August 8th, 2006


Story got legs

Publication: Click Opera
Date: May 30th 2006
Title: Tell me about couples and surfing!
Intro: "I'm about to write my next Wired column. I've decided it's going to be about the effect of information addiction on the life of couples. And I'd like your help, because I don't want it just to be me going on about me."
Conclusion: "If you don't want your partner to know you're spilling the beans to Momus, tilt your screen away now."
Writer: Momus

Publication: C-NET News
Date: June 2nd 2006
Title: Are Net addictions taking a toll on couples?
Intro: "A Wired News columnist working on his next installment has triggered an online discussion about how "information addiction"--a condition that make us more likely to surf the Net than curl up in front of the tube--is affecting our romantic relationships."
Conclusion: "It seems that for some, couple-surfing is just a way of life in the digital world. For others, however, love and the Internet just don't mix."
Writer: Michelle Meyers

Publication: Wired News
Date: June 6th 2006
Title: The Kinsey of Clicking
Intro: "Last week, for a day, I became "the Kinsey of clicking."
Conclusion: "I think there is a narrative here, a social narrative formed by the aggregate of all the individual stories. The internet is -- and will remain for quite some time -- our dominant paradigm. There's no escaping it, nor its social impact. The best we can hope to do is co-habit with it. This, then, is the way we live now."
Writer: Momus

Publication: Reuters syndication to Yahoo News etc.
Date: August 3rd 2006
Title: "Love me, love my blog," as Netorati couple-surf.
Intro: "A man and a woman sit side-by-side in a New York cafe, drinking beer, sharing food, and not saying a word. Instead of chatting, they are typing on a laptop about the tunes played through a shared iPod."
Conclusion: ""After listening to what everybody had to say (on the blog) and thinking about my own relationship, I came to the conclusion that surfing doesn't damage relationships -- as long as both partners are equally into the Internet," [Currie] said by e-mail. "The question then is whether one of them is just faking it!"
Writer: Sara Ledwith

Publication: ABC News
Date: Next week
Title: TBA
Intro: "I'm from ABC News. We're interested in doing a story for our webcast on about couples or people dating that communicate electronically when they're together, rather than verbally."
Conclusion: Not yet written.
Writer: Carrie McGourty

Publication: Jornal do Brasil
Date: Next week
Title: TBA
Intro: "I'm a Brazilian journalist and I saw your article about couple-surfing at Wired News. We're now doing something similar to Brazil: we wanna know if couples here also share this kind of activity or if Web is not as acessible here as it's in Europe or Japan (only 25% of homes here have more than one point to acess internet)."
Conclusion: Not yet written.
Writer: Juliana A. Rocha

Momus conclusion: This is a fascinating example of how memes snowball. Something that started as an observation of a potential problem in my own life struck a chord with Click Opera readers, who supplied an extraordinarily readable 224 (and rising!) comments, the backbone of my subsequent Wired story. But even before the Wired story ran, C-NET published their own piece based on my probe. And, following the Reuters syndication of a piece based on the same data, everything's gone swarmy, with people writing to me from TV networks, or as far away as Brasil and China, wanting quotes from me and contacts for the people who left comments in the original Click Opera piece.

Like a novelist watching his characters "come alive of their own accord" then seeing his book adapted by Hollywood, I can only stand by powerless, opening and closing my mouth. A lot has got dropped from the script. I had some gay characters in my version, but none of them seem to have ended up in the more mainstream media's accounts, which reference "mothers" and "husbands" but seem to assume that couples are one male, one female. I had a nice appearance from the ghost of sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, a particular hero of mine, a man who set social dynamite beneath puritan America in the 1950s. But Kinsey's ghost, too, is missing from these mainstream accounts. I put "darker questions" about betrayal and pornography in my piece. These, too, failed to make it to the big screen. I had a sad ending; my last three "numbered aphorisms" were about disintegrating relationships and divorce. The rewrites have more upbeat endings. And who added this terrible John Williams score?

Still, it's nice to connect with a wider audience. I think the popularity of this story is the direct result of something I was talking about a couple of weeks ago. In Being (just a teensy bit less) digital, I said "I've always tried to bring the same attitude to these columns as figures like Nicholas Negroponte did to the original Wired; Negroponte didn't look at specific technologies so much as the human state of "being digital"." The less pompous version: technology is now central enough in people's lives for tech stories to overlap comfortably with human interest stories. Tech is less mono-gendered than it used to be; it's interesting that all the reporters picking up my couples story were women. The days when only men read tech-related stories are gone, just like the days when tech reporters had to write about geeky technical stuff; boxes and cables, routers and arrays.

So, encouraged by the amazing response to my couples story, I'm now working on a new Wired column about... well, about piezoelectrical systems, actually. Anybody got a human interest angle on those? Something that'll appeal to women as well as men? How have piezoelectrics impacted your relationship? When was the last time the ability of crystals to generate a voltage in response to applied mechanical stress made you cry? Exactly when and where were you when you first realized that, damn it, excitation of piezoelectrics produces more mechanical energy than the electrical energy used in the excitation thereof? And just what that meant for the world... and for your loved ones?

Don't hold back -- if I can collect enough compelling, colourful stories here, maybe we can sell this baby to Hollywood for some big, big gold.