Embrace paid news, says technologist
A supporting figure in Barack Obama's 2008 election campaign opened Wellington's Webstock technology conference with a warning that "ad-funded media" were dumbing down America in the same way that fast food had fuelled its obesity epidemic.
Clay Johnson, of Blue State Digital, which built and managed Obama's online campaign, told 875 techies that the commercial imperatives of the online world meant the media were becoming "industrialised" and segregating into silos that pandered to and affirmed people's prejudices.
"MSNBC tells the 'Left' what they want to hear. Fox News tells the ‘Right' what they want to hear."
He urged people to regain control over the "inputs" in their life by embracing local and paid news and recognising that when they clicked on links to stories that were trashy or manipulative, they were actively reinforcing the media's downward spiral.
"We need to manage our information intakes like we do our food intakes."
The creation in Japan of a US$15 pizza topped with hamburgers, lined with sausage rolls and available with a honey dipping sauce was a "miracle of industry" that showed people did not always consume what was good for them, Johnson said.
"Pizza tastes better than broccoli. Opinion tastes better than news... What [multinationals] have given us is a news network that is not based on informing us, but affirming us. Who wants to hear the truth, when they can hear they are right?"
Speakers today include sci-fi writer Bruce Sterling, of the Electric Frontier Foundation, which has been leading the fight to retrieve people's data from Kim Dotcom's frozen Megaupload cyberlocker service, and "global tech ethnographer" Tricia Wang, on the effect of the internet on social change in China.
Webstock co-organiser Natasha Lampard said the event, now in its seventh year, faced a two-year hiatus while earthquake-strengthening work was carried out at its usual venue, the Wellington Town Hall.
- The Dominion Post