Horror of the “gothic” variety that occupied so much of the conversation between Byron and the Shelleys (these would be the conversations that ultimately gave rise to Frankenstein) has traditionally traded in some easily recognizable tropes. Among the most common are your haunted places. Swamps and moors are always a little scary. Graveyards and crypts, of course. Transylvania.
And then there’s haunted houses. Dark mansions, castles on top of hills. Abandoned homes where terrible things once happened. Subdivisions built on top of Indian burial grounds. And so on. Read more
If you’ve been off-planet for the last few months you may have missed the news: Jon & Kate have split, and in the process migrated from the relative banality of the TV listings over to the hyper-banality of the tabloids. I’m still not sure what the future holds for the popular “reality” show, but whatever it is, Gosselin family 2.0 equals Jon minus Kate.
It occurs to me that these events represent something significant in our culture. Since about 1980 or so we’ve been in one of our periodic “childrens is the most preciousest things in the whole wide world” phases. (For more on the generational cycles that produce this dynamic, see Generations, 13th Gen and Millennials Rising by William Howe and Neil Strauss, two men whose work I have referenced a number of times in the past.) In the previous generation (Gen X), children were an afterthought for most parents, who had been socialized in far more self-centric times. Read more
Part 2 of a series; Previously: What Bell Labs and French Intellectuals Can Tell Us About Cronkite and Couric
The Signal-to-Noise Journey of American Media
The 20th Century represented a Golden Age of Institutional Journalism. The Yellow Journalism wars of the late 19th Century gave way to a more responsible mode of reporting built on ethical and professional codes that encouraged fairness and “objectivity.” (Granted, these concepts, like their bastard cousin “balance,” are not wholly unproblematic. Still, they represented a far better way of conducting journalism than we had seen before.) It’s probably not idealizing too much to assert that reporting in the Cronkite Era, for instance, was characterized by a commitment to rise above partisanship and manipulation. The journalist was expected to hold him/herself to a higher standard and to serve the public interest. These professionals – and I have met a few who are more than worthy of the title – believed they had a duty to search for the facts and to present them in a fashion that was as free of bias as possible.
In other words, their careers, like that of Claude Shannon, were devoted to maximizing the signal in the system – the system here being the “marketplace of ideas.” Read more