Total Noise Gets Louder

Kids used to ask each other: If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears, does it make a sound? Now there’s a microphone in every tree and a loudspeaker on every branch, not to mention the video cameras, and we’ve entered the condition that David Foster Wallace called Total Noise: “the tsunami of available fact, context, and perspective.”

This week was a watershed for Total Noise. When terrible things happen, people naturally reach out for information, which used to mean turning on the television. The rewards (and I use the word in its Pavlovian sense) can be visceral and immediate, if you want to see more bombs explode or towers fall, and plenty of us do. But others are learning not to do that.

The Boston bombings, shootings, car chase, and manhunt found the ecosystem of information in a strange and unstable state: Twitter on the rise, cable TV in disarray, Internet vigilantes bleeding into the FBI’s staggeringly complex (and triumphant) crash program of forensic video analysis. If there ever was a dividing line between cyberspace and what we used to call the “real world,” it’s hard to see now.

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2 Responses to Total Noise Gets Louder

  1. Scott Love says:

    What is the answer to Total Noise? Reading a newspaper the next day or same evening? Is it conversation? No doubt cable news has become a form of instant storytelling with little connection to the event itself. I could easily imagine though Mystery Science Theatre 3000 providing talking robots to instantly make other noises like a Bronx cheer whenever Blitzer went off script into fictional storytelling. We have the technology.

  2. Adelle says:

    Hi James- it is butterfly1 – we have a storm of a problem here. Would you like to apply chaos and a flapping screaming butterfly to the Victoria Day (confession) scar storm, or the change in timing highway accident (Oklahoma EPA). Look forward to your new book and speaking with you.

    The secret life of nature James.

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