Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Power of Twitter

Let's suppose I want to find an intelligent review of a film.

If I just put the name of the film into Google, I will get endless repetitions of the synopsis, together with details of cinemas showing the film, or places to buy/download.

In my post You don't have to be smart to search here ... but it helps (Nov 2008), I outlined one possible trick. If you put the name of the film together with a random cultural icon (my example was Lacan), you will get reviews of the film that name-drop the icon. That immediately filters out all the standard cinema listings. However, you might need to try a number of different cultural icons until you strike lucky.

A second option is to subscribe to good magazines. When I watched the film Anomalisa, I didn't immediately make the connection with Schopenhauer. The connection was made for me by a fascinating review by Zadie Smith in the New York Review of Books.

Once you know that such a connection exists, you can use Google to find it. But Google won't make that connection for you - unless sufficient numbers of other people have already made that connection.

So here's a third option. Twitter allows you to have a list of intelligent film critics, and intelligent magazines containing intelligent film reviews. Either you decide for yourself what counts as intelligent, or you adopt someone else's list. Then you can search through the list for seriously intelligent reviews of the latest film. You can't do anything quite like this with Google.

When you search for something, Google can give you page after page of practically identical material - for example, hundreds of newspapers all repeating the same press release. What one really wants is a search engine that works out which page represents the original source, which pages represent replications with no added content or value, and which pages offer additional commentary and interpretation. It is possible that Twitter, with its conversational structure, may be closer to providing this kind of navigation. But only if the platform can achieve reasonable commercial viability without being polluted.

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