Saturday, January 9, 2010

Undevelopment in the Information Age

Sometimes I think I can't possibly be seeing what I'm seeing.

During the Bush administration, I saw Web sites change to produce LESS information for the American people on science, mathematics, and medicine. These items were not related to the Patriot Act or national security. They were reports on new scientific developments, and not all of them were part of politicized issues.

When they were part of politicized issues, it left the opposing camp's information to be disseminated by an frequently-awful propaganda of its own.

Ancillary reports disappeared, for instance on farm inspections and agrarian technology in developing countries. These were countries that don't like to be scrutinized, but need the scrutiny--for corruption, economic development, and human rights issues. The State Department saves everything. They've got plenty of storage space on their web site. So these items were removed for diplomatic reasons, perhaps.
This is significant.

I saw the Energy Department dumb itself down and fail to get out front on several issues, such as Iran and uranium, or North Korea and plutonium.
I have not seen them fix this yet. You still can't get, for instance, much information on international energy at the EIA (Energy Information Administration) of the D of E. This may be a Bureaucracy issue: the DoE isn't known institutionally as a bunch of firecrackers. This is also a mistake for our country.

Now, the United Nations:
Why is the UNODC drug report full of human trafficking and not drugs for 2009?
Why is the international atomic Energy Administration taking on adolescent obesity?
The first issue is best addressed by the UNODC, sure. In a separate but linked report. Or an expanded report. It's not either-or.
The second off-topic issue is best addressed by the World Health Organization. Somewhere after HIV, malaria, cholera, and prenatal care. I would like the governing body of fissile material to stay on-point.

Now, your local newspaper.
They're in financial trouble, and people increasingly access them through the internet.
It's one thing to charge for an article. We don't have to like it, but they have to do something.
It's another thing entirely to have an archive that's only thirty days old.
It means that the citizenry cannot develop a long-term memory about what its politicians are doing, or measure performance against campaign promises.

We have an expanding set of tools. But they're only as good as we demand that they be.

I had no idea I would write about this today. Truth is, I was looking for a nuclear map.


The Observer said...

Dear Ann T

Didn't ever find that nuclear map, did you?

The local newspaper! When I wrote my entry on the history of EMS video that I posted, I wanted to have a link that would explain the Hiatt Regency disaster that I referred to, for those with HDD (History Deficency Disorder). I first went to the Kansas City Star's site, but there was nothing there, nothing. I had to do a full Google thing. The only paper I know does way back archives is the New York Times, and if you go back far enough, they will charge you, but at least it's there. I was very disappointed in the Star for having no access to the original news articles concerning the disaster.

We have this ability to cache all sorts of wonderful stuff and make it accessable, and we don't. For the current generation, not oriented to paper, they will come up uninformed. (I was going to say stupid, but that's not quite right or fair.)

The Observer

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
You're right! Haven't found it yet.

I just read Michael Connelly's the Scarecrow about the change in journalism and access via computers.
I'm afraid the archives are going. We will need our librarians more than ever, on-line and bricks and mortar.

Thanks for writing in,
Ann T.