North Wind And Sun

Amherst Bytes: An App Store Named Desire

Posted in Amherst Bytes by Ricardo Bilton on 10-December-2009

Originally published in the Amherst Student on 9 December 2009

The surety of success is often measured by the certainty of numbers. Every once in a while, Apple’s iPhone App Store reaches a new threshold, and Apple, the proud frontrunner in all things App, takes each new numerical achievement and runs with it. The most recent milestone is 100,000 – a number that succinctly captures how far the App store has come since its inception last summer.

But 100,000 means different things to different people. For Apple, it means the company can more effectively position the App Store as the standard, increasing the legitimacy of the iPhone brand by forcing other smart phones to exist in eternal comparison to it. For consumers, 100,000 means choice in the most capitalistic form of the word  –  choice between a virtual zipper or a virtual stapler, a virtual beer-counter or a virtual baby shaker. For the more diligent of consumers, 100,000 means sifting through that same mire, finding the gems within the muck that are worth the price attached to them. 100,000 also evokes a certain sense of impossibility. It would cost about $32,000 for one to purchase every single iPhone app; even then, the iPhone can only house 148 apps concurrently, so the impossibility is twofold. 100,000, it would seem, lacks the universality that its status as a number might lead us to suggest.

Indeed, the now famous (and popularly maligned) quip, “There’s an app for that,” gets closer and closer every day to becoming a truism. There is an iPhone app that tracks Swine Flu cases, an app that aims to help people get over their fear of flying, and even an app that helps men track the menstrual cycles of their girlfriends. Many with attention spans greater than my own have espoused the wonders of the niche iPhone app, so I’ll spare you the drudgery. But I will say this: the iPhone app store functions by filling voids that you didn’t know you had.

That is not to say that this is particularly unique. The whole of capitalism operates in much the same vein. Vendors function and sustain themselves via convincing consumers that a certain product, just by its sheer novelty, will change their lives, ostensibly for the better. Technology seems particularly prone to this tendency. It’s one marked by jargon, buzzwords and gloss. A new computer is a new opportunity, each successive iteration filling in the gaps left by its predecessor, each a chance for manufacturers to deliver on their perpetual promises. It’s founded on engineered obsolescence, of both the systemic and stylistic kind.

At the risk of undermining my own integrity, let’s consider The Onion’s Dec. 3 coverage of the release of a “new device.” Nearly reading as a template for the release of any new gadget  –  seriously, plug in iPhone wherever “device” appears  – the article manages to capture, in less than 600 words, the crux of technological fetishism. Spokespeople, consumers and authors alike indifferently rattle off the features of the “new device.” The consumers, in particular, elicit the most chagrin: “The new device brings me satisfaction” said one interviewee, and it is at this point that we realize the problem with the article, the point where its satire strikes the reader most soundly, is in the realization that these consumers don’t sound like people at all. Instead they sound programmed, not too far removed from the devices themselves.

It’s hard to argue that any one consumer operates in a mode where they see their endless streams of purchases as a limitless pursuit of desires  – but in a certain sense that is exactly what is happening. Web sites like Gizmodo and Engadget feel at points almost pornographic; in reading these sites, it’s rarely long before you witness the word “sexy” applied to the latest Apple release. Moments like that make me cringe. We at times seem to be caught in a loop of new devices breeding new desires, points where our desires cross and become muddled. Some notable journalist, whose name has since been lost to the voids of time and my memory, once compared the Xbox 360’s distinctive curvature to that of the average female. There was, he thought, something beautiful, even sexy, in the elegance of the Xbox 360’s shape, evidence of design mimicking life.

The comparison is evocative of a certain kind of juxtaposition popular among adolescent boys with unfettered access to the Internet. It’s achieved by taking a woman, stripping her of her clothing, and covering up any and all nether regions with video game components  – controllers, consoles, games. Something compelling is created in this combination, an indescribable satisfaction obtained via the substitution of nudity with technology, one fetish taking the place of another. It’s confounding, fascinating and, on some level, disturbing. Where sex meets technology we find uncertain ground, a place that challenges our distinction between our definition of desire and the devices we direct it at. That new iPhone may be sexy, but it certainly doesn’t know it.

