Editorial: Signs of digital earthquake are all around us
That steady rumble you hear in the background of daily life is the sound of a digital earthquake. As the temblors bring old boundaries crashing down, it is important to remember that we are not necessarily powerless in this transformation. The choices each of us makes can shape it.
Andrew Peick is one case in point. As Monitor columnist Ray Duckler reported Saturday, Peick – a Merrimack Valley junior – has posted a YouTube video in which he asks women’s soccer star Alex Morgan (a Californian who is 23) to his prom. He was inspired by another teen in Los Angeles, who asked a prominent swimsuit model to his prom via his own video and – shockingly enough – failed.
Based on Peick’s video – which closes with a garage door rising, fog swirling and Peick emerging in an astronaut’s suit – we’d offer several observations. First, Peick has a lot of time on his hands. Second, he is a handsome and creative young man who can laugh at himself. Third, just in case the soccer star doesn’t respond, a backup plan is in order – possibly one involving a potential date Peick has actually met.
Morgan had no control over what Peick said or where he posted it. But his video is neither intrusive nor offensive; it raises no questions of taste, fairness or excess. As of yesterday morning, the video had received 2,337 views – and who knows, maybe one of those clicks was generated by Morgan herself.
A second case in point: the gruesome injury suffered on live television Sunday evening by Louisville basketball player Kevin Ware. During an NCAA tournament game, Ware landed awkwardly on the sideline in front of his team’s bench and, to the horror of all who were watching, shattered his leg.
Ware’s teammates struggled to compose themselves. The stadium fell silent. CBS promptly – and thankfully – decided against further replays. After Ware was carried by stretcher to an ambulance, the game, somehow, resumed.
Meanwhile, the internet exploded – and again, neither Ware nor CBS had any ability to contain it. Through text and tweet, millions shared their emotions, which amounted to OMG. By yesterday morning, Slate and The New Yorker had found enough additional letters to compose thoughtful commentaries.
But what interested most of us? Seeing a young man’s horribly twisted leg. Yesterday morning, our Google search of “Kevin Ware video” yielded 136,000,000 results. One carried the title “Get ya barf bag ready!” and the most popular had surpassed 750,000 views.
A third case in point: This weekend the New York Times published an obituary of Yvonne Brill, a pioneering rocket scientist who died at the age of 88. Despite her professional contributions – presumably the reason the Times chose to note her passing – the obituary opened with references to her “mean beef stroganoff” and her role as “the world’s best mom.”
As quickly as you can say “startlingly sexist,” this provoked an online outcry. The tweeters critical of the obituary even included Margaret Sullivan, the public editor for the Times. Online outlets such as BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post amplified the commentary.
The Times listened. Before the day was out, the newspaper had rewritten the obituary online, replacing the “beef stroganoff” with a reference to her scientific achievements.
All three cases illustrate a simple truth: The digital revolution continues to compress time and connect us in ways that a very short time ago would have seemed inconceivable. Whether the results reveal us at our best, our worst or somewhere in between isn’t determined by technology itself, but by how we choose to