“Ask audiences what they want, and they’ll tell you vegetables. Watch them quietly, and they’ll mostly eat candy.
Audiences are liars, and the media organizations who listen to them without measuring them are dupes. At the Aspen Ideas Festival last year, Ehab Al Shihabi, executive director of international operations for Al Jazeera America, shared survey data suggesting that 40 to 50 million people were desperate for in-depth and original TV journalism. Nine months later, it averaged 10,000 viewers per hour—1.08 percent of Fox News’ audience and 3.7 percent of CNN. AJAM, built for an audience of vegetarians, is stuck with a broccoli stand in a candy shop.
The culprit isn’t Millennials, or Facebook, or analytics software like Chartbeat. The problem is our brains. The more attention-starved we feel, the more we thirst for stimuli that are familiar. We like ice cream when we’re sad, old songs when we’re tired, and easy listicles when we’re busy and ego-depleted. The Internet shorthand for this fact is “cat pictures.” Psychologists prefer the term fluency. Fluency isn’t how we think: It’s how we feel while we’re thinking. We prefer thoughts that come easily: Faces that are symmetrical, colors that are clear, and sentences with parallelisms. In this light, there are two problems with hard news: It’s hard and it’s new. (Parallelism!)”
162 New Emoji We Need Right Now
Brown-skinned woman wearing crown
Brown-skinned hand getting nails polished
Two men with heart between them
Two women with heart between them
Beard (on its own)
Birth control packet
Stick of butter
Mexican prayer candles
Chinese character meaning “quiet desperation”
Noguchi coffee table
[art: Emoji IRL]
“You are not to think you are anything special.
You are not to think you are as good as we are.
You are not to convince yourself that you are better than we are.
You are not to think you are more important than we are.
You are not to think you are good at anything.
You are not to think anyone cares about you.
These are six of the 10 commandments that make up the Law of Jante, a concept created by the Danish-Norwegian writer Aksel Sandemose in his 1933 novel, “A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks.” The Law described the mentality of a community in which everyone controls everyone else, the collective suffocates the individual and the price of individual freedom is ostracism — but its reach extended beyond the fictional small town of Jante. The attitude Sandemose identified was true for the entire Scandinavian culture, and was still intact when I was growing up in the 1970s. “You’re not to think you are better than anyone else” was the refrain I heard throughout my childhood, and it didn’t take much more than a slightly outlandish hat or a pair of unusual trousers before people told you off, laughed at you or, in the worst case, ignored you. “He thinks he’s special” was the worst thing anyone could say about you.”
Hailed as the 21st century’s answer to Proust for his controversial six-volume autobiographical work, “My Struggle,” Karl Ove Knausgaard responds to his sudden celebrity with this essay on his tortured relationship with fame — its intense lure, its perils and the Scandinavian culture that condemns its pursuit.
I Am Someone, Look At Me
“She came into Baghdad after months in one of the world’s most forbidding deserts, a stoic, diminutive 45-year-old English woman with her small band of men. She had been through lawless lands, held at gunpoint by robbers, taken prisoner in a city that no Westerner had seen for 20 years.
It was a hundred years ago, a few months before the outbreak of World War I. Baghdad was under a regime loyal to the Ottoman Turks. The Turkish authorities in Constantinople had reluctantly given the persistent woman permission to embark on her desert odyssey, believing her to be an archaeologist and Arab scholar, as well as being a species of lunatic English explorer that they had seen before.
She was, in fact, a spy and her British masters had told her that if she got into trouble they would disclaim responsibility for her. Less than 10 years later Gertrude Bell would be back in Baghdad, having rigged an election, installed a king loyal to the British, re-organized the government, and fixed the borders on the map of a new Iraq. As much as anyone can be, Gertrude Bell could be said to have devised the country that nobody can make work as a country for very long—no more so than now.”