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Amherst Bytes: How to Make a Rabbit Disappear (and Appear Again) in a Digital World

Posted in Amherst Bytes by Ricardo Bilton on 7-December-2009

Originally published 2 December 2009 in The Amherst Student

Back in August, “Wired” writer Evan Ritliff undertook what is likely to be one of the more surprising and engaging endeavors in recent memory: wondering what it would take to disappear in a world of constant digital breadcrumbs, Ratliff decided to attempt the impossible  – or at least the exceedingly difficult  – task of doing just that. On the evening of Aug. 19, with just his car, a handful of cash and a new, F. Scott Fitzgerald-inspired pseudonym, Ratliff disappeared into the San Francisco sunset.

The rest is well-documented history. Ratliff’s disappearance wasn’t as quiet of a slip-into-the-shadows vanishing as the notion of a spontaneous disappearance might suggest. Instead, his calculated withdrawal from society was engineered with thoughts of pursuit in mind. Ratliff didn’t particularly want to disappear –  he was in fact very much interested in getting caught – but his undertaking was imbued with the implications of what that nabbing meant.

I’ll spoil the story for you: he gets nabbed. With an army of very intent and dedicated amateur sleuths at his heels, it was only inevitable. It happens in New Orleans. Ratliff is sporting a bald head and fedora. Ratliff, who had remained a mere few steps ahead of his pursuers throughout the whole process, hid beneath the veil of digital anonymity, shedding his previous exterior in favor of his new, constructed one. He had a Twitter account (username @jdgatz) a Facebook profile and his own business. The whole process, which ended just over a month after it began, proved that, with enough determination and cash, one could, theoretically, disappear.

But the tale likewise lends itself to another conclusion, one that Ratliff himself points out in the concluding paragraphs to his article in the December issue of “Wired”: the brunt of the detective work was performed by legions of organized detectives and pieced together via components that were already there –  IP addresses, phone call records, surveillance camera footage and, yes, even Google search results.

The existence of the latter, of course, points to an obvious truth. Google, which prides itself on doing an admirable job of organizing the world’s information, naturally does a good job of organizing your information. These are your online traces, your bits, the supposedly private digital traces of your digital and not-so-digital life. Nowadays, that distinction is moot. One wonders, sometimes out loud, oftentimes not so much, what it would take to de-Google, to return to stage one with a completely blank e-slate with just a name and no paginated strings attached.

Some venture to find out, albeit in slightly different way. Rupert Murdoch, prominent owner of all things old-fashioned, not too long ago, and in between incoherent cries of “get off my lawn,” argued that Google was the source of the newspaper industry’s travails. Those damn kids, Murdoch noted, his breath smelling conspicuously of prune, aren’t paying for our content. Murdoch, likely thinking louder than he would have liked, then threatened that if Google didn’t pay News Corp. for indexing its work, the corporation’s content would not appear in Google search results. While Murdoch’s threats were predictably empty, and revealed an expected ignorance of the robots tag, recent rumors seem to lend them some veracity. Some Internet speculators have suggested that Microsoft may enter the fray by paying News Corp. to remove its search results from Google and instead allow the company to list its content exclusively on Microsoft’s Bing search engine. This, our venerable Internet oracles suggest, would offer newspapers a significant stream of revenue, and, to Microsoft’s delight, violently pluck feathers from Google’s otherwise unblemished plumage.

And perhaps it is here that we can draw our connection. Unlike the great majority of us, Murdoch has enough clout that he can effectively twist’s Google’s arm, offering a somewhat cockamamie ultimatum to one of the most influential companies of all time. Just imagine if we could do the same. If the key to securing our digital traces is to remove them from those parties that harvest them, perhaps staking our claim is all that we can do. Hell, it would be icing on the cake if Microsoft paid us to do it.

Of course, there are two parts to this. One, it’s just as likely that we can do more to protect our sensitive information by just not putting it out there in the first place. Many of our online mistakes enter our consciousnesses via indiscriminate Facebook tagging, not to mention poorly-executed (and potentially alcohol-induced) tweets and status updates. It’s obvious how this can be curtailed.

The second half of the equation is more or less out of our control. As more and more of our daily functions become more and more digitized, it’s inevitable that there will be breaches of trust, leaks of information. Information is the commodity of the 21st century. Controlling it, harvesting it and selling it are rapidly becoming more and more important than perhaps, you might say, even matters of life and death.

