I've always enjoyed the library, for instance, because even when I was looking for something specific, I would often stumble on something else that I wanted to read -- usually something that had nothing to do with what I was looking for in the first place.
That's what I teach my journalism students too. A journalist needs to know a little about a lot of different things. "Go out and learn stuff," I tell them. The breathtaking amount of information available to them is wonderful, but in an odd way, the Internet makes it more difficult to be a generalist.
The influence of Twitter upon our news concerns me. Now ledes (the first paragraph of a news story) have to be 21 to 25 words or less, when they used to be 30 to 35 words or less. Why? Twitter.
Even more disconcerting: when I ask my students where they get their news, they tell me "Twitter." While I have nothing against the tool itself, if that's where they get their news, it means they're getting only those news items in which they are most interested.
The situation is bound to create tunnel vision. Reading a traditional newspaper at least exposes you to stories about which you might have no interest, but which are important nevertheless. It exposes you to what some experienced newsperson or newspeople (what goes in is often the work of a committee) think is important.
The message is that the news is not all about you as an individual. It's a collective, social pool of information about what is going on in the world. It's what makes for community. And that emphasis is disappearing in our effort to make knowledge, including news, more personalized.
So is it any wonder our political system is deadlocked? If even the news is "all about me," it's not too far of an intellectual leap to wind up at "Why compromise with other people?" After all, my needs are the only ones that matter, right?
If the underlying message of our information system is that we are all just selfish individuals who do not need to pay attention to the ideas of others, we are in serious trouble as a society. How can we be Good Samaritans and good stewards of the public trust if we do not care about others' needs or ideas?