Wednesday, February 28, 2018

MEdia Dragon: Why do we forget most of what we read and watch?

HBO and John Oliver win a court battle with a coal executive who sued over being called a “geriatric Dr. Evil.”↩︎ The Hollywood Reporter

In America, an annual income of $105,000 is the “satiation point,” when more money doesn’t equal more happy.
↩︎ Quartz
Everything you need to know about the Trump Tower meeting at the heart of the Russia investigation
↩︎ Vox

RIP Anne Treisman, who revolutionized how we understand attention.

This video briefly explains her theory of selective attention, which explains how we pick out a known face in a crowded room. The cognitive psychologist also made waves in the '80s with Feature Integration Theory, which provided the theoretical framework for localizing the parts of the brain that deal with the color, shape, smell and so on of an object while also asking how they get put together again to make an "object." 

The experience Keats describes in the rest of the sentence is rare and precious – when another’s words read like our own, like an old memory, as when Keats writes: “The Poetry of earth is never dead.” “Singularity” implies self-conscious eccentricity, oddness for its own sake, not as the expression of the poet’s sensibility. Keats calls his ideals “axioms,” as in geometry. They are assumed to be true and serve as the premise of all that follows. Later in the letter, Keats is less convincing when he formulates a Romantic article of faith: “But it is easier to think what poetry should be, than to write it - And this leads me to another axiom - That if poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all.” Most good poems are labored over, revised sometimes for years.

The passages quoted are from the letter Keats wrote two-hundred years ago on this date, Feb. 27, to his publisher John Taylor, who was editing Endymion

Michaelia Cash threatened to name young women in Bill Shorten’s office “about which rumours in this place abound” in retaliation for ongoing questions about her staff and the Australian Workers’ Union raids. The extraordinary threat in Senate estimates on Wednesday suggests – after Barnaby Joyce’s resignation and changes to the ministerial code of conduct to ban sex between ministers and their staff – that political staffers may be drawn into day-to-day political combat. After first defending the remarks, Cash withdrew what Penny Wong called “outrageous slurs” under the threat of Labor raising the matter in the Senate Michaelia Cash makes outrageous slurs against women in Shorten's office

Michaelia Cash: Rumour and innuendo as a political weapon diminishes them all

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash was quick to wield the threat of airing rumours about Bill Shorten and his staff. Under pressure in a Senate Estimates hearing about her own staffing arrangements, she turned the tables.

Do you remember the plots of books you read and movies you watch, even months later? I rarely do, so Julie Beck’s piece Why We Forget Most of the Books We Readreally hit me square in the forehead this morning (even though I will likely forget having read it next week). Why do we forget all of this stuff we’re constantly consuming? Part of the reason is that we don’t need to: 
In the internet age, recall memory — the ability to spontaneously call information up in your mind — has become less necessary. It’s still good for bar trivia, or remembering your to-do list, but largely, Horvath says, what’s called recognition memory is more important. “So long as you know where that information is at and how to access it, then you don’t really need to recall it,” he says.

Research has shown that the internet functions as a sort of externalized memory. “When people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself,” as one study puts it.

One of the earliest articulations of the internet’s value in aiding memory was Cory Doctorow’s piece about how Boing Boing had become his “outboard brain”.

The upshot is that operating Boing Boing has not only given me a central repository of all of the fruits of my labors in the information fields, but it also has increased the volume and quality of the yield. I know more, find more, and understand better than I ever have, all because of Boing Boing.
The nuggets I’ve mined are at my instant disposal. I can use Blogger’s search interface to retrieve the stories I’ve posted with just a few keywords. While prepping a speech, writing a column, or working on a story, I will usually work with a browser window open to Blogger’s “Edit Your Blog” screen, cursor tabbed into the search field. I flip back and forth between my browser and my editor, entering a few keywords and instantly retrieving the details of some salient point — it’s my personal knowledge management system, annotated and augmented by my readers.

So hopefully by reading Beck’s piece critically and then writing about it here, I will be able to both remember it a little more on my own and also have placed it somewhere I can easily find again.

One of the relatively few posts I remember without having to hunt around for it (which is ironic, considering) is this one about Dick Cavett and compartmentalized memory. Cavett had a really hard time remembering who his guests were on past shows.

A worried Johnny Carson once admitted to me that he frequently couldn’t remember what was said on a show he had just finished taping. And, sometimes, who the guests were. It’s a strange thing, and one I haven’t quite figured out.
Johnny all but wiped his brow when I told him it happened to me too, and that a few days earlier I got home and it took me a good 10 minutes to be able to report with whom I had just done 90 minutes. (It was only Lucille Ball!) It’s an oddity peculiar to the live performer’s divided brain that needs exploring. It has to do with the fact that you — and the “you” that performs — are not identical.

It’s the same with me, as I replied in that post:

If you were to ask me tonight what I’d posted to today, I doubt I could tell you more than one or two items (out of the seven to nine items I post during a typical day). When I see friends outside of work, they sometimes remark on stuff I’ve posted recently and it usually takes me a few moments to remember what it is they’re referring to.

Rereading Cavett’s mention of “the live performer’s divided brain” got me thinking about how the way I produce every day and lately how it feels more like a performance. I talked about this a little in that interview with NiemanLab:

The blog is half publication and half performance art, because when I wake up in the morning I usually have no idea what I’m going to write about. There’s no editorial calendar or anything. I go online and I see what’s there, I pick some stuff, and I do it, and at the end of the day, I’m done. I come up with a publication on the fly as a sort of performance. (sub. req’d) How to Spot a Whistleblower and Prevent Retaliation: 10 Tips: “Each year, employers face increased risk of retaliation claims from self-styled “whistleblowers.” These individuals may file lawsuits using a variety of federal laws, including Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) and the Dodd-Frank Act, as well as similar state laws.”