CNN falls from grace, hits a few branches on the way down

Posted in journalism by Ricardo Bilton on 26-August-2009

Picture 3

Here’s a question: If is 52nd on Alexa’s search rankings, and is 1,505th, why is the former mimicking the later?

The Most Trusted Name in News recently posted (and then updated) an “article” presenting a list of “The 12 Most annoying types of Facebookers,” a list that, while arguably accurate, certainly speaks to a trend in declining standards for the news organization.

Of course the article could also speak to an increased awareness of CNN’s (and, indeed Time’s) part on what people tend to read online: Lists. List’s are a simple, and oftentimes controversial way, to draw in readers, readers who will , hopefully, in turn, click links to other lists, and (again, hopefully) eventually  read a substantial news piece. That’s how CNN envisions it working. And perhaps it does work out that way.

But it certainly doesn’t shine favorably on them. But times are rough and traditional news sites like CNN and Time are certainly taking a beating from more recent offerings like The Huffington Post. Still, there is something to be said about the recent taking to top-ten lists, not least of which being its the most annoying form of flattery.

Animal abuse and taking (a slight) issue with The Daily Show’s media commentary

Posted in journalism, television by Ricardo Bilton on 9-June-2009

I have been giving the John Stewart/Steven Colbert programming another go these past few days, and noticing  that, while it is likely a regular part of The Daily Show’s programming, Stewart spends an inordinate amount of time criticizing television news personalities, as well as the entirety of Fox News.

I get it. It’s funny. The Bill O’Reillys and Geraldo Riveras and Keith Olbermanns of the media world are untapped havens of comedic gold. They are pre-made caricatures, neatly wrapped in suits and ties and neatly-combed hair, wearing the masks “journalistic integrity” and “complete seriousness”  too tightly to be seriously considered either. They create that aura, and their viewers immerse themselves in it. Fox News as a whole, of course, is even easier, and it is more often that not painfully transparent their transgressions against the very profession they so adamantly profess to be protecting.

But in watching The Daily Show, I have come to the conclusion that it is perhaps a bit too easy to criticize the television media. The lines that the Fox and MSNBC personalities have drawn between journalism and entertainment have been doused with kerosene and smudged beyond recognition. These figures have opinions – strong opinions – and no amount of so-called journalistic integrity is going to give them adequate reason to relinquish them.

Stewart spent over a third of Monday’s broadcast criticizing them. It was funny, to be sure, but also slightly tiring: I had heard the jokes before, and Stewart is the one who told them. Fox News, at this point doesn’t even need Stewart to ridicule them. And yet he soldiers on, playing clips of Sean Hannity and company ad nasuem. The Daily Show crew isn’t reporting on news so much as they are reporting on the news media, a watchdog wrapped in the fleece of comedic ridicule.

I can only comment so much because, after all, the whole thing invaribly makes for good entertainment. But I would advise John Stewart to take to heart the following comparrison: Poking fun at Fox News is a bit like yanking a cat’s tail. Sure, it’s funny  and exciting the first ten times, but after a while you sort of feel bad for the poor animal. And cats have a way of causing the nastiest little scratches.

A step towards the holodeck, and why I’m cautiously optimistic about Microsoft’s Project Natal

Posted in Video games by Ricardo Bilton on 5-June-2009

A number of emotions took hold of me as I watched (and re-watched) the various demonstrations of Microsoft’s new Project Natal “controller.” Shock gave way to amazement, amazement, to disbelief, disbelief to skepticism. Eventually, that skepticism gave way to an acute sense of cynicism: Project Natal couldn’t possibly work. It just couldn’t.

And yet, somehow, it does. Microsoft, as it would seem, has successfully deleted the controller.

In the process, the company has leapfrogged over Nintendo, presenting consumers with yet another solution to the Casual Gamer Conundrum: How can we get more people to play games? Nintendo’s response was, simplify the controller, make the games less daunting. Microsoft’s answer was remove the controller entirely.

And they did just that. But while Microsoft’s ostensibly revolutionary device speaks to the rapidly evolving gaming climate, their entry into the brave new world forged by Nintendo raises a few questions.


Nintendo's Wii Motion Plus

For one, is anyone really ready for it? If there is anything that the Wii showed, it is that developers still have quite a bit of ground to cover before they truly deliver the type of experiences Nintendo teased way back when the Wii was revealed. Brilliant and awe-inspiring tech demonstrations have given way to half-baked executions of seemingly perfect ideas. Red Steel, for example, was supposed to show off the Wii’s capability to create a true sword fighting experience.  It didn’t, and the game itself was largely horrible. Sloppy and oftentimes unplayable, it the title was rushed out the door in time for the Wii’s holiday launch.

