"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 18 September 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.



[Sheryl Crow]

Do you feel overwhelmed by

information? Relax, you're

soaking in it.


Faced with streaming audio from

both sides, flowing text, and a

fat pipe, we haven't crossed the

Rubicon into the Information Age

so much as been caught up in its

current. Indeed, we may have

been swept out to sea. If last

year the dominant metaphor for

information gathering and

retrieval was "surfing," the

development of more passive

technologies (the

counterintuitively monikered

"active desktop") puts us

these days more in mind of

treading water, not riding it.



But resourceful infonaiads aren't

drowning, they're waving; having

plunged headfirst into the deep

end, they beckon the rest of us

to follow. What, can't swim? Hop

in anyway - you might grow fins.


To be sure, the rate at which

information sources multiply

these days would seem to suggest

that some kind of evolutionary

leap is in store, and

net.pundits are falling all over

themselves in an ongoing contest

to find the missing link.

Perhaps exposure to this

soft-pedaled PR is supposed to

help us grow a hard shell -

certainly the quest for the

shellfish gene has turned some

spokes-hacks crabby - but others

scuttle across the ocean floor

wearing rose-colored goggles.


[Mr. Phil]

What with the crowd at the

surface, of course the bottom

has started to churn. Meanwhile,

Jon Katz keeps his backwaters

roiling. It turns out that

generating on-line discussion

isn't so much like herding cats

as reining him in, forcing the

discussion out of the shallows

of managed text into the swells

of reader response. Whatever. We

long ago figured out that Katz

is Donahue's emotive heir

apparent - his arguments aren't

meant to answer questions, just

drive traffic. All the same,

his pandering panegyric to

"interactivity" (including such

sycophantasies as "The

journalist is still more

powerful than the consumer, but

not as powerful as he or she

used to be") was simplistic and

crass enough to make the

interoffice clam-banging of

Brain Tennis look like brain



[Brain Tennis]

Katz's glad-handing produces some

impressively easy (if erroneous)

ejaculations, as when he argues

that "on Suck and Hotwired

columnists exist only in

conjunction with their readers,

not in place of them." We could

take on his misguided


lit-crit, but talk

about shooting Stanley

Fish in a barrel.


[Filthy Hands]

No, what's most suspect about

both of these


reach-arounds is that their seed

is spilled so wastefully - in

the context of the discussions

they are intended to promote,

all arguments, good and bad, for

and against virtual communities

and interactivity become just

another salty drop in the info

ocean. These soggy threads

devolve into a pissing contest,

and, well, that means we're back

to watersports - of a decidedly

dirtier kind.



Of course, we're all playing

Marco Polo in the same general

area of the kiddie pool, so it's

no wonder that the water's grown

suspiciously warm. And we've

long ago given up trying to wash

our hands of the deal. But if

Katz is correct, and

"interactivity" is what will

save us from ourselves, well,

we'd prefer not to be on the

receiving end of that particular

splash. Still, we've been caught

swimming in your toilet, so

maybe it's only fair that you

pee in our pool.

courtesy of Ann O'Tate