I leave Twitter open in my browser. I leave Facebook open as well. I will look up, and in the twitter tab the number of “tweets” has increased. A minute ago, I saw 5. Now I see 54. Refresh. All clear. Back to work. Look up again. 15.
I follow 446 people. Some are breweries. Most are people I do not know. They update me on their lives.
Is this process any different on Facebook? Every other second, the page refreshes. New updates. New information. 438 friends. Some are breweries. Some are people I do not know. Some play games online and let me know what is happening. Some confess. Some express frustration. Some make things up.
We’ve moved from the period of waiting for news (postal delivery/Charlie Brown in front of the mail box) to the period of only news. Our lives are news. Journalism experiences a crisis because it can no longer differentiate between what is and what is not news. When it tries to conflate the two, it gets entertainment. When we try and conflate the two, we get the update. “I’m doing this.” “I’m doing that.”
Barthes dreams “of a world which would be exempt from meaning.” The sharpest critics of the Web are those that tell us there is no meaning in these updates. Frivolous. Banter. Junk. Such are the adjectives chosen. The point of criticism, as Latour once noted, is to decode to a certain point, before conspiracy theory sets in. Typical critiques of the update end up quickly in conspiracy mode: the world is coming to an end. For similar reasons, Latour reminds us that critique has run out of steam.
A world exempt from meaning. Another way to read the update might be: it is a world exempt from meaning. There is no reason to read any meaning. I update. I am news. I am information. The content of any medium is always another medium. The content of me is the update.