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The Daily Me

“When we go online, each of us is our own editor, our own gatekeeper. We select the kind of news and opinions that we care most about.

Nicholas Negroponte of M.I.T. has called this emerging news product The Daily Me. And if that’s the trend, God save us from ourselves.

That’s because there’s pretty good evidence that we generally don’t truly want good information — but rather information that confirms our prejudices. We may believe intellectually in the clash of opinions, but in practice we like to embed ourselves in the reassuring womb of an echo chamber.” — Nicholas Kristoff via NYTimes op-ed.

Although Kristoff has seemingly only just discovered the ‘echo chamber’ effect, it has been a longstanding preoccupation of thoughtful observers of internet sociology. As newspapers morph into lesser online versions of themselves with less pretense to completeness and objectivity, however, is the situation about to get much worse?

Philosophy’s great experiment

“A dynamic new school of thought is emerging that wants to kick down the walls of recent philosophy and place experimentation back at its centre. It has a name to delight an advertising executive: x-phi. It has blogs and books devoted to it, and boasts an expanding body of researchers in elite universities. It even has an icon: an armchair in flames. If philosophy ever can be, x-phi is trendy. But, increasingly, it is also attracting hostility.” via Prospect.

What is narcissistic personality disorder, and why does everyone seem to have it?

This is the cultural moment of the narcissist. In a New Yorker cartoon, Roz Chast suggests a line of narcissist greeting cards (“Wow! Your Birthday’s Really Close to Mine!”). John Edwards outed himself as one when forced to confess an adulterous affair. (Given his comical vanity, the deceitful way he used his marriage for his advancement, and his self-elevation as an embodiment of the common man while living in a house the size of an arena, it sounds like a pretty good diagnosis.) New York Times critic Alessandra Stanley wrote of journalists who Twitter, “it’s beginning to look more like yet another gateway drug to full-blown media narcissism.” And what other malady could explain the simultaneous phenomena of Blago and the Octomom?” — Emily Yoffe via Slate.

Why Not Boo?

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“It goes without saying that the frequency of standing ovations devalues their significance. As Gilbert and Sullivan put it in “The Gondoliers,” When everyone is somebodee/Then no one’s anybody! Just as important, it also points to a lack of true engagement on the part of the spectators. At a preview performance of “Blithe Spirit” last week, I sat next to a man who laughed loudly and mechanically at every line in the play. Whenever an actor said something really funny, he raised his hands above his head and clapped. It was as though I were sitting next to a living laugh track — except that the man’s tic-like reaction to the show was anything but alive.

Booing, on the other hand, sends a different message, one that isn’t necessarily all bad. Francesca Zambello‘s deliberately provocative Met production of “Lucia di Lammermoor” was booed when it opened in 1992. “It isn’t fun to be booed,” Ms. Zambello later told me, “but sometimes it’s also a badge of success.” Why? Because the people who booed Ms. Zambello’s “Lucia” and Ms. Zimmerman’s “Sonnambula,” unlike the ones who spring to their feet at the end of a third-rate musical, were making it clear that they’d paid attention to what they saw and heard. No, they didn’t care for it, but at least they were involved with it, and such involvement can be the first step toward a deeper, more thoughtful response. “As soon as I detest something,” the music critic Hans Keller once said, “I ask myself why I like it.” Keller’s words may seem paradoxical, but in fact they’re wise. While anger may turn out to be love in disguise, indifference is rarely anything more than indifference.” — Terry Teachout via WSJ

Could box office bonanza dry up?

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“…[Studio] output has hit a serious speed bump, thanks to a number of factors: The economic crash and retreat of private equity money, a protracted writers walkout, a production slowdown over fear of an actors strike and the dismantling of studio specialty labels.” via Variety.