The Henry

original since 1984

An Inquiry Into the WebLog

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Want to publish anything you think today? It is a one button, zero-cost operation which can be done anywhere and reach anyone on the globe. As a noun, this compelling forum of digital expression is known as the weblog. Contracted in its present participle, “blogging” shortened to “blog” is in convenient omission of the prefix “we”. This is a journey into that unspoken and implicit prefix. In this blog entry, I examine the subject of “we” and how this collective action approach to journalism has helped restructure social, economic and institutional methods of information distribution.

When mass amaturization consumes an industry of professionals, social clusters emerge without organizational imperatives. While the professional class still remains, you have a new division of contributors who add not just content, but measured economic impact. Here, “we” working together is both easier and financially feasible. Indignantly, journalists claim that the weblog has deprofessionalized their industry. Can the weblog be considered a valid form of journalism? In my opinion, it doesn’t matter because the structures holding these two definitions in place have become increasingly incoherent.

Journalism came about as an answer to the question of: how will citizens be informed? How will they share common beliefs and opinions? The printing press gave rise to 200 years of chaos moving from the Catholic Church as the primary politic to the treaty of Westphalia and the formation of Nation States. From this emerged institutions and media organizations fueled by the economy of information.

The presence of my words in your head at this very moment marks a pronounced shift in the way information is exchanged, capitalized and distributed. Each spectator to this weblog is a player in a relatively new and swiftly advanced economy of information. Had anyone ever stopped to think that the computation from everyday household computers is responsible for a revolutionary shift in the way information, knowledge and culture is arranged and shared among the 800M to 1B connected Internet users across the globe?

Second to content is relevance. The Alta Vista search of the early 1990s yielded a motley assortment of loosely linked, incoherent, and sometimes altogether useless results. Then came the algorithmic search- work outsourced directly to “we”. It’s neither Yahoo nor Google who determine search relevancy, but the user themselves in traffic metrics of page rank and unique IP impressions.

This is how the new generation of players in the information economy answers the question of: how will citizens be informed? Citizens inform themselves: “we” inform each other. This is done not just with content, but relevancy. We decide in the same way the printing press enabled free speech, free thought, and free expression. Humanity shifted, from religious dictation to collective technological curiosity. The “we” in web and later weblog is a testament to the roots and indelible value of collective framework systems, of which we have in open source software, peer-to-peer file sharing, the wikipedia, among others.

I decline to accept the notion that web logging is in opposition to journalism and the greater good of publishing. You would be wise to know that it has been a critical component. We in weblog was born in the printing press and echoed in the rhetoric of the first Amendment and Freedom of Press. At its center is the marriage of collective organization with information technology. As this interplay becomes universal, so does content and relevancy, knitting “me” into a collective “we”.

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Written by michaelhenryhersh

June 14, 2009 at 11:17 PM

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Navarra, Spain: A Case Study in Renewable Energy Technology

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Wind power sources only 1% of worldwide electricity; but for Navarra, a small northeastern Spanish city, wind is not another alternative energy solution— it’s an identity.  In the late 1980s Navarra’s president invested heavily in wind turbine development, wiring the beautiful Spanish city with 900-megawatt interlinking power grids and underground HVDC cables.  What resulted, was a municipality that gathers 70% of its energy from gusts of air.

Last month, I attended a conference at the New York Times Building funded by the Government of Spain and hosted by the Center for Global Affairs at NYU.  President of Navarra Miguel Sanz spoke in Spanish and with pride about renewable energy and Navarra’s success in adapting to its use.  He urged us to examine this politic as a model unto all nations.  In a somewhat self-flattering PR campaign, he articulated his vision of wind energy to be the next Hemingway of Navarra.  Hemingway’s classic novels popularized the city, for which bullfighting was a capstone literary theme.  While this small city might differ slightly from the megatropolis that is America, its implications for developed and emerging BRIC nations echoed loudly within my mind.

Navarra, Spain

Navarra, Spain

I was particularly glad that Fernando Viana, managing partner for Viana & Associates LLC, touched upon oil exploration in Sub Saharan Africa.  As Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil aptly illuminates: 1 in 9 gallons of gasoline comes from the armpit of western Africa.  Mostly OPEC independent, these nations flounder while their leaders buy homes in Malibu and solidify investments from emerging nations like China.  My question to the panel dealt directly in managing the future of energy for these neophyte nations while, rather than after, they develop.  Laying the framework for a future not too dissimilar from that of Navarra.

