The Secondhand Reader

Of course I have left Ayn Rand alone, in that corner of my mind where a confused youth is looking for a seemingly coherent world view. Some find it in religion, some in philosophy (again Rand dismissed religion is a primitive form of philosophy, while others might have dismissed philosophy is a primitive form of religion — being non holistic). But the shoe, over the years, stops fitting, as it should even. No one, in their teenage years, has enough exposure to the world to choose a world-view that will encompass everything that their ever widening experience of the world throws at them. Almost no one, I believe …

Still, even then, in those wide-eyed, ready to be amazed years, we have already wrestled with a few questions, to get it partially right — the search (or left — if you allow me that cheap humor).

One of the recurring theme in Rand's writings is that of the creators vs those who live secondhand lives — those who consume, those who follow, those who live through others …

Well with twitter, I'm a certified secondhand reader. I hardly discover anything these days, it seems. I hardly get to keep pace with a bombardment of articles that keeps coming from some voracious readers, the netizens of the higher rank. I hardly choose what to read next. Not even the subject, it seems …

I wonder if in few months everyone will be reading only what some have been sending their way? The fast, voracious readers, net-scrapers, will send us ten articles before we could read one. And we'd be drawn in the ever increasing list of starred, to-read-later'ed, bookmarked, tabboed, articles. We'd stop our own searching. Google will be dead. And we'd have a breed of second hand readers?

Soon. Pretty soon — if it hasn't happened already …

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18 thoughts on “The Secondhand Reader

  1. Gaizabonts says:

    Fatalistic, I’d say. Isn’t all that bad. And what about Eddie Willers? He did not create – was he second-hander?

    Free will still exists and prospers. Like the TV remote, there is always the ability to switch it (Twitter) off. And trust me, it isn’t difficult (if you have been on Twitter for the last few days)

    Twitter is an experiment that leaked (heavily) out of the lab and you have many experimenting with it. It won’t go away (now), but it is not going to kill anything. If at all, going by your introduction, Twitter is the second-hander, for it creates very little, if not nothing.

  2. asuph says:

    rgk: lol! i don’t need to be a famous writer for that. even today i am the first person to read my drafts. only, the point is, will i be writing at all, at this rate?

    mayuresh: facebook has already made its status messages searchable i believe?

    atul: maybe i shd say third-hand reader? for reading is inherently a second-hand activity ;-). i think the only reason why rand gave allowance to eddie is that he’s her reader. if there is no eddie, who’ll read her? surely not roarks and wynands, francisco’s and galts (yeah, i always loved f more than g. g is entirely boring)?

    cheers,
    asuph

  3. IW says:

    The only reason why i now know a bit about works of Marquez, Vonnegut, Pamuk, Eco, Murakami, Douglas Adams & such.. is coz of well read (or better informed / better networked) people like you & some other folks on DSS. So thank you sir.

    Regards,
    IW ( a humble 4th-hand reader )

  4. Mahendra says:

    Very broad brush-strokes with amazing mix of colors within a brief post! 🙂

    It is always interesting to observe how technological advances are continuously changing the models of information discovery and consumption. When the telephone became mainstream, some folks wondered if we would ever speak to real people again.

    While human capacity to digest new information increases very slowly, technology is making easier and easier for more and more information to be created and instantly shared. Millions are facing information overload and looking for ways to cope with it. This problem will only get worse, unless some breakthrough happens in filtering technologies.

    • asuph says:

      Better filtering would surely help. But then Gates, I recall, was talking about it (he called it ‘agents’, I believe?), in what 1995? Things haven’t much improved — especially if you consider the relative speed of information explosion.

      However, my point was extending a bit beyond that. In previous times, we had an almost a dearth of ‘recommendors’ and hence recommendations. Not entirely a good thing. Once growth was limited by exposure there. In fact, with my background, if I hadn’t you as a recommendor, I’d have been quite a different person.

      But now, we’re seeing the other end of the problem. Too many recommendors, recommending to many things. And while, previously one could just consume all that was recommended, and more, now that’s virtually impossible. So now we need meta-recommendors?

      Anyways, the comment is threatening to outlength the blog so I’ll stop. Glad to see your comment.

      regards,
      asuph

  5. sandygautam says:

    I once used (on twitter) the term information scavengers for those who tweet and retweet and keep scouting for information and links to share or read. This would be as opposed to active hunters (the searchers in your vocabulary) who actively search and look for what they want. Still I think creators are a whole different league. They are the people who create content be it searchable they web or discoverable via recommendations.

    I think recommendations (twitter links for eg.) are here to stay and are no better or worse than active searching (say googling) ; and of course creating content (say blogging) has a different value altogether- but each is valuable in its own way for the entire ecosystem!!

    • asuph says:

      Hi Sandy,

      Welcome back. Seems like I’ve finally written something that could hold your interest again :).

      Yes, creators are a different thing altogether. Only problem is creators are also consumers. And when consumptive instinct starts taking over the ‘creative’ instinct, and more importantly consumption time starts eating into creation time — that’s the area I’m talking about.

      Of course twitter is here to say, and so I’m there to stay on twitter, despite these reservations. My consumere instinct is too strong, I guess ;).

      Regards,
      asuph

      • Mahendra says:

        Your comment made me observe that most of the folks I follow (on whichever medium/tool), are creators as well as recommenders.

        It took me some time to distinguish the scavengers (using Sandy’s term) from the creators-recommenders.

        A lot of scavengers have gained huge “followings” on Twitter, but I think one is better at recommendations, if one is creating oneself.

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