Kicks Condor

Reply: And The Infostrat Goes On

Ton Zijlstra

Indeed, when I think of ‘knowing someone’ in the context of information strategies, I always do so as ‘knowing someone within a specific context’. Sort of what Jimmy Wales said about Wikipedia editors a long time ago: “I don’t need to know who you are“, (i.e. full name and identity, full background), but I do need to know who you are on Wikipedia (the pattern of edits, consistency in behaviour, style of interaction). As Wikipedia, which is much less a crowdsourced thing than an editorial community, is the context that counts for him.

Cool quote—your next sentence is interesting:

Time is another factor that I feel is important, it is hard to maintain a false or limited persona consistently over a long time. So blogs that go back years are likely to show a pretty good picture of someone, even if the author aims to stick to a narrow band of interests.

This is true. I have some experience with this—personas are kind of a ticking time bomb. I also think they are going to be pretty important going forward.

Jennifer Hill:
And you’re probably all sitting there and you’re like, “This girl wants me to delete Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… I got a following! I got a brand!”

No, that’s not what I’m saying. You have two selves. You have a career self, who—I’m pretty sure all of us have to use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for work or Medium or whatever other platform in the world you want to use—and then you have your personal self that knows the things that they’re doing. And what I’m speaking to right know is your personal self. You know, I understand you gotta make money, gotta make that dime…

Then during a bit of Q&A at the end, she makes the comment:

Jennifer Hill:
With the idea of websites comes the idea of allowing people to have multiple identities that they can throw on and off like hats.

I’m not making a definitive good/bad comment or recommendation, just tying together these thoughts with those you’ve made about ‘knowing people’. I think social media sets up the idea that you’re seeing a real portrait of the person—when it’s just a representation. (This makes we wonder if a social media ‘infostrat’ is more difficult than an RSS one, for instance.) Blogs and wikis are an obvious representation—they demand an infostrat.[1]

Instinct and intuition, hopefully fed with a diet of ok info, is our internal black box algorithm.

Cool, this is sick. Don’t want to code that internal algorithm too tightly.

News, as pretending to be neutral reporting of things happening, breaks that. Because there wont be any potential overlap between me and the news channel as filters, no feedback loops. And because it purports to lift something from the background noise as signal without an inkling as to why or because of what it does so. Filtering needs signifying of stories. Why are you sharing this with me? Your perception of somethings significance is my potential signal.

Ok, ok—I think I see what you’re saying. The specific kind of neutrality you’re talking about is a neutrality of relationship. To me, this might not be expressing ‘neutrality’—events no longer exist because they happened in the past. I think I am just trying to understand your low valuation of ‘news’.

There is a distinction between news (breaking: something happened!) and (investigative) journalism (lets explore why this is, or how this came to be). Journalism is much closer to storytelling. Your blogging is close to storytelling. Stories are vehicles of human meaning and signification. I do follow journalists.

After a certain event in my life (itself newsworthy,) I began searching online for others who had suffered catastrophes. I often found quotes from survivors in headline news articles which resonated with me. I messaged many people; heard back from one. My discovery of her has been monumental for me—and I still often revisit the original news articles.

You could simply say that these ‘news’ articles contain journalism—but the original articles describing her sudden event feel neutral—factual? Because of their urgency, they are raw details and quotes. And they could lead to further journalism—they shed the initial light on this woman.

But addressing your statement: neutral isn’t useful in a filter. I’m not sure I agree. If my filter is able to weed out certain search terms—like say I want to be notified if my own name ever occurs in the news, or if “Bernie Sanders” and “flossing” ever show up together—it seems the filter could potentially make the neutral useful. ‘Neutral’ seems to be synonymous with ‘clickbait’ or something—which I don’t think of as being ‘neutral’ but as being ‘devoid’.

I feel like I’m still missing your point—especially when you say: “Factual and neutral are often taken as the same, but they’re different, and I think I prefer factual.” Can you give me a more concrete example of ‘neutral’ that illustrates what you mean? (Also, if I’m harping on about something meaningless, feel free to just drop the thread.) I guess I feel like you’re onto something—but I want to actually understand it.

My views on technology as well as methods is that we must keep it close to humanity, keep driving humanity into it, not abstract it so we become its object, instead of being its purpose.

Dig this. Thankyou for all the bonus words, Ton!


  1. I might be hasty here—need to think about how to articulate this better. ↩︎

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