- I wish I still had this t-shirt.
At the Observer, the very game Leon Neyfakh tries his hand at inventing a neologism for the persistent feeling that you’re not reading enough good stuff on the internet. “Call it Reader’s Despair Syndrome“. Ok? Could be worse, certainly. And yes, of course, there’s so much out there, it’s like being in a newstand all the time, browsing the London Review of Books and the Virginia Quarterly Review and finding all these long article that seem enriching and fascinating and worth responding to if you just had time to actually read longer stuff on the internet between doing work and reading lots of other long fascinating things on the internet and reading the funny posts on the places that often link to the interesting longer things, so you just leave them open, optimistically, in tabs (god, how did we live before tabbed browsing?), until it’s the end of the day and you close the tabs and feel bad.
In Simulacra and Simulation, Baudrillard used Borges’s “On Exactitude in Science” as a metaphor for a world duplicated and rendered meaningless by media technology; a more optimistic way of using the Borges parable is that, if the map of the world is exactly as big as the world itself—if all information is a click away—we’re no more capable of processing it all, but we’re at least better equipped to understand what we’re missing. Which is frustrating in the all the ways Neyfakh’s interviewees articulate, but also humbling in a productive and even enlarging way.
Towards the end of the article, Neyfakh describes an iPhone app which lets you send longer articles to your phone and read them on, say, the subway, or anywhere else where you have leisure time and can focus on turning the pages instead of clicking between open tabs. That’s great! It really helps you focus, sitting down to read a finite physical object. I wonder why we didn’t think of this sooner.