Weekend low point

Filed under “Too many things considered” is the Sunday All Things Considered story on brothers John and Hank Green. These two snooze-inducers “realized their relationship had become nothing more than a series of text messages and e-mails” so “they began posting video blogs for each other on YouTube.”

What’s wrong with this story? Where do I begin:

The entire premise makes an enormous but common category error. NPR unthinkingly buys the dumb idea that exchanging recorded, non-interactive video clips is new and that its newness makes it uniquely qualified to help these text-message-addled brothers re-connect. Well, I have another technology they should learn about that’s even more amazing. It’s called the telemaphone machine, or something newfangled like that, and I hear tell that you can actually say something into it and have a person on the other end respond immediately! Then you talk again and then they do! Imagine the revolution we’ll now be able to have! No more of those awful, stilted, waaaaay too much information one-way YouTube video clips. Soon you’ll be able to actually ask the person you are talking to about the things you are interested in in the order you want to hear about them instead of having them describe their trip to the grocery store! And, no tedious, painstaking editing and uploading of video clips! You just talk! What a future!

[editor’s note: I was way too harsh on the content of these guys’ videos and their viewers based on my understanding of them from the story. After actually watching some of them I took out that paragraph.]

As a blogger I often get this creepy feeling that one day everyone will have a blog. They won’t have time to read anyone else’s, just narcissistically manage their own little garden of superficia and knit rhetorical cozies in which to store their quotidia.

This will make the blogosphere about as useful as a map of the United States that is EXACTLY THE SAME SIZE AS THE ACTUAL UNITED STATES.

1:1 Scale adds nothing and is really hard to fit in the glove compartment.

13 thoughts on “Weekend low point

  1. You obviously haven’t watched the BH2.0 videos, Decepticon.
    The only way you can be anti-BH2.0 is if you’re anti-fun and anti-brotherhood.

    I’m sorry that you can’t take a moment to appreciate what Hank and John do. It’s really your loss.

  2. I accept your challenge.

    Please provide a link to the what you consider the best of their entries and I’ll give it a listen. Otherwise I’ll try a random one.

    Either way I’ll post my revised opinion (downward or upward).

    What NPR chose as a representative sample obviously failed to impress.

  3. In this video, John discusses what he has gained from vlogging throughout the BH2.0 project.

    It’s hard to choose a best video because there are around 260 that are part of the BH2.0 project. The Green brothers have nothing to prove to anyone, but I think you should be more open about what the brothers themselves may have gained by the project instead of debating the practicality.

  4. Okay seriously you obviously have never seen any of their videos! Or maybe you just aren’t a good blogger and dont realize how good they are. Or are you telling me that the 10,000+ people that have watched and subscribed to them and call themselves nerdfighters are all stupid and dont know what they’re watching. But whatever I love the brothers, I’ve watched all of their videos and look forward to all their new ones! So I guess I’m just one of the boring people that enjoy them-thanks. But whatever DFTBA!

  5. Well, I guess I’ll be issuing a correction/apology in the near future when I get some time to watch and fall in love with two guys talking about going to the grocery store. We’ll see. But if they are indeed that great then W.E. did them a disservice. My impression of them is entirely from the story, and it isn’t a good one.

  6. The important thing that appears to missing is the impact on the viewers lives. You’re right, a telephone does allow you to talk instanly, but you can’t affect people with it. I loved the brotherhood 2.0 videos, not only because I found both Hank and John incredibly funny and insightful, but also because it gave me a conection to hundreds of people all over the world who shared the same views, opinions and hobbies as me. People I would otherwise have never met.
    So yes, it was nice to hear how these to people were doing, but it was nice to hear how their fans were doing to.

    I don’t know how much Brotherhood 2.0 you have watched, I wont say that by watching it you will be instantly transformed, perhaps you don’t share their opinions, but it sounds like you haven’t fully researched this topic before saying how bad it is, and that is a great shame.

  7. The NPR interview did not do the B2.0 justice. In five minutes or less, there is no way to fully explain things that have developed over the course of a year.
    I suggest you watch videos from the beginning when everything was explained and you can get a clear picture of the brothers.
    And since you like Public Radio, here’s a fact: John Green was a host on NPR a few years ago.

  8. Since I got critical comments from something like 50% of the people who have ever commented on this blog I went ahead and treated myself to 10 or 15 “Best of Brotherhood 2.0” vlog entries to see what I’ve been missing and whether they truly were worthy of the attention given them by Weekend ATC.

    Was my condemnation of them as boring correct? No, not really, at least not to me.

    In my defense, the clips they played on ATC were not a good representative sample.

    Did the topic deserve the six minutes of a one hour show called “All Things Considered”? I still don’t think so. After all, if you have 12 hours a week to consider all things you have to keep your priorities straight.

    Am I Donald Rumsfeld? Not that I know of.

    As an aside, I’m guessing the set of people who like B2.0 sits almost entirely embedded inside the set of people who like They Might Be Giants. I was actually surprised how good the B2.0 songs were.

    The two brothers are smart and funny and generally appealing.

    The humor is mostly mild and sometimes intentionally lame in a kind of irony that promptly gets old. Is the repetition of a mild joke funny simply because repeating it makes a sort of meta-joke about how you know it’s kind of stupid but you’re going to do it anyway? To me not for very long.

