Mediums

Diaries are negative for the same reason news is negative: If it bleeds, it leads

Certain mediums have an inherent ideological bias or slant. For example, TV news is relatively more liberal and talk radio is relatively more conservative. These biases will be there 50 or 100 years from now, no matter how many Rachel Maddows we hire or FOX News Channels we create. Even FOX News, when broken down to its implied ideology based on where it focuses its attention is slightly left-of-center to the average American.

But what about personal mediums, like diaries? Do diaries have an inherent bias? The contents are often negative. Perhaps it follows the same principle of news: "If it bleeds it leads." The only thing worth mentioning in a diary is adversity. Otherwise, starting an entry with something like, "Today was amazing, the sun was shining, and work flowed well," would be positively boring.

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Just as feeds are traditionally used for livestock troughs, news must be consumed while we are consuming something else

Tablets were supposed to save the newspaper industry by turning everything into an app. And while the NPR, NYTimes, and WSJ apps have been impressive from the get-go, so far that promise hasn't been fulfilled.

The disadvantage with news apps is that news is best consumed when streamed in with something else. People often pick up newspapers at coffee shops with their loose change. Or they read the news at the breakfast table to keep their minds busy while eating alone. (The latter has been phased out as a result of 24-hour news channels which are easy to run in the background).

Individual apps, with separate user interfaces, are focused interactions. When you open an app, you are there to start and finish a task, not surf. Whereas when you open a browser tab to a news site, you're feeding a distraction into your current workflow. This flow is why Twitter feeds, Facebook feeds, and browser tabs are the primary methods for consuming news. The word "feed" itself conjures up an image of a pig at the trough. Hence news must be consumed while something else is happening.

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Mediums max out: The best films of the 1930s are as good as the best films of the 2000s, there's just more of them now

The best films of the 1930s are as good as the best films of the 2000s. While the frequency of great films has increased—since there are more films—the greatness of the exemplars in the medium peaked within a few decades of the technology maturing.

A film is like a meal. The best possible tasting meals can only go as far as our capacity for appreciation. The best cheeseburger is as enjoyable as the best sushi. No matter how many chefs or how many devices come along to aid in cooking, the best meal of 2014 will be roughly as good as the best meal of 2013. Meal quality only involves a few metrics, such as taste and texture. Achieving greatness in each metric requires expertise, but not superhuman expertise. An added difficulty comes in the timing of taste and texture, but just as sushi can be designed to deliver the right story in the first, second, and lasting seconds of chewing, the right cheeseburger can be mixed with the right milkshake to create the perfect song of a meal as well.

Likewise, our limited palates confine our appreciation of storytelling. There's a maximum amount of suspense that a film can achieve. There's a maximum sense of cleverness, since exemplars in surprise, layering and nuance can't be topped. Art direction is limited: a very soothing image flow can't be more soothing.

Room for growth exists when we break the medium into components. For example, there can still be a more perfect cheeseburger, and we have not yet met the best possible actor. But films and meals as a whole category are medleys and don't rely on the excellence of the individual components, but the overall enjoyability of the experience, for which our appetites appear congenitally limited.

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Political correctness depends on the size of the mouthpiece, with populist news on one end, hushed tones on the other

The nature of ethics changes depending on where we hear those ethics. On one end of the spectrum is network news, which has mass appeal. These ethics tend toward irreproachable ideas, such as "All men are created equal." They're the same ethics that are discussed in high school history books, often perpetuating a mythology of the Founding Fathers and their concern for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

On the opposite end of the spectrum is parental ethics. For example, mothers may teach their daughters things like man-catching, or dads may teach sons "how to be a man." The mainstream media—as well as academia, another land for mass ethics—scrubs out any notion of gender inequality.

In other words, the political correctness of ethics changes depending on who is listening. Somewhere in the middle is talk radio, since you often listen to it alone in your car, as opposed to television ethics, which are the ethics of the living room.

Consensus ethics, the kind of ethics that politicians talk about or we discuss in polite company, are ethics that we can all agree are for the good of all. Peer-to-peer ethics are designed to help both parties in a conversation. And parent-to-child ethics are just for one person since parents are trying to send their children on their way. The kind of ethics that gets handed down from parents tends to be the most selfish of imperatives. They're even worse than the ethics from friends; Friends at least want you to follow the golden rule.