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Too much noise, too many voices: How the Internet is changing the way we perceive current events

Yesterday I was musing aloud about perceptions about the past. History as we know is written by the powerful and subaltern sources can reveal very different sides to historical events and people. When humans in the future read about the events we are living through today, they will have access to (thanks to the Internet) several more perspectives on the same event than what we have today of history recorded in more traditional formats.

Today, as I read the hundreds of stories in reaction to the Boston marathon bomb blast, I cannot stop marvelling at the creativity of the human mind, the sped with which news unfolds and metamorphoses, the endless hunger to know more….

The day of the bomb blasts, we were reading opinions on how the Islamist terror organisations were challenging the US on their turf again, the implications of this on US foreign policy, the pressure cooker bomb’s link with the subcontinent and what that meant for us in India and what have you. Today we are being educated (in efficient Q&A form as well!) about the complex politics of the Caucasian region and Chechnia in particular, where Dzokhar originates from. Of course, he is also the nice guy who ‘seemed normal’.

What would a researcher in the 22nd century make of all this information, or would the intermediate commentary be insignificant in the face of the final outcome- suspect being caught, killed, jailed, etc… I don’t know, it’s hard to say and an intriguing thought. (This is what you think about post midnight when you can’t fall asleep!)

On the flip side, I am disturbed by the extent to which writers and journalists and hackers would go to grab attention….

Example: One guy whose handle was previously @footytube or something created a fake handle for the bombing suspect Dzokhar, having the same number of followers and the same last tweet as the original to mislead people into following him! What would he gain from this and did he not worry about attracting the wrong kind of attention from police and government authorities desperate to catch the criminal at large?

Why wonder about future researchers? The speed of news production and consumption and the plethora of opinions available has changed the way we perceive current affairs. As an avid blogger, I am all for freedom of expression but how do we discern among various sources of information? I am also acutely aware of how power influences the production of news as well. Everyday, I see how peripheral the coverage of the sad and terrible stories of death and injustice coming out of places like Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Mali and how obsessive the coverage of incidents in the West that are trivial in comparison (if human impact is used as a measure).

As consumers, we pick news guided by emotion. And nostalgia, paranoia and fear make for great hooks, it seems! And in the end, it’s probably just about being entertained……

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