Friday, July 21, 2017

Why the Web Needs 3Quarks Daily

[ed. And Duck Soup.]

The need for filters, aggregators and curators to navigate the web isn’t new. Arts and Letters Daily, the inspiration for 3QD, was founded by the late Denis Dutton way back in 1998. It in turn was inspired by the news aggregator, Drudge Report, which started in 1995. But each of these had their own niche (literary humanities and conservative politics respectively) while Raza envisioned something more all-embracing – which ironically turned out to be a niche of its own. His plan was to “collect only serious articles of intellectual interest from all over the web but never include merely amusing pieces, clickbait, or even the news of the day… to find and post deeper analysis… and explore the world of ideas… [to] cover all intellectual fields that might be of interest to a well-educated academic all-rounder without being afraid of difficult material… [and to] have an inclusive attitude about what is interesting and important and an international outlook, avoiding America-centrism in particular.” (...)

The editors gradually withdrew more and more from commenting on what they were sharing. “We moved”, says Varghese, “in a direction opposite to blogging, meaning we moved towards some virtual self-abnegation in favour of just letting the piece speak for itself. So much of blogging was and is about the blogger’s take on things.” Today, a post contains nothing more than a headline, a block quote from the article, an image and a link to the original publication.

Yet this seemingly spartan layout belies the fact that curation is authorship, just not of the texts themselves. Maria Popova, whose blog ‘Brainpickings’ was made a part of the Library of Congress permanent archive as a resource for researchers of the future, has become an unofficial spokesperson for the community on this issue. “If information discovery plays such a central role in how we make sense of the world in this new media landscape,” she wrote in an essay for Neiman Lab, “then it is a form of creative labour in and of itself. And yet our current normative models for crediting this kind of labour are completely inadequate, if they exist at all.”

Today, information discovery comes in all shapes and sizes – from the New Yorker Minute that does a number on the New Yorker, to Amazon’s book recommendation behemoth. There isn’t a doubt that the latter is a remarkable feat of software engineering, as are the algorithms employed by Netflix, Spotify, Facebook and Google. Netizens depend on these wonders – relying on them to suck in chaos and spit out order.

Yet these same sites are also examples of total moral capitulation. Underlying the logic of many algorithms is the idea that to find what people want, we need only look for what similar people have wanted. Apart from engendering near total surveillance, a mechanism built around the urgency of giving people what they want ignores the importance (or even the existence) of a responsibility to give people what they might need. This isn’t a surprising stance for profit-driven corporations to take. However, as citizens who value democratic access to resources and knowledge, it’s dangerous to allow ourselves to become complacent with gatekeepers who don’t acknowledge their own roles as stewards or see their power as weighted by responsibility to the community. It’s the logic of giving people what they want that’s made virality the metric for deciding what makes the news and triggered the current race for the bottom that has marked the new culture wars.

by Thomas Manuel, The Wire |  Read more:
Image: 3 Quarks Daily
[ed. Sounds like Duck Soup, but without the irreverance and mysterious disappearances that readers of this blog enjoy. I wasn't aware of 3QD for a while but it's amazing how similar the templates are, and how few sites like these exist.]