Essays on Technology and Culture

Flipping the “Don’t Care” Switch

Part of writing the tech beat, even when you’re not focusing on news, is that there’s a lot of crap that gets posted and that you end up reading because its vaguely relevant. Particularly in the lead up to WWDC and E3, there’s a prevalence of prediction and analysis stories that mean absolutely nothing beyond endless speculation. Speculation that—at least in the case of Apple—is as likely to pan out as betting on a sloth in the Preakness. [1] Because there’s no real news, technology news sites are churning out endless rehashed articles and none of it is stimulating. I don’t want to step on Harry C. Marks’s toes here, he’s far better at tearing up the tech news bullshit than I. Fact of the matter is, the Internet is a void, and a void demands to be filled. If your niche is churning out ten articles about two stories, well, so be it. I’m not going to read them, and I’m certainly not going to write about them.

The thing about writing is that, “you are what you eat.” When all I have to eat is garbage, I’m not going to be putting out much of value. This site isn’t my job, though I wish it was. Because of that, when I’ve faced down the blank page for the last week or two, it’s been a struggle to find something inside me to put out. So, I’m writing about that. Not to pin all the blame on the news cycle—there’s been enough mental stress and strain of my own to keep me from writing too. It’s just that it’s harder to make anything good when all the best building blocks have been used up.

On an early episode of Crush On Radio, my co-host Matt Keeley coined the phrase “the don’t care switch” to describe the reaction when exposed to things that provoke neither a positive or negative reaction. I’m at the point where most work-a-day technology journalism flips that same switch. I don’t care about the latest mockup of what iOS 7 will look like, the latest prediction of corporate doom, and which company will finally dominate the living room with their set-top box/video game console/Smart TV system. It’s not interesting, and so many of the prediction stories seem to be a mix of bias, wishful thinking, and one-upmanship.

What interests me are the stories that actually try to explore what these new technologies and devices are doing to us, are allowing us to do, and the impact they have. Or, as in the case of a recent episode of Enough, the lack thereof. This amazing article, “The Philosophy of Google Glass” is a perfect example of what I’m on about. Some other good stuff lately is Tobias Buckell on survivorship bias and electronic publishing, “How Facebook and Brooklyn Killed America’s Obsession With Cars” by Brian Merchant, and James A. Pearson’s David Foster Wallace-tinged essay on binge watching TV. That’s three whole meals of technology journalism and nutrition. That’s what I’m aspiring towards.

  1. We “know” there’s an iOS redesign in the works, but all your mockups and demo videos are bound to be wrong, wrong, wrong.  ↩