Meanland: These people have something to tell you

You know how you can spend hours drowning in YouTube clips of people hugging sea lions, animals behaving in endearing animal-like (occasionally very unsettling human-like) ways and outlandish songs – and then you glance outside and nine hours have gone by?

To cut a long lesson short: killing time is not all YouTube is for. Here are a few clips I watched over the past day that spurred synapses and propelled neurons and made me examine some assumptions I may have been making about digital media. I’ve provided brief bios to contextualise the individuals (because it helps to know they are professionals).

1. The Meaning of Life (as defined by the internet)

One-minute bio: Vanessa Fox specialises in search engine optimisation (not as made-up as it sounds – she makes websites ‘appear’ in search engines). She is a technology blogger who used to work for Google (who does not seem to behave at all like Steve Balmer).*

2. Program or be programmed

The debate over whether the Net is good or bad for us fills the airwaves and the blogosphere. But for all the heat of claim and counter-claim, the argument is essentially beside the point: it’s here; it’s everywhere. The real question is, do we direct technology, or do we let ourselves be directed by it and those who have mastered it? “Choose the former,” writes Rushkoff, “and you gain access to the control panel of civilization. Choose the latter, and it could be the last real choice you get to make.”

One-minute bio: Douglas Rushkoff is a media theorist who concentrates on navigating the universe of the internet. According to Wikipedia, he’s also a writer, columnist, lecturer, graphic novelist and documentarian who’s famous because he was a part of early cyberpunk culture. He also writes for Boing Boing. This video is to promote his new book, but is, nonetheless, fascinating.

And here’s a slightly longer lecture Rushkoff gave at this year’s SXSW: ‘Ten Commandments for a digital age’.

3. Right Wing Radio Duck

One-minute bio: Jonathan McIntosh is a self-described pop culture hacker, video remix artist, photographer, new media teacher, consultant and fair-use activist’. McIntosh creates political remix videos: videos that ‘hack television’ to transform ‘fragments of mass media pop culture to tell alternative political, social and cultural narratives’.

4. Rewiring our brains

One-minute bio: You must have heard of Nicholas Carr by now. He wrote that mega-famous Atlantic essay, ‘Is Google making us stupid?’, which has since become a mega-famous book, The Shallows: what the internet is doing to our brains. Carr is at the fore of the movement concerned about the detrimental effects the web’s ubiquity is having on cognition, culture and knowledge. He came to Melbourne a fortnight ago where he was in conversation with Gideon Haigh at The Wheeler Centre.

*I couldn’t be certain you would just follow the link so embedded the Steve Balmer clip. Microsoft’s a little cultish, no?

Cross-posted from Meanland.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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Jacinda Woodhead is a former editor of Overland and current law student.

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