Every piece of writing is refined and polished to for its own particular purpose. Often times we are able to perceive an author’s imagination, hopes, sometimes even teachings by merely scrutinizing their work. On the other hand, it stands to reason that writing, like all other forms of occupation, is frequently undertaken in the hopes of gathering an audience and earn a living. Thusly a division among writers can be made between those them who write to share their work and those who write to sell their work. This criterion seems to skew one’s ability to remain objective when reading as it implies a certain deviousness within the author. As though a mighty cackle could be heard upon the purchase of their every book, it stands to reason that people would dislike the notion of buying a product which is not validated by its creator as it innately conveys confounded values or some abundance of pointlessness. Fortunately, this concept is best used to extrapolate deeper understanding of the author’s focus rather than abruptly reject the details provided because it can, when recognized appropriately, be used as a filter to reread the text with the perspective that it was written by an author who strives to hold their readers’ attention.
Diogenes Laertius stands as a particularly interesting example of this phenomenon as his Lives of the Eminent Philosophers typically reads concise to the extent that his carefully sculpted sentences can resemble an articulate list of facts. Although Diogenes seems to convey a genuine interest in his chosen subject material, Eli Parisar recently spoke at a TED talk –a nonprofit organization concerned with the spread of ideas, usually through social gatherings and seminars- and provided evidence for a reexamination of Diogenes’ texts. Parisar began by identifying that although seemingly innocent in nature, filtration systems like those used by Facebook, Google, and Netflix can ultimately isolate individuals despite their connection via the Internet. Parisar explains that after being used to scourer the web, these engines examine the first results chosen by the consumer. Although it may appear beneficial to have results based on and of interest to your person, through a few examples he shows that the negative results of such filters can be as minor as having your Netflix disc arrive too late for your planned Friday night viewing, or so influential as to pull out details cleanly. Parisar demonstrates the issue in question by siting two peoples’ search results after they used the auspicious Google to search the word ‘Egypt’. Although results usually only vary slightly, one of the two searches yielded no mention of the 2011 protests in Egypt, despite the fact that it was a leading story of that time. The cause of this miscommunication is attributed to the personalization filter as it has gradually learned to provide us with, as Parisar remarks: “the internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see”. In many ways, this method of personalization personifies the Internet as the only author with enough time to write each reader their own story.
How Diogenes Captures his AudienceEdit
Although bound by the permanence of the written word, Dogenes’ work has elements of exaggeration and even the use of absolutisms in otherwise objective descriptions. Even though these appear to be mere examples of his tendency to cosmetically neaten the flow of ideas by using synonymous words and phrases, they are in fact indicators of the otherwise indiscernible motives of Diogenes. Not unlike a search engine, Diogenes intentionally and unbeknownst to his audience, structures the order of his collected details formulaically. In an attempt to appeal to the interests of the common man at the time, Diogenes’ organizes work with notions nearly identical to those considered when designing social networking interfaces such as Facebook’s. This is almost immediately evident in his first biography about Antisthenes. His writing, having been so relentlessly rehearsed contains in Antisthenes’ biography the transition: “To begin with, he became a pupil of Gorgias” (Diogenes Laertius 3), despite the presence of the preceding introductory paragraph. Diogenes chooses to employ this method frequently; rather than first laboriously dragging the reader through the unfulfilling details of Antisthenes’ childhood, Diogenes begins with a section of quick, innately suspenseful comments. This frequently reads quite like Greek and Roman descriptions of deities and –as is true of Antisthenes’- often capture a potent character quality with a staunch but quick-paced scenario. For example Antisthenes’ account begins: “Antisthenes the son of Antisthenes, was an Athenian. It was said, however, that he was not of pure Attic blood. Hence his reply to one who taunted him with this: ‘The mother of the gods too is a Phrygian”. (Doigenes Laertius 3) Even though Diogenes never claims outright that Antisthenes could stand on par with the gods, instead however he invites the comparison by using this example in which Antisthenes’ subsequently consoles his ego and proves his name, regardless of blood, through succeeding in war and nobly rejecting an Athenian stereotype. Upon concluding the first paragraph of Antisthenes’ biography, Diogenes has instilled a mutual interest in the reader via his inclusion of religious, moral, and traditional values. Here however, after enticing his audience to want to know more, Diogenes digresses into a chronological description of the life of his subject. At last due to the known excitement of what Antisthenes’ life will amount to eventually amount to, people instinctually seek to piece the facts together by continuing his account.
