Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What’s in the box?

About the only bit of quantum theory I can really get my head around is the idea that observation affects results; that once the box is opened, Schrödinger’s cat is no longer in its dead/undead state, it’s one or the other.

So although we may have a desire to know, sometimes we hold back from investigating in case we affect the result, and thus become the story. In the aftermath of the Raoul Moat saga, there was much harrumphing about the Facebook page set up in his honour by one Siobhan O’Dowd; did tens of thousands of people really think this pink-faced slab of self-pity was really a legend? Well, possibly not. It’s been suggested that a good number – possibly a majority – of those who nominally ‘liked’ the page actually did so to tell the Moat fans what a bunch of idiots they were. And the more people who did that, the higher the number of apparent Moat fans rose. If you just wanted to find out out the relative numbers of pro- and anti-Raoulards, you still had to press the ‘like’ button, skewing the numbers still further.


There was a similar dilemma for those who wanted to find out how well the Times website was doing since it introduced its new paywall. It wasn’t simply a matter of not wanting to drop a few quid into Murdoch’s pocket; it was the knowledge that to take a peek would skew the statistics, making the reader part of the news. Of course, it would be harder in this case to be able to put a number on the readers, or indeed to distinguish between the merely curious and those actually willing to pay because they wanted to read the words and look at the picture. But one could get an idea of how successful the enterprise was by, for example, the number of readers appending comments to the latest Jeremy Clarkson article, presumably along the lines of “ROFL Jeremy Clarkson You Legend”. Incidentally, I’ve always been impressed by Clarkson’s use of metaphors that seem to imply that a car is a beautiful woman, and at the same time his own penis; a paradox that even Schrödinger may have struggled to explain.

And on a slightly different note (but back to Facebook), the tale of the Dr Pepper campaign that referenced the notoriously scatological 2 Girls 1 Cup film clip. The story broke on the tediously ubiquitous Mumsnet (of course it did) and immediately presented professionally disgusted news outlets with a dilemma of their own; how to communicate the depravity of the film under discussion, without actually naming it, or saying why it’s so depraved? The Telegraph had a go with a reference to “a hardcore pornographic film which is notorious for the obscene practices it depicts”, although one wonders what sort of hardcore pornographic film doesn’t depict obscene practices. And of course whether unhygienic but consensual behaviour should be a matter too disgusting to be discussed by the same media outlets that had been covering in forensic detail the activities of a murderous sociopath just a few days previously.

PS: David Hepworth also reflects on whether you can talk about swearing when you’re not allowed to swear.

10 comments:

moreidlethoughts said...

I'm old enough to remember the graphic (I think they were called "cartoons")that did the rounds when personal computers were new: a toilet bowl with various levers and instructions, the moral(?) being "garbage in-garbage out."
I spy similarities.

brokenbiro said...

You get a small bowl of olives when you go through the Times paywall? I'm in! (Never underestimate the power of 'free' stuff to lure people into anything.)

Vicus Scurra said...

Thank you for another piece of entertaining and erudite writing, I fear I may lower the tone by swearing a bit.
I was under the impression that we were going to have to pay for NOT reading the Times, and I was worried how long I could go without being detected.
Can anyone tell me what kind of ferret-fornicating fuckwit would pay to read the lies and loathsome propaganda that pour out of Murdoch's greasy arse?

Rol said...

"how to communicate the depravity of the film under discussion, without actually naming it, or saying why it’s so depraved?"

Nice of you to solve that for them. All the Telegraph had to do was insert the word 'scatological' into their description and voila - job done. They should employ you...

...next time they have to write a piece about excrement-related hardcore.

Annie said...

"I’ve always been impressed by Clarkson’s use of metaphors that seem to imply that a car is a beautiful woman, and at the same time his own penis"

v good

Tim Footman said...

GiGo pretty much holds true for any enterprise, MIT.

It's a good deal, isn't it, Biro? Do you think you can demand big fat Kalamatas?

I still maintain that AA Gill is a good restaurant reviewer, Vicus. And Clarkson is there to amuse angry white males, and stop them from shooting pe... oh.

Unfortunately, Rol, Simon Heffer's got his beady eye on that job.

Thank you, Annie. Sort of Schrödinger meets Freud, innit?

Spinsterella said...

I tried to have a look at 2G1C a while back, curious after seeing lots of reactions.

Couldn't though - it's behind a bloody paywall!

Rog said...

Top Gear is really "Three Blokes One Cup" watched by a sad bunch of anal retentives in a Hanger. I'm off to drop that bombshell on Mumsnet.

Geoff said...

Clarkson's erect penis has the vital statistics 36-24-36.

Millimetres.

blackwatertown said...

Talking about swearing without swearing. Oh yes - very possible. Just the sort of thing I used to enjoy organising. Keeps one alert.