It must be book-quoting day. In Cyburbia, James Harkin writes that the most popular stories list on news websites creates a “self-reinforcing feedback loop whereby things become more and more successful simply because they were favoured by those who happened to arrive first. If data on the popularity of news stories were to further feed back into judgements about which kinds of stories should be covered, newsrooms would end up chasing their own tails – and abandoning their judgement to the random whims and enthusiasms of Cyburbia.”
So what you end up with is a creepy MC Escher world where stories about sex crimes and child porn get the clicks, so news editors give the readers more and more until that’s all there is. Before the financial crisis, it was only stories about interest rate rises that escaped the business section and made it up the top of news sites. With all the stories on kids being hurt in car accidents, stabbings, sexual assaults and politicians tripping up the steps, there just wasn’t room for anything serious. It’s worse than Brave New World, it’s Neil Postman’s Amusing ourselves to death, where serious issues are treated as entertainment. A world where (fake) nude photos of Pauline Hanson make front page news but there’s not a word about what her policies are.
Josephine Tovey has a great opinion piece in the SMH today about how we’re still so scared of powerful women’s bodies.