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Obama Administration Warns About Using Information Devices Which Have Produced the Most Widely Distributed Publishing Platform in Human History

I really want this thing to work out with President Obama. He’s smart. He’s a constitutaional scholar. His adminstration has taken steps to advance the welfare of US citizens and the welfare of people worldwide. So I don’t get what’s going on with his bizarre warning regarding information as a distraction. In his commencement speech at Hamptom University», Obama

admitted he could not operate an iPod or iPad, as he warned the students against becoming distracted by technology when they are already graduating "at a time of great difficulty for America, and for the world".

"With iPods and iPads; Xboxes and PlayStations – none of which I know how to work – information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation," Obama said.

Obama’s words seem utterly bizarre to me. It’s as if he’s warning us that LOLCats, the Tron Guy, and RickRolling will inhibit one‘s political and social awareness, as if people who use Twitter, Facebook, and 4Chan are wasting their energies by not participating in democratic politics.

All of which is absurd», so I guess it’s OK he said what he did in a commencement speech.

It’s not as if the Internet can assist people attempting to get information to the outside world about their own democratic process or as if text messages can be used to help earthquake survivors locate emergency assistance and to notify rescue workers of their location. Or maybe Obama» forgot that the Internet is great for giving the lie to political posturing.1

While any information channel, of which the Internet is one, can be used to scam, proselytize, and hypnotize, it can also be used, to inform, impassion, and organize as well. In my opinion, the distractions Obama warned of in his 2010 commencement speech to Hamptom University graduates is a misguided swipe at what is most succinctly characterized as culture. These distractions—the badger-mushrooms and All Your Bases—are transient, trivial, enduring, sublime, and cacaphonous. They are junk, art, monuments, and stuff, and they come fully blown through the Internet.

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1 I undestand Obama’s point is probably best understood along these lines.

I think that a lot of people here are missing the point. It's not that people have access to too much information (i.e., that he doesn't agree with), but that the gadgetry itself and the triviality it promotes is absorbing so much time and attention that we're ignoring other things that might be more important to our civic lives. It's gotten to the point where kids (in particular) aren't even coming up for air sometimes.

That said, who knows where it will all lead, or whether it will be for better or worse or something in between. I'd like to think that we're strengthening democracy and public participation, but my fear is that control and manipulation may win the day...

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