Later titles reinforced much of the same pattern. Developers had the ideas, but lacked the vision to seamlessly execute them. Title after titled faltered, and most came across glorified tech demonstrations rather than full-fledged games.  Even Nintendo’s flagship franchises – Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda – largely failed to capitalize on the Wii’s possibilities. Hence why Nintendo announced Wii Motion Plus, an add-on  intended to fix many of the most blatant drawbacks about the original Wiimote hardware.  But advanced hardware doesn’t create games, developers do, and there have been few titles thus far that have done what many have been anxiously hoping for since 2005.

Thus, some of my hesitations about Project Natal come to the fore: How long will it take for developers to really take advantage of the hardware? My prediction is  that it’s going to take pretty damn long. This is a caliber of motion-sensing far more advanced than many thought companies were capable of at this juncture, at least on a mass-consumer scale. I’m still not quite convinced that Project Natal (can we call it X-Cam?) will either be affordable or compelling to most of the casual gamers Microsoft is attempting to corral. It’s an add-on, which hardly bodes well for it in the first place, but it’s also an add-on for a console that caters almost exclusively to the type of games – and gamers – that would not in the slightest benefit from its inclusion. Perhaps if Microsoft made the hardware the center of a future console, it would have a better chance at achieving universal success. As unlikely as it may seem, this console generation has already been decided, and the major console makers are certainly turning their attention to the next five years with a great deal of intensity.

And it shows. Nintendo’s announcement of the Wii Vitality Sensor might just be an inkling as to what the company will be attempting next: Games that feel you. Rather than remove connections, Nintendo might just be aiming to add them, opting for technology that allows gamers a more physical connection with the games they play. Consider the possibility of games that respond to your pulse and body temperature rather than just your movements. Nintendo’s slightly bizarre announcement can certainly be taken as a hint that they are taking the issue of immersion a bit further than simply movement.

Microsoft’s “Project Natal” is certainly a step into the future and a brilliant piece of technology. As uncertain as its status currently seems, what is certain is that it will give way to a plethora of new gaming expereinces. But its creation also reflects Mircosot’s bitterly intimate knowlege that Nintendo has had it right all along: The casual gamers really are the key to all of this, and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Twitter nearly gimps itself, calls change “small settings update”

Posted in Uncategorized by Ricardo Bilton on 13-May-2009

From ze Twitter blog:

We’ve updated the Notices section of Settings to better reflect how folks are using Twitter regarding replies. Based on usage patterns and feedback, we’ve learned most people want to see when someone they follow replies to another person they follow—it’s a good way to stay in the loop. However, receiving one-sided fragments via replies sent to folks you don’t follow in your timeline is undesirable. Today’s update removes this undesirable and confusing option.

Twitter has over twenty million users, which is more users than Netherlands has people. You know how many of of those 23 million people I follow? 211  – and that includes a few joke accounts like Professor Oak and accidents like Eminem.

So it’s a bit astonishing to me to find that to see that Twitter is actually trying to make it harder to see what all of those million and millions of people are up to. Instead, the Biz crew wants me to follow Oprah and Ashton Kutcher.

Here’s the honest to goodness truth, Biz – I don’t care with Oprah as to tweet about. I never cared for what she had to talk about. Why would I go out of my way to see how her life is faring? I’m sure is faring perfectly well.

But I do like following people I haven’t heard of. That’s one of the greatest things about Twitter – discovering people I never knew existed. That’s why this recent settings change irks me. Tweaking the nature of the @ reply might make it easier for Oprah to read the Tweets of the eleven people she follows, but it makes it far harder for many other users to see how the people whom they follow are talking to.

Thankfully, the Twitter folks added this:

Despite this update, you’ll still see mentions or references linking to people you don’t follow. For example, you’ll continue to see, “Ev meeting with @biz about work stuff” even if you don’t follow @biz.

The Twitterverse might have jumped the gun slightly on this one, as that addendum severely weakens the severity of the tweak. At least Twitter isn’t completely obliterating the existence of people you don’t know. Still, as with all things, it’s better to be given the option to have the @ reply system kept intact. It’s obvious that the people complaining the most are the people who care the most about keeping the sytem intact. Why not give those people the option to opt-in? How much does that really change for the rest of the userbase?

