An Ugly New Word
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Maybe you've heard of globfrag. Coined from the words globalization and fragmentation, globfrag means that scattered and uncertain state of mind created by increased technology and contradictory knowledge. It means the inability to focus that comes from knowing very little about a great number of things. It's that feeling you get when clarity breaks up in an ocean of infinite and ever-changing data.
Globfrag is not quite a medical condition—but surely it now affects that 50% of the population not yet medicated for ADD.
I paused there in the dark and spoke it aloud to the glowing screen, "Globfrag. Globfrag."
Like I said, an ugly word. Almost scatological.
By coincidence, the very next day the Urban Man found himself at a salon in a private L.A. home where journalists had gathered to discuss the future of the daily newspaper.
You remember the newspaper: It had a pleasant heft, and it arrived cheerfully on your doorstep. You had to go outside to pick it up, but within its tightly rolled pages you found most of what you really needed to know.
A newspaper went well with coffee, and best of all, when you were done, you could fold it away. You see, a newspaper was limited. It had boundaries. It did not provide 20 links for additional insights; it rarely followed you to work; and it never pinged you with updates.
In short, a newspaper was not like an ocean. Large as it might be on a Sunday morning, it was neither ever-changing nor infinite.
Anyway, sitting at the center of this living-room debate was Jim O'Shea, latest editor of the troubled L.A. Times. O'Shea was surrounded by many bloggers and practitioners of infinite media: folks who gleefully took apart the very logic of the newspaper. They said it was too limited, too slow, too expensive, too corporate, too tradition-bound a concept to, you know, survive.
O'Shea admitted such failings, but argued it was still newspapers that mostly dug up the news. He pointed out that many others, like bloggers and Google News, simply skimmed the cream which had been churned so expensively in his newsroom.
In full seriousness, someone suggested, "Why don't you focus more on Lindsay Lohan?"
The point is--through all this conversation, that ugly new word kept throbbing in the brain of the Urban Man. At last, I couldn't take it anymore. I stood up and raised my hand.
"Have you ever heard of globfrag?" I asked the crowd, and got only puzzled looks. Patiently, I explained about the state of mind caused by too many opinions and too few editors.
In the old days of newspapers, I said, I could count on a dedicated hierarchy of people deciding what was important and what was unimportant for me to know. It was biased. It was narrow. But after years of complaining, I now appreciate that the daily paper was my one fixed reference point in the dark information tide. I liked the way each night, doughty editors had to commit themselves to certain facts, then face them in cold print by the harsh light of morning. I liked the way a paper covered the world, but carried the name of my home town.
"What happens when print really does disappear?" I asked. "Who will tell me what's important and what I can ignore? Who will commit to facts? What if there's nothing left but... globfrag?"
With that, the Urban Man got an awkward laugh and scattered applause—then, well, everyone went back to tearing newspapers to shreds.
Copyright © 2007 Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved.
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