Stochastic Global Awareness

One of the strangest things about reading a lot of blogs is the way it’s broadened my view of the world. Which is “more or less at random.”

I don’t follow a lot of mainstream news sources any more, because they mostly just piss me off, so I end up getting most of my news from an assortment of blogs and LiveJournals and other web sites, which means that I have a weirdly spotty understanding of what’s going on in the world. I know more than I really need to about Australian and Canadian politics, but I’m kind of fuzzy on events that took place twenty miles from where I sit to type this.

It also means that I end up finding out about things through really strange channels. Take, for example, the fact that a magnitude 7.4 earthquake hit Martinique yesterday, a fact which doesn’t make the front pages of the Washington Post or CNN websites at the time of this writing. I know about this because of Toby Buckell, whose blog I read because I like his books and was on a panel with him at Boskone a few years ago where he mentioned the blog. Without that, I would probably remain blissfully unaware that anything happened.

At any rate, news stories and blog links from Global Voices suggest that this was alarming and disconcerting to people in the Caribbean, but not hugely damaging– only one death was reported in the news stories I skimmed before writing this. So that’s all to the good.

(By the way, I’m not recommending this approach to world news– I need to start doing something to get real news in a more systematic way, because it’s ridiculous how underinformed I am on some issues. I’m just noting that my current operating mode provides a wonderfully surreal picture of the larger world…)


  1. #1 tceisele
    November 30, 2007

    I don’t know, is this really that bad? I mean, (a) there is way too much news for any one person to keep up with it all anyway, (b) aside from the cases that influence you or people you know directly, is there any reason why earthquakes in Martinique or politics in Australia are any “less newsy” than US earthquakes and politics? and (c) isn’t knowing about news that other people never hear about a great way to start odd little conversations? With not-knowing about other stuff great for giving them a chance to talk too?

    I do subscribe to our local daily paper and the Christian Science Monitor, and I don’t see where, between them, they really miss many of the things that I really *need* to know about. The rest is just gravy.

  2. #2 Eric Lund
    November 30, 2007

    I’m in this situation myself. I get my world news from BBC’s website (I have found CNN and the like to be too US-centric in their news coverage, among other faults), so I knew about the earthquake within about 24 hours of when it happened.

    OTOH, I don’t own a TV and don’t have any dead-tree newspaper subscriptions, so if I go net free for more than a day or so I fall into a news bubble. Thus it was during Christmas week in 2004, the last time I hosted Christmas, that several days after the fact I saw headlines in newspapers being sold in those newspaper vending machines about some tsunami hitting Indonesia, and a few more days passed before I learned just how bad that was.

  3. #3 bigTom
    November 30, 2007

    Throw in or international herald tribune and you should be pretty well set. Perhaps even which links to lots of stories and may cause you to find other e-news outfits you like. I try to avoid US TV news totally as, I just get mad as it is all missing white woman/ celebrities behaving badly, or who has been eliminated from dancing with the stars.

  4. #4 Skwid
    November 30, 2007

    Whatever I manage to osmose from NPR while I drive or work is the only traditional news I get on a regular basis, myself. And I totally know what you mean about getting odd snippets about foreign countries and not knowing what’s going on locally.

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