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Wall Street Journal considering micro-payments

Posted in journalism, newspapers by Ricardo Bilton on 11-May-2009

…but how much are people willing to pay for information?

The Financial Times reports that the Wall Street Journal is in the process of implementing a micro-payment system for its website, a move that raises questions about the direction that these companies are going.

Similar to what I talked about yesterday, the newspaper industry’s future really hinges on how much people are willing to pay for what they currently get for free. How much value do people attach to be informed? Information itself, I’d wager, doesn’t hold the same amount of value for many people as music and movies do, so it would be risky for the Wall Street Journal to expect many people to flock to their site once the new system is implemented.

That’s a key point here: None of these measures will create new readers. People tend to avoid paying for things. These payment systems, as a result, are aimed at the people who care most about the information they are receiving – professionals, academics, etc. The Wall Street Journal’s site is currently subscription-based, which likely explains why I, as a Poor College Student, have never read an article on it.

Times are hard. The newspaper folk are going to be hard-pressed to find people willing to pay for what the Huffington Post Offers and other online newssources don’t charge a penny for.

Going, going, gone – are newspapers on their way out?

Posted in Internet, journalism, newspapers by Ricardo Bilton on 11-May-2009

It’s rarely a good sign for your industry when the U.S. government starts holding hearings questioning your future.

But that’s just the position the newspaper industry finds itself in right now. For a variety of reasons, some products of self-induced gunshots, some not, the newspaper industry  now finds itself  struggling for its survival.

But Frank Rich’s recent column raises an interesting point, one that is, while sobering, vital in the discussion over where newspapers and journalism are going.

In the Internet era, many sectors of American media have been re-enacting their at first complacent and finally panicked behavior of 60 years ago. Few in the entertainment business saw the digital cancer spreading through their old business models until well after file-sharing, via Napster, had started decimating the music industry. It’s not only journalism that is now struggling to plot a path to survival. But, with all due respect to show business, it’s only journalism that’s essential to a functioning democracy. And it’s not just because — as we keep being tediously reminded — Thomas Jefferson said so.

His point is essentially this: While the future of the newspaper industry is in doubt, that of journalism, the raw product that newspapers commodify, is noticeably less so.

I draw corollaries to the record industry, which finds itself in a similar position. Robbed of their power and influence by the forces of the internet, the gatekeepers at the record industry are, like the newspapermen, scrambling to find a business model that works in this new and rapidly-changing climate. The record industry’s raw product, however – music – remains as strong as ever. In fact, it’s easily arguable that the music industry has been strengthened by the Internet. Pull media is the future, a reality that the newspaper and record industry folk are only beginning to come to terms with.

The simple truth here is that the Internet has become a force that vastly overpowers what established industries want to use it for. Information has a tendency to go where it wants, and with people sharing it, there is little any of us can do to contain it.

But that reality casts into further doubt the ability for any of the newspapers to survive. Just because information has the inclination to be free, doesn’t mean it should be. Giving away content indefinitely inevitably means suicide – that is,  unless advertising picks up the slack. But in today’s economy,  advertisers aren’t doing as much business as they used to – hence why so many newspapers are in the red right now.

Some see the future of newspapers – or at least their online portions – within the realm of a paid service, where users pay for access to one or a number of sites. The inevitable question, of course, is whether customers would be willing to pay for what they at one point got for free.

I’ll be honest and say that, yes, I’d pay ten dollars a month for access to The New York Times. But  how many people would agree with me? That’s the billion-dollar question.

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Could Hog CAFO’s have given rise to swine flu?

Posted in Uncategorized by Ricardo Bilton on 28-April-2009

Makes sense to me.

Paula Hay at Peak Oil Eutepenuer writes:

One of the ways Influenza-A viruses can spread is through manure. Given that H1N1 is an Influenza-A subtype it is entirely possible, if not likely, that flies could carry virus-containing manure particles from Granjas-Carroll CAFO lagoons to people. These need not be injected by the flies directly into humans, such as with West Nile Virus; it is enough that a fly might deposit manure particles containing the virus on a person’s face, hands, or uncooked food.

