On Friday night, I helped a friend set up her Google Reader (I know — what a wild’n’crazy life I lead!). In convincing her to give the wonderful world of RSS a try, two things came up:
1. Having everything come to the same central location makes keeping up with a variety of blogs and magazines much easier, and so I read them more (and more often) — just about what one might expect.
2. In a less expected result, I find that having so many different sources jumbled together within Reader also encourages synthetic thinking in a manner that’s otherwise harder to come by. Reading articles from The Economist next to posts from Colorlines offers an opportunity to discover systemic links, the threads which underpin issues of race, class, fiscal policy, foreign policy, urban planning, the environment; none of these are discrete problems, though they’re often treated as such. Adjacency is a pretty simple cognitive trick, but just as the mash-up has altered the way musical genres are viewed, so too can the associative thinking engendered by feed-reading technology enable us to approach the sociopolitical landscape in new ways as well.