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He's Seen the Future and It's Small, Quirky and Well, Anti-Communitarian

David Panarelli is a graphic designer in Arlington who decided to check out the media future. He switched off his TV, silenced his radio, put aside his magazines and went back to the future, back to the era of one electronic medium--this here Internet. For one month, Panarelli is limiting his media intake to the web. He's chronicling the experiment here and he explains himself here.

So far, the results remind me more than anything else of those heady first months after the web went truly world wide, back in the early 90s, when newspapers like the Post ran a regular column called Cybersurfing, in which we dumped random observations of all the amazing variety that was starting to pop up on the web. Panarelli is finding some very cool stuff, and he clearly has plenty of time on his hands, because he's doing useful little experiments such as testing just how much Google is censoring itself over in China (a lot).

Interestingly, the media world he is creating for himself has little if any geographic affinity element. He could be just about anywhere. The only local reference I find in his log thus far is to the District-based news and comment blog, DCist, which Panarelli uses both for info about local food and for social contact: He goes to a happy hour they stage at Cue Bar. There, he runs into a challenge to his media asceticism--a big old large-screen TV. Luckily, he finds actual human contact there, distracting him from breaking his vows.

Certainly, Panarelli is having much more fun than he would have had he stuck to his usual media diet. He's discoverred some useful places he will come back to when he returns to normal life. But he's finding that to maintain his interest, he has to constantly seek out the new, rather than dive deeper into places, content and ideas that he can share consistently with others. He's hit the ultimate quandary about the new information age--how to construct a full and rewarding media life while deepening your experiences by building a real community of actual living people. We're still struggling with the question of interest affinity vs. geographic affinity--are virtual communities enough, or do people need to base their social lives in physical proximity with one another? Some argue that there's no conflict between the two, but time is finite for us mortals, and from politics to matters of love, family and work, the place where we live struggles against the lures of the web.

By Marc Fisher |  February 9, 2006; 9:41 AM ET
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The television media right now is totally psycho, why would anyone in their right mind want to watch it

Posted by: ABao | February 9, 2006 4:24 PM

What he's selecting is a question of choice. He could just as easily craft an Internet experience that is very heavy on local news and neighborhood bloggers if he chose to.

Posted by: Tom T. | February 9, 2006 5:10 PM

I'm with you on the "time is finite" issue. I've always been a news junkie, and I love movies and music. The expansion of the opportunities to get news in both print and broadcast media, the emergence of the Internet and blogs, and the ease of having new flicks at one's fingertips through Netflix or other such services has led to a situation in which work has become second to media consumption in my priorities. This is not good.

Posted by: CTC | February 9, 2006 7:10 PM

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