- Feb 2021
You cannot measure the health of journalism simply by looking at the number of editors and reporters on the payroll of newspapers. There are undoubtedly going to be fewer of them. The question is whether that loss is going to be offset by the tremendous increase in textual productivity we get from a connected web. Presuming, of course, that we don’t replace that web with glass boxes.
The value of journalism must take account of the increase in textual productivity gained by the interconnected Internet and not solely by the number of editors, reporters, and size or number of newspapers.
Of course we also need to account for the signal to noise ratio created by the masses of people who can say anything they like, which can also be compounded by the algorithmic feed of social platforms that give preference to the extremes and content that increases engagement (a measure which doesn't take into account the intrinsic value of the things which are shared.)
How can we measure and prefer the content with more intrinsic value? Similar to the idea of fast food and healthier food? How can we help people to know the difference between the types of information they're consuming.
the frozen nature of the text seem more like a feature than a bug, something they’ve deliberated chosen, rather than a flaw that they didn’t have time to correct.
The thoughtfulness and design of of Hypothes.is is incredibly valuable to me specifically because it dramatically increases my textual productivity in combination with my digital commonplace book.
Connect this to the Jeremy Dean's idea of it helping to facilitate a conversation with texts. Nate Angell had a specific quote of it somewhere, but it might also reside in this document: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14682753.2017.1362168
Now, it may well be true that Apple, and The Times, and The Journal intend to add extensive tools that encourage the textual productivity of their apps. If that happens, I will be delighted. The iPad is only about two weeks old, after all, and it famously took Apple two years to introduce copy-and-paste to the iPhone OS.
By not providing the ability to select text, copy it, or share it, some digital applications are dramatically lowering the textual productivity of their content.
Ecologists talk about the “productivity” of an ecosystem, which is a measure of how effectively the ecosystem converts the energy and nutrients coming into the system into biological growth. A productive ecosystem, like a rainforest, sustains more life per unit of energy than an unproductive ecosystem, like a desert. We need a comparable yardstick for information systems, a measure of a system’s ability to extract value from a given unit of information. Call it, in this example: textual productivity. By creating fluid networks of words, by creating those digital-age commonplaces, we increase the textual productivity of the system.
Definition: textual productivity
A measure of how much additional knowledge is generated by a system of ideas and thoughts interacting with each other.