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Web - July 10

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Has the internet killed the joys of sitting down with a good book?

Mark Morford, San Francisco Chronicle
You are not reading enough
... See, I love books. Admire and appreciate and adore. Was a lit major at Berkeley, read voraciously, still love to read, still like to consider myself a big consumer of books and deep thinker about bookish issues and ideas and authoralia.

And yet, if I'm painfully honest, I have to admit it: I barely read books anymore. Not nearly like I used to, anyway. Not for a long, long time. And chances are, if you're at all addicted to the new media vortex, neither do you.

It's become a social conundrum, a cultural sore spot, a morose sign of the times. The question has been posed by agents and writers and a confused, hyperconsolidating publishing industry: What happened to all the readers? What happened to the culture of books? And the hint of fatalism, just underneath: If few truly read anymore, what of the state of the American mind? How much more dumbing down can we possibly stand?

Oh sure, books still sell, product is moving like crazy, but by and large it's truckloads of self-help and how-to flooding over a precious handful of sure-hit novelists, topped off with the grand cherry that is Oprah, single handedly keeping the tepid melodramatic coming-of-age family saga alive. In between, 18 zillion copies of "Eat, Pray, Love."

But overall, the message is bleak: Fewer writers of real talent are being discovered, fewer publishers are willing to take any sort of risk, and serious, literary-minded reading, that glorious pastime, that fine personal art, the immersive and transportive and beautiful intellectual fertilizer, appears to be giving way to the more addictive but far less nourishing hellbeast of new media and the Net.

It's an easy beast to blame.
(9 July 2008)

Protect the web, says Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Bobbie Johnson, Guardian
Researchers have a "duty" to protect the future of the world wide web, according to its inventor.

Speaking at the launch of a new research programme yesterday, Sir Tim Berners-Lee - the British computer scientist who came up with the idea of the web 19 years ago - said it was vital that scientists and engineers worked harder to understand how the web works, in order to keep it evolving.

"We designed the web, and we can change it: we have a duty to," he said in an interview with the Guardian. "Here is this system a lot of our society depends on - democracy depends on it, commerce depends on it. We should probably watch it to make sure it's stable."

With the rapid growth of the web over the past decade, there have been concerns that it could fragment under pressure from corporations and repressive governments. But Sir Tim said it was important to remember the principles of openness on which the web was built, in order to ensure that any attempt to shape the web's future would remain "pro-human".

"Systems can grow very big and very complex, like ancient civilisations can grow big and complex and then something goes wrong.
(9 July 2008)

Getting ‘Wiki’ with it?

Sean Gonsalves, Common Dreams
As popular a reference tool as Wikipedia has become, our newsroom policy doesn’t allow for our reporters to use it as an official source for any story. And for good reason: Anyone with access to a computer can edit entries.

Through the various industry grapevines, I’ve ascertained that the Cape Cod Times isn’t the only news organization that considers Wikipedia to be a potentially polluted source.

Wikileaks, however, is a different animal - despite the similar interface the fledgling whistleblower site shares with Wikipedia.

If you’re not familiar with Wikileaks, you should be because, since it debuted last year, the international transparency network behind the site has forced governments and news media to take notice, most recently with the posting of whistleblower documents that indicate “thousands of sterilizations, and possibly some abortions, took place in 23 Texas Catholic hospitals from 2000 to 2003,” as reported by the Catholic News Service in the wake of the leak.

The same day of the Catholic hospitals leak (June 15), Wikileaks posted the 219-page U.S. military counterinsurgency manual, Foreign Internal Defense Tactics Techniques and Procedures for Special Forces (1994, 2004).
(7 July 2008)
Just a matter of time before energy and oil documents start showing up on Wikileaks. Perhaps another Hirsch report? -BA

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