Living off the news grid: Communication re-design.

20Aug10

“Going off the grid” is an expression designed to make us think it’s about nothing but sacrifice – a perfect example of framing as George Lakoff describes it. Because it quite literally says we’re giving something up (Oh no! Not the GRID!!!), we’re pre-conditioned to anticipate a loss. As with fossil fuels, so it is with that one-way fire hose of car crashes, fear, loathing, violence, corruption, lies and terror that our competitive 24/7 world of journalism has become.

But good things happen when you “go off”. In fact, life teaches us that when anything is eliminated, no matter how crucial we think it is, or how much we think we’ll miss it, we find a hidden blessing in the room it leaves for the universe to fill in surprising ways, or simply for the time it gives us to notice other things. It leads to the discovery of a whole new sense of the world that is closer to human scale, more hopeful, more enjoyable and closer to what is real. This is in part because the news doesn’t reflect reality any more than listening to a campaigning politician does, and partly because it gives us a little time to spend thinking about how we might go about creating a world that isn’t filled with car crashes, fear, loathing, violence, corruption and terror.

I gave up “news” in the drinking from the fire hose sense years ago. I prefer to see what surfaces through filtered sources like friends, colleagues or the New Yorker (and ok, The Huff Post). I figure anything important makes it’s way to me, with less hysteria.

I am late to the party on some current events, to be sure. At a dinner a few nights ago, I had to ask someone what they were laughing about regarding a JetBlue flight attendant, an inflatable slide and a couple of beers.

I will never forget the guy who sold me my first fancy bike when I moved to New York City, not only for his mammoth spandex-wrapped thighs, but for the advice he gave me. He said, “this is going to seem self-evident, but when you’re out on the road, don’t look at the things you want to avoid.” If you stare at a pothole, you will likely hit it. Likewise a broken beer bottle.

I see that as kind of a fractal truth – a small truth about the connection between our individual subconscious directing our forward movement  – nested in a huge truth about our collective subconscious directing our trajectory as a species.

If we think, as I do, about the media as one big communication system, perfectly designed, as all systems are, to produce the effect they produce, it is no wonder we have a world filled with bad news. It’s all we think about. We have to look where we want to go, and at what we want more of in our world, not at what we want to avoid. If we continue, as we have been, to focus on all that’s wrong and broken and fear inducing, that is what we will continue to create for ourselves – and crash into.

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One Response to “Living off the news grid: Communication re-design.”

  1. 1 Lori Bloomberg

    Cheryl,

    Great commentary. so far many of these articles I receive from you very much strike a cord with me. This one especially.

    I hope this message finds you well.

    Lori (Lodato) Bloomberg former SiegelGale Colleague


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