As for the future of our nation?  In his inaugural address, Obama said it best with: “We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.”  The economic downturn presents new opportunities to innovative resource technology.  Our government is on the cusp of allocating enormous funding for the development and beta stage testing of energy solutions.  I’ve always had a penchant for solar and wind technologies and have been picking my stocks wisely.

If we take the steps necessary to avoid economic, social and environmental disaster today, we can deliver to our children a world that will tick tomorrow.  Whether future generations make the most of such a world, is up to them.  Whether they have the choice is up to us.

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May 21, 2009 at 1:22 AM

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Protected: Reflections on Progress

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December 25, 2008 at 2:31 AM

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Carrier Pigeon Delight!

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BBM, Facebook message, SMS, MMS, G-chat, IM, email and the telephone—all on my handset.  While the 3G CDMA network may no longer be a new phenomena, I must momentarily pause to recognize that it has reached its way into the hands of the Baby Boomer generation.  If you want to assess long-term validity of emerging technologies; don’t look at 14-year-old boys, look at your parents because they have not an ounce of patience for a technology that doesn’t add immediate material value to their everyday life.  As I sat across the table from my father last Thanksgiving, he squinted obliquely at his new BlackBerry: “ahh so a BBM is a live conversation while an SMS is terminal, I see.”  The inventor never truly knows his invention.

So amid new methods and mechanisms of communication, I beg the question: has it changed why we communicate?

Written by michaelhenryhersh

December 21, 2008 at 11:42 PM

City Harvest Brings Noble Good

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New York is a city of layers. With gradation brings difference, disparities in levels, highs, lows and everyone in between. Since this vertical lifestyle is purpose built for holding some above and others below; it is easy to forget, but impossible to ignore the population living on the ground floor, the demographic in need.

Marked differences between peoples, magnified by our extreme proximity to each other often lends itself to ridicule. Our distance to those in need seems preposterous when viewed historically. Torn from the same genetic cloth 200,000 years past compels me to seek a higher vision of interrelatedness that transcends any modern difference or carefully placed distance. I am my brothers keeper. In one of Muhammad’s last public sermons, he most eloquently proclaims: “Oh people! We have formed you into nations and tribes so you may know one another” (49: 13). Knowing one another is achieved by reaching toward others with intelligence, understanding and the capacity for compassion. The accident of birth instills us all with this responsibility.

Hunger as it exists in society and the politics behind reducing the numbers is of extreme fascination to me, and I want to direct everyone toward an upcoming conference at Columbia on: The Politics of Food.

I’ve also started a can food drive at work, the first philanthropic move I’ve made, and am excited to see collection totals.

Yahoos,

Hunger and poverty are often two faces of the same coin. The struggles of the 1.5M New Yorkers currently living in poverty afford Yahoo the opportunity to harness our scale with sizeable impact. This Thanksgiving, please join the three New York offices in a campaign against hunger in NYC. In partnership with City Harvest and the Food Bank for New York, Yahoo will be collecting non-perishable canned food in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

Poverty in Context

Over 12 percent of the 1.5M New Yorkers living in poverty are children years five and under.
Of those in poverty, more than 1M rely on emergency food at some point during the year
City harvest helps feed over 260,000 people each week.
*Data from the U.S. Census Bureau

Our collective goal is a reach of 100% participation across all employees, irrespective of donation amount. The campaign will begin this Monday, November 10th and will conclude Wednesday, November 26, 2008. Donation receptacles will be provided in kitchen and gaming areas of each office.

Thank you for all your noble good as we continue to work together in facing problems that confront all New Yorkers this holiday season.

Written by michaelhenryhersh

November 12, 2008 at 9:03 AM

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Music v. Technology

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Last night, I made some new friends that were not too dissimilar from my usual cohorts. Among them was a small contingency of neophyte “music industry” professionals who, like many, were skeptical of the interplay between technology and music. Chief among their objections were drastic losses of revenue and intellectual property violations, to which I sympathize. This got me thinking. At end of the day, whenever that day occurs, music will thank technology as it had with other forms of artistic self-expression in not just evolving, but in keeping these art forms alive.

Imagine a young Hitchcock without the technology of film. Imagine Van Gogh without the technology of inexpensive oil paint, or Mozart without the technology of the piano. What a detrimental loss society would have paid had it not been for the enabling interplay of technology with art. As they evolve, the muse and computer are catalysts of choice; providing expansion and room for the potential of difference. Technology breeds diversity, options, possibility, and freedom—which are all integral components of the artistic collective.

Written by michaelhenryhersh

October 26, 2008 at 1:11 PM

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Protected: collective framework approach

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October 22, 2008 at 7:21 AM

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