The argument that the nature of the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations – has given rise to swine flu makes far too much sense to ignore. When you have large groups of animals stewing in their own manure, diseases are bound to spread.  Hay is right to likewise argue that the events over the last few days should cause us to question the food industry’s trend towards consolidation.

We shouldn’t be surprised.  Scientists and journalists have been warning of the danger of avian influenza for years. The only difference between the current scenario and the one predicted  is that we are talking about pigs instead of chickens. But that’s just biology. Pigs and humans are closer genetically than chickens and pigs. It was only a matter of time before a virus the caliber of H5N1 made the jump to humans – pigs are only a detour.

Paul Roberts dedicated an entire chapter to this issue in “The End of Food.” In it he writes, accurately, that the nature of modern  food production, the very thing that allows so many people to be (over)fed is the same thing capable of obliterating us, especially in light of the fact that so much of our food is produced by a very select group of corporations. But changing any of it, he also writes,  is an uphill struggle, as the last thing a company like, say, Smithfield would want to do is increase prices. Customers would just drop the swine and begin eating beef or chicken.

In any event, Smithfield denies the claims that they are the cause, and we still waiting on documented proof for any of this. Give it a few days.

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The reporter, the blogger, and The Student stuck between – some musings

Posted in journalism by Ricardo Bilton on 23-November-2008

Thanksgiving break has given me a few precious days to do a bit of recreational reading, and the first book I turned to was Rosenberg & Feldman’s No Time To Think: The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle. Fairly straightforward title, and the authors make no hesitations about making their points known.

In any case, I’m roughly at the halfway point of the book, just finishing the chapter titled Blog On!, and I wanted to make a few comments, more so for my own benefit than anything, on some interesting intersections that the chapter draws with my experiences writing for The Amherst Student.

A bit of background. The Student is Amherst College’s independent student-run newspaper. It circulates weekly, being delivered in stacks to Amherst students each Wednesday morning. Currently, the publication draws a fairly lukewarm reception from students, who largely see it is superfluous and lacking in substance.

The Student shares the Amherst College publication sphere with a few other entities, most notably, The Indicator, described as the “Amherst College’s journal of political and social thought.” Compared to The Student, The Indicator draws a more enthused reaction from students on both the reading and writing sides of things. One of the main issues that The Student‘s editors have to deal with on a weekly basis is the rather paltry staff of writers. The Indicator rarely has such issues and is usually able to procure enough willing writers to write pieces for their biweekly issues.

Which raises the unavoidable question of “why.” Why do so many more students seem drawn to write for The Indicator as opposed to The Student? This is a question that The Student staff has been trying to answer for a while now, in the hopes that an answer would inspire tactics to reverse the trend of waning writer support.

I can’t say that I’ve come to the conclusion myself, but I believe I’ve made some headway, due in part to the points made in the Blog On! chapter of No Time to Think.

A part of it, I think, has to do with the new and awesome sexiness of blogging, a sexiness that has somehow not managed to wane since the blog’s inception. There are over a hundred million blogs online right now, each with writers expressing opinions, hurling facts, and creating discussion. The fact of the matter is that people like expressing their opinions. Where The Amherst Student and The Indicator differ is that while The Student exists to cover news, the Indicator exists to present opinions, to columnize.

Thus, The Student/Indicator relation is a microcosm of the increased revulsion we are seeing towards traditional news media. People have turned from  straightforward news coverage to news with a twist, that is, news with opinion and glitz sprinkled liberally.

Case in point: A few Amherst students last year launched the Amherst Public, a blog network dedicated to giving Amherst students a central place to go in order to read the opinions of their classmates. The initial fervor of the site’s paid bloggers, as well as that of the regular ones, has since died down, giving way to a homepage that has not been updated in over a month and a seemingly nonexistent userbase.

Of course, the Amherst Public situation might be a result of a campus stretched too thin, or perhaps a campus apathetic, or something.  In any case, what I see when I look at the state of the Amherst College publication sphere is a relative lack of interest in traditional news writing. And, while we could make a case that there isn’t much news happening on a campus of 1,600 students, there is a notable lack of writer involvement even for a campus of its size.

Maybe the field of journalism has just lost its repute. Maybe College Students just don’t want to be journalists anymore; maybe Amherst College students are just inordinately busy. And, while I can’t say for sure what the causes of the situation are, the effects could not be clearer: The Student has certainly lost its place as a hub of information gathering. The next step would be figuring out how to reverse the situation.

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