    But the quality of the content is really beside the point. The point is the “nerdfighter” community that has arisen around these guys and what that community’s existence says about modern individuals, in particular nerds, and society, especially as mediated by the internet. (I’m a bit of a nerd myself, by the way, just not the type to really enjoy these guys…so nerdfighters, don’t be hatin’, or at least hate slightly less intensely)

    The whole thing reminds me very much of Vonnegut’s concept of a “false karass” from “Cat’s Cradle”. The nerdfighters are at least self-selecting unlike, say, Hoosiers, but I get the same feeling from them I get from people who are wildly devoted to a sports team. I recognize their ardor, but I just don’t share it. I’m not much of a joiner.

    The brothers have accomplished for an impressively large community what they set out to accomplish only for themselves. They have connected people by providing them with a set of shared in-jokes (made of awesome…worldsuck…blend stuff and eat it…in your pants…Etc.) as well as second and third-hand pseudo-common experiences.

    The nerdfighters have shoe-horned themselves and their followers into a kind of extended foster family. The people in this family feel it is worthwhile to spend a surprising amount of time and energy on this project. And I am honestly glad it makes them happy.

    But in order to rate coverage by a national news program I think the questions that should have been asked involve larger topics like:

    What does it mean that people don’t find enough of this kind of connection with local family and friends?

    Why are people so disconnected in the real world that they will accrete like crystals in a supersaturated fluid around something as inconsequential as B2.0?

    Are there other communities a lot like this one or is there something about the nerdfighters that makes them uniquely susceptible to this phenomenon?

    How do the mediated onscreen personae of these brothers reflect their actual personae?

    Is this distributed community phenomenon a fad or something that will become a dominant mode of social organization?

  9. Thanks for being willing to reconsider your opinion! I think, though, that you’re still coming from a perspective most nerdfighters wouldn’t agree with, judging by those questions.

    First of all, you seem to be assuming that the relationships nerdfighters have with each other are less important than the ones they would have if they reached out more in their local community. And I don’t think I agree with that. The reason nerdfighers are such a close-knit group is that they’re almost all extremely welcoming and genuinely nice people, which makes their interactions a lot more pleasant than they might be with people who don’t have that shared interest.

    The nerdfighting community is built for people who have known what it feels like to be rejected because they have unusual interests or because they go against the grain in some way or another. And the basis for the community is that no one is made to feel that way. Knowing that you have a group of people you can go to who will not exclude you is very valuable- much more valuable, in fact, than spending your time forging relationships with people who will never fully accept you, such as you might find at your school or in your town.

    Now, obviously, this doesn’t mean that nerdfighters.com is an adequate substitute for interacting with people in real life (because, to be honest, I’m not even a hardcore nerdfighter). It just means that a community like the one Hank and John inspired isn’t entirely ‘insubstantial,’ as you put it. The humor may not be up your alley, and you may not feel it’s as ‘worthwhile’ as the nerdfighters do, which is 100% fine. Just know that it isn’t as simple as it might look at first glance.

    Now, does any of that answer any of your questions? Do you think this why-do-people-care-so-much view would have been a better angle for the ATC interview to have come from?

    P.S. For the record, I am not a They Might Be Giants fan. 🙂

  10. Sorry but, highbrow much? Not a complement. So grumpy! Would you feel better if you were the only blogger around? And if everyone was as unfunny as you?

  11. Alex: Excuse me, this blog is about Public Radio, I think you’re looking for one of the many worthy blogs dedicated to “The Pussycat Dolls Presents: Girlicious”.

  12. Oh gosh, excuse me while I vomit!
    I read the blogs of my friends and blogs that have a lot to do with English grammar, actually.

  13. What’s to say that people who don’t happen to find a niche family, like B2.0, *are* satisfied with their social interactions? They could just not have found theirs yet. B2.0 is signifigant b/c of it’s scope and inclusivity- as Emily said, anyone feeling marginialized is included and accepted. So anyone who wants a peice of internet family can find one there- that means “joiners”, any and all. I think more people are looking for something to join than have found one, is all, and B2.0 just accidently tapped into one pool.

    Communites like B2.0 provide an alternative to what I think isn’t a shadow on the horizon, but a real actual issue- your fear about everyone blogging into a vacuum. At B2.0 you’re guaranteed someone to listen. That’s really the solution- finding somewhere that’s easy for you to communicate where someone will communicate back to you.

    I will say that I personally am partial to internet families, and a lot of that has to do with how shy I am. I’ll agree to all the stigma about getting your social interaction from a box, filling in the gaps about people you “meet” with essentially your own imaginings. But the alternative has always been isolation, so if the internet makes it easier to communicate with other people, even if I’m still mostly communicating with myself, so what? Finding an internet family actually helped me get out of my little cocoon. It made it easier to talk to real live people. Also admittedly, that was in high school, when being nerdy in grade school was upped 40 notches by puberty, and having every little detail of my burgeoning personality analyzed by hundreds of similarly afflicted youths.

    Notably, not all, but a LOT of nerdfighters are teenagers. B2.0 is like myspace but for a more sophisticated, intellectual, atriculate set of teenager (I know, that sounds like a contraditction in terms to me, too). They go to school in a tiny little pool of people they’ve known their whole lives and are starting to need to break away from, and the internet gives them this huge range of possibilities. B2.0 is for them, a ideal sort of high school, that just happens to not exist in any one place, or grade you ever. Everyone’s dedicated to being nice, and noone automatically discounts your opinon cause you’re 15. It’s socialization on a grand scale, for a specific audience. I think it’s only gonna get bigger, and that’s not exactly a bad thing.

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