constructed logical fallacy. The second group is much less popular and consists of academics and educated journalists who are interested in the past as a source of human narratives: the overcoming of impossible odds, the loss of something well-loved, or the fall of a great leader due to personal flaws. These facts rarely have the ability to sell a product, but to those who are interested in the continuity of mankind, they hold a certain appeal. The first group benefits from the viral nature of Internet-assisted folklore; the second group finds the Internet to be grease on the wheels for the long-distance congregation of academic minds, but perhaps does not benefit in the same way.

Brave New Worlds – The Internet Age’s form of travel literature seems to be abbreviated, media-rich, and less fascinated with shipwrecks than with any sort of humor, pathos, or personal injury that can be consumed in under 30 seconds. Facebook, especially, has changed in recent years from an arena for self-revelation into a platform for sharing narratives that one perceives as having a high potential for being re-shared (hello, circular logic). The brave new worlds we want are no longer juicy tales of Jamaica or the Sahara (these are blasé at this point) but things so near the ordinary that they might as easily have happened to us: falling off of a trampoline, watching a mischievous squirrel, getting pranked. These things don't happen all the time, but we like to live in an information stream that suggests they do. The impulse is the same: to imagine that life is more interesting than it is.

What a Piece of Work is Man – Renaissance Humanism is alive and well in the blogs of the rich and famous (who usually aren't as rich as famous). The blogging community, formed in the protean pools of LiveJournal, has had its time in the Old World of Blogspot and the bleak shores of Wordpress, and the heights of its civilization are now found on Medium, a land flowing with self-assured business/technology/Zen writers with loud opinions and impeccable style. It seems that those who can write well represent such a small portion of the population that anyone who is both grammatically astute and persuasive has a good chance of being heard, and so rhetoric has once again become the hidden art of the influential.

Plough Boys and Bibles – Biblehub.com gives us access to no less than 26 Bibles side-by-side for your comparative literary pleasure. Tyndale would have flipped if he could see this. The theme of Plough Boys and Bibles is most easily seen as a fulfilled prophecy; any online Biblical debate is full of people who have never read the Nicene Creed but can quote you the Bible just as fast as they can Google it (0.78 seconds, to be exact).

The Old Churches (Catholic, Anglican, Jewish) still hold greatest authority in nations with the most limited access to education and the Internet. In more tech-forward countries, the "spiritual but not religious" movement and the Atheist movement have got a strong foothold. It seems that Bible access does lead to uprising, as Tyndale implied.

Typographia Conservatrix – The Internet is a printing press. Over and out. The only difference is that, instead of publishing being controlled by the wealthy and powerful, it is controlled by the masses, sometimes arguably to their detriment: inane skits on Vine get millions of loops and erudite essays by English scholars get read by three or four students, once, and only because they were assigned to read them. Sure, the Internet will publish whatever you throw at it. But an unseen blog post is just as meaningless as an unprinted manuscript.

Sprezzatura – "Hidden effort" is the motto of almost every Internet publication. If a website looks like it was incredibly difficult to put together, then it gives the impression of being cheap; if you can sense the hours of proofreading and reduction that occur before a New York Times article hits the 'net, then it probably won't make the home page. It's all about making it look easy, which is such a cliche by this point that I hardly need to say it.


  1. I think your thoughts on our brave new worlds is interesting. I suppose something new doesn't need to be something unfamiliar, but maybe something unconsidered. Exploration could be an exploration of what is overlooked.

  2. I like the idea of rhetoric being the tool of the blogger, but I wonder why you priviledge one site over others. Or, in a broader sense, what is it that drives the droves of the internet from one site to the next? What are they looking for, and how do they express when they have found it?