Responsiveness, Not their Insight or Depth: The Schlemiel in the Google Age


Schlemiel Theory is the most popular online space for the schlemiel in the world.  No other blog or website features as many essays, guest posts, and interviews on the schlemiel as Schlemiel Theory.   I do my utmost to make sure that they are interesting, fun, informative, and academically sound.  I also seek out great writers, poets, and scholars who also share my love for the schlemiel to guest post.

Schlemiel Theory has an archive of literally hundreds of essays on the schlemiel (more than any published by any scholar of schlemiel theory).  Included in the essays are several unique reflections on Jewish philosophy, literature, comedy, and Jewishness.  The essays put forth wide-ranging discussions on the contemporary schlemiel in America and abroad, the schlemiel in American, Yiddish, and European literature, and the schlemiel that dwells or rather slips through Jewish philosophy.

Schlemiel Theory takes up, regularly, the schlemiel in film, in theater, on the pages of graphic novels, and on television.  I can happily report that Schlemiel Theory’s Facebook page is growing daily as are its Twitter and blog followers.  Today, over six thousand people receive, on a weekly basis, Schlemiel Theory’s posts.

For this I give thanks.

But after socially networking the schlemiel and bringing it to the next digital level, I continue to wonder about how the schlemiel can continue to exist in what Eric Schmitt and Jered Cohen of Google would call the “New Digital Age”?

To ponder this question, I have turned to Eric Schmitt and Jared Cohen of Google.  In their book, The New Digital Age: Transforming Nations, Businesses, and Our Lives they discuss the crisis that will happen over the next ten years.  They note how the Main Stream Media (MSM) will “increasingly find themselves a step behind the reporting of news worldwide”(48, The Digital Age: Transforming Nations, Businesses, and Our Lives).   This is where, Schmitt and Cohen argue, a crisis will occur which will transform the entire digital landscape. And this crisis has to do with “reporting.”  They describe reporting in terms of a major breakdown and a challenge that must now – or in the very near future – be met:

These organizations simply cannot move quickly enough in a connected age, no matter how talented their reporters and stringers are, no how many sources they have.  Instead, the world’s breaking news will continually come from platforms like Twitter: open networks that facilitate information-sharing instantly, widely and in accessible packages.  (48)

While desire for immediate connection and “immediate methods of information delivery” is gaining momentum, the MSM is “lagging behind.”  And for this reason, it will lose the “loyalty” of the global audience.  This loyalty will be given to this or that “outlet” based on the “analysis and perspectives these outlets offer” and the “trust they have in these institutions”(48).    These outlets, in other words, must gain the trust and loyalty of these audiences.

But this announces a crisis: “in other words, some people will split their loyalty between new platforms for breaking news and established media organizations for the rest of the story”(48).

It is the demand of the “new global public,” that established organizations adapt or die.   Now “as language barriers break down and the cell towers rise, there will be no end to the number of new voices, potential sources, citizen journalists and amateur photographers looking to contribute”(49).  In the wake of this crisis, “the global audience,” and not just the creators of new media, “benefits as well.”  Through access to all of this media “it will have an exposure to a greater range of issues and perspectives”(49).

But isn’t this proliferation of perspectives nihilistic?  How do we know which outlet is producing the truth?  Does this dissolve the place of truth and reduce everything to belief?  And what happens if this proliferation of media, this crisis, prompts the death of the MSM?

Cohen and Schmidt anticipate this question.

Their answer is telling. The only role that the MSM will have is to “report less and validate more.”  The new role of the MSM is as “aggregator, custodian, and verifier, a credibility filter that sifts through all of this data and highlights what is and is not worth reading, understanding, and trusting”(49).    Nonetheless, Cohen and Schmitt admit that the MSM will be of greater meaning to “the elite – business leaders, policy makers, and intellecutals who rely on the established media”(49).  All the other billions of people could care less.  They only want immedicacy.

Schmitt and Cohen use Twitter as an example of this wild media:

Twitter can no more produce analysis than a monkey can type out a work of Shakespeare (although a heated Twitter exchange between two smart, credible people can come close); the strength of an open, unregulated information-sharing platforms is their responsiveness, not their insight or depth. (49)

How does schlemiel theory fit into this “digital world”?

The only MSM for Schlemiel Theory is the world of academia.   Schlemiel Theory is a part of that world and yet, at the same time, it has created its own portal for the schlemiel.  It is different from anything ever produced in academia.  It not only discusses the schlemiel from an academic perspective, it also keeps the study of the schlemiel alive in the digital (and not just the academic) world. Were it not for this blog, only a handful of academics would discuss the schlemiel.

This blog brings the schlemiel to the world and keeps it real.

Playing on Schmidt and Cohen, I’d say that people look to Schlemiel Theory not just for its “responsiveness” but also for its “insight” and “depth.”  As Schlemiel Theory comes to its fourth year – in eight days it will have its birthday – I feel that it is important to elaborate on how Schlemiel Theory will continue to take the lead and not lag-behind.  It is after all, in the front of the schlemiel line – wherever that is.  With each film or television show that seems to move.

The important thing for me, as the author of this blog, is to say, right here, that I will continue to keep up with the schlemiel that is not just in film or on television, in books or graphic novels, but also on the music scene, on Youtube or Twitter, or on Facebook or on WordPress. With an eye to the past, I will also continue to write essays on the schlemiel in literature, philosophy, and global Jewish culture.  I really enjoy doing this.  It’s fun and entertaining to follow the schlemiel and her ventures throughout the world, like a Jewish American Sancho Panza following Don Quixote.

Schlemiel Theory is academically and culturally engaged in the study of the schlemiel and in its promotion.   And, most importantly, in relation to you, I’ll do my best to make sure that – like many a schlemiel – I don’t lag behind or get too lost.  I’m here, like Kafka’s Abraham, ready and looking for a friend.   And in all of this, I feel closest to Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye who, at the beginning of the novel by his name, says the words  “kontoni” – I am small – with the words “I am not worthy.”  Tevye doesn’t think he is worthy of being put in a book of Sholem Aleichem.  How can such a small person (from a small town in the sticks) be in the book of such a big and popular writer (from the city)?

And it is to you the readers and authors who I can say, “kotonti.”  I am not worthy!  I’m small.  And you are big.  You are the digital world.  I am honored to be not only in a book you can find in this or that library but also, and perhaps more importantly, in the world, the digital world.  Which is not only your world; its ours.  And may there be more schlemiels in it because its hard to keep up in the Google Age when you keep on falling down.

More schlemiels!

Menachem (Menkis) Feuer

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