Wednesday, June 29, 2011

mediapaths and incivility

I came across the term "mediapath" the other day.  I felt it was a useful invention. I am confident there are mediapaths in our world, those who crave attention for personal satisfaction or financial gain.  I think in the right place, one could find experienced professionals who will help those who are interested or feel a need to commit bizarre behavior or make outlandish statements or charges in the attempt to hit the headlines.  Once some sort of attention has been captured, it seems possible to exploit whatever is said or shown with further "explanations", howls of privacy invasion, complaints about the ever-present paparazzi and the burdens of so much attention and worldwide interest in one's life, habits and choices.

In 1962, Daniel Boorstin (1914-2004), later the Librarian of Congress, wrote "The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America".  In it, he said that the pseudo-event was invented by Senator Joseph McCarthy or members of his staff.  They made a press release that there would be a breakfast for the press on a given day.  At the breakfast gathering, a announcement was made that there would be a press conference on the afternoon of the following day.  That announcement was the sole event at the breakfast.  The breakfast was Boorstin's example of a pseudo-event, a vacuity signifying quite close to nothing at all.  The same book gave a definition of the word "celebrity": a person who is famous for being famous.

I don't get People magazine but I realize there is a fascination for others, usually those who seem wonderfully rich or loved or talented.  To me, really good poets and mathematicians and designers are more interesting than rock stars.  I don't really know much about rock stars but to me they seem mostly able to howl and jiggle.  

Within the last few months, I read about an online sales operation that wanted to get its results high in Google's rankings, which have been built on the number of other web pages that cite a particular page.  If lots of people cite your page, it will be among the first that Google shows with a given search term, or so I gather.  This sales operation went out of its way to be nasty and to give especially poor service after it found that outlandish behavior was gathering attention and increasing the chance that their shop would be found quickly in a Google search.  The article said that Google is aware of such manipulations and is trying to find ways to sort the good from the not-so-good.

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