Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see

20081205114508_largei’m indebted to fellow blogger and stalwart supporter, Paypabak Writer for today’s inspiration… i had a title, but little else until i saw Pay’s latest post, in which she laments the dwindling presence of librarians – and the access they bring to knowledge – within sl.

Pay prefaces her post with an extract from an interview with Neil Gaiman, discussing the changing face of the accessibility of information and how the role of librarian has changed with the advent of the internet. Essentially, where once a librarian was tasked with finding rare nuggets of information scattered widely across a swathe of ignorance, today’s custodian of knowledge faces the very different task of identifying and rescuing those same gems from a veritable super-abundance of information. Sadly, an awful lot of that abundance is just noise, repetition and – in many cases – nonsensical.

One of the greatest accomplishments of the internet, and by the same token one of it’s greatest irritations, is the freedom that it gives to anybody with access to the information superhighway to have a voice. Unfortunately, if like me you spend an inordinate amount of wasted time trudging through the murky backwaters of search engines simply to furnish oneself with those small morsels of information that have become increasingly necessary to our daily lives, you will know the true frustration that being led down blind alleys, facing dead-ends and being taken on convoluted journeys of extremely dubious provenance can engender. The information superhighway is not what it once was: it is choked with traffic, littered with abandoned vehicles and cluttered with the trash of a billion shed loads.

01Whatever you happen to be seeking, be it a song lyric, image or mathematical proof of God, within the first few results you’re pretty much guaranteed to be presented with cat pictures, topless women, trolls and baby clothes? (Just for fun, i searched for images under ‘mathematical proof of God’… which produced, Lara Croft, Batman, Homer Simpson, Guns n’ Roses, a dog’s butthole and a plushie frog – that’ll be what i’m looking for then?). Worse, a good 90% of the internet, (and this is a completely true fact that i just made up), is wholly reliant upon an elaborate process of Chinese whispers in which perfectly sound and respectable facts are butchered, re-hashed, segmented, augmented, pigmented, reblogged, mashed-up, messed about, misrepresented, misreported, misunderstood and often blatantly buggered about with. That’s not even mentioning the made-up stuff!

Frankly, the last place that anyone should go these days to build their knowledge or unearth factual information is the internet. If only we had a few decent librarians managing the web, it would be a pleasure to use, but the truth is it’s a nightmare.

i’ve written before about how an abundance of crap is self-perpetuating and how, more worryingly, it can hide some of the incredibly interesting things that tend to get subsumed beneath its sticky clutches. The trouble is that far too many people are taken in by the crap, believe it, pass it on and perpetuate it… and the Chinese whispers start all over again.

There are those who think i have some sort of doctorate in sl mechanics – i’m constantly being asked inworld about graphics’ settings, advanced tricks and techniques, debug settings and how to fix problems with the viewer (any viewer!), connection and pretty much anything else that can possibly go wrong in sl. It doesn’t bother me at all, and i like to help people out but it frightens me sometimes how people will blithely take my advice without question – sure, it’s not the same thing as getting on a plane and finding out the pilot learned how to fly from Wikipedia, but it’s worrying all the same.

Many of you, for example, will know of and have probably received a warning in some shape or form about ‘Soulseize’ – a script that will give permanent control of your avatar to another resident, (provided they’re in the same Sim as you and no more than 96 metres away!). This rather ugly beasty exploits a property of scripts that’s been around since the year dot, but more importantly the main thing that it exploits is our gullibility and foolhardiness. It’s social engineering of the simplest kind that takes advantage of our innate desire to be trusting, particularly since sl is such a happy, touchy-feely, fun place to be, where nothing is ever going to try and take advantage.

Soulseize and other such nasties would be complete non-starters if we acted a little bit more intelligently, asked questions, took appropriate precautions and made the effort to immerse ourselves in the relatively small amount of useful, but terribly important facts that we need if we’re going to get by without any problems. Would we accept a hug from the odd-looking, complete stranger that approaches us in the street – probably not – so why on earth would we do it in sl? Then again, we are the same people who know we should regularly back up our work and hard disks, look both ways before we cross the road and check that there’s toilet paper before we sit down… all simple, sensible precautions which we regularly and consistently fail to take, until the fateful day…

watcher1_001‘Knowledge is power’, as Francis Bacon famously said, (or, if Google is to be believed, ‘France is bacon’ – which illustrates my point perfectly!), equally ignorance is not bliss, it’s the slippery slope to disaster. We owe it to ourselves to – at the very least – arm ourselves with the basic, trusted, knowledge we need to get by in the world – both virtual and otherwise – we can’t rely on others to do it for us, because they probably read it on somebody’s blog and we all know how unreliable those can be! In these days of information overload we need to learn to be our own librarians, so c’mon guys… get indexing!

s. x

I’ll let you touch the first editions
If you promise me
If you promise me
If you promise me your hands are clean
Haunted Love – Librarian

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2 Responses to Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see

  1. Paypabak says:

    Nice to see evidence that my words stimulate and that I actually manage to amplify others whom I reblog/quote. Really good librarians have been trained and know tricks of the trade. A bit dangerous to assume we can become our own librarian. Remember that the next time there’s a referendum for funding your local library and be sure to keep it in business, because once they’re gone, we’re very much sunk.

    • i found your piece really well-observed and bang on the nail! You’re right about the need for professional and trained librarians too – which i know is a topic you feel passionate about – although i do feel that every one of us, particularly those of us who blog and disseminate information, owe it to ourselves and others to get our facts straight before giving them any authority.

      Thanks again for the inspiration! 🙂

      s. x

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