Profile Pictures that are Captivating and Networks that Share them With consideration for the obvious technological confounds, Diogenes’ continues to systematically crop and filter the less intriguing biographical information throughout this collection. This method is fundamentally identical to the considerations held in designing the layout of an individual’s Facebook Profile Information. Just like Diogenes’ work, a personal profile aims to make both exciting information and the less interesting anecdotes into highly appealing forms in order to increase the chances of someone ceasing the act of just browsing and instead reading about another person’s activities due to their common interest. The most evident implementation of this idea is the nature of the profile picture. Profile pictures allow people to choose an easily observable visual cue to represent themselves. In addition to this ‘self portrait’, -which alone does very little since not everyone chooses to create a profile picture-, social networking services also track the network connections made while using an account. This point of commonality actively connects and relates people based on educational histories. Since the majority of ones’ social interactions are rooted in their experience while attending school, network relation is a considerably valuable resource in connecting with someone due to the fact that it renders the factor of distance entirely moot while still considering the most likely common experience, that is to say, education.
But First A JokeEdit
Similar to how Diogenes employed the quick changeover from exciting sections to dull and endless factual paragraphs, Facebook pages do not begin with contact information or discussion content, but rather a short list of several set points of personal information which all people who observe the profile will read first. Unlike the way in which Diogenes relied on appealing to the reader’s interests by starting with a clever anecdotal paragraph which relies on the reader’s recognition and acceptance of traditional Roman values alone, people today are able to bond easier because they are more likely to have in common certain traits due to modern methods of travel. For example, since more people can live in New York before or after moving to Japan or Australia, the common trait, that is, the various places where one has lived, extends to encompass an large and otherwise unrelated group of people. As well, most social networking software displays a person’s age for security purposes, as well as special skills and relationship status. Lastly, such networking software works to link people based on mutual friendships. Interestingly, Diogenes demonstrates his own familiarity with this concept, that by simply noting the interpersonal associations between subjects and historical figures in nearly every of his written accounts. Immediately we are reminded of the example of Antisthenes where Diogenes wrote: “…when he had distinguished himself in the battle of Tanagra, he gave Socrates occasion to remark that, if both of his parents had been Athenians, he would not have turned out so brave” (Diogenes 3), implying that due to Socrates’ own fame, those who have been close enough to inspire him are themselves worth of recognition. This same idea is ever prominent in modern cultures due to the virtually unrealistic extent to which people follow the lives of celebrities.
Groups and fan pages Even though each and every of Diogenes’ biographical topics is capable of being formatted with the schema of a social networking system, the most practical way to understand the subtleties of what Diogenes’ does to mislead the reader and subtly coerce a reader’s interest is to consider, not a page about any subject in particular, but rather Diogenes Laertius’ own well defined profile. If the notion that Diogenes has in fact used his own style for the sheer the purpose of improving his text’s marketability, then he would likely optimize this unique method of subtly extolling his philosophers by discussing their qualities behind the guise of a loyal fan. Evidence that he would choose this method lies subtly within Diogenes’ basic descriptions of his choice subjects. For example when in his description of Pythagoras’ philosophical pursuits, Diogenes writes: “Pythagoras, son of Mnesarchus, practiced inquiry beyond all other men” (Diogenes 325). In order to appear unbiased throughout his work, Diogenes’ often incorporates selected quotes by third parties –just as he did in the aforementioned example involving Socrates- which blatantly express a specific opinion which, although normally discredited as a nonobjective, stand as the objective views of others and as strong biographical detail in his work. Despite the fact that this technique is readily visible and even marked by punctuation, it alters the reader’s expectations when reading opinionated statements. That is to say, most readers become accustomed to reading these opinions in the grammatical form known as reported speech. As a result it can become difficult to distinguish what can be accepted in the interpretative arguments and what should be rejected as the author’s inappropriate incorporation of their own biases. To complicate things further, Diogones exploits this vagueness between fact and opinion to casually insert his own opinions regarding his subject. Upon a careful reading of Pythagoras’ biographical account, when Diogenes writes: “There are many who insist, absurdly enough, that Pythagoras left no writings whatever” (Diogenes 325) he is in actually providing a surprising amount of opinion-based imagery. The use of the word ‘absurd’ portrays Pythagoras as having an almost pompous personality and undeserved sense entitlement with regards to his studies. In context, this placement tells us that even in situations regarding his own family and death, Diogenes still finds the notion of leaving any of Pythagoras’ work for anyone to benefit from.
Eli Parisar identified a complex problem that occurs when search engines consider the wrong data. By honing searches solely on the basis of ‘what you click first’, you are unwittingly deprived from receiving a wide range of results. Even though Parisar thought this issue could persist and eventually cause people to reject non-personalized graphic stimuli and thereby separate everyone into their own personalized spheres of entertainment and knowledge, the model of the of ‘mentally clicking’ on the subtle cues Diogenes has provided for us can be considered through close reading interpretation and ultimately proven to be a significant portion of Diogenes’ stylistic endeavors. In consideration of this method, Diogenes’ ideal medium would likely be a social networking system such as Facebook, Myspace, or Google+. Diogenes’ organization on the basis of relevance for the purpose of alluring the eyes of a plentiful audience is the fundamental construct behind the social networking layout, functionality, and success.