Since its return, I’ve come to notice that this site (or rather, the selection of posts I’ve made of late) has been described in more than one place as “intelligent”. I find this quite interesting. I think what is actually meant is something more like “considered”, but even so it has got me thinking about intelligence and what it means.
Conventional wisdom on writing for the web tells us to use simple language, short straight-forward sentence structures and brief paragraphs. This is because we are fundamentally lazy readers, particularly when staring at a screen. The same wisdom also instructs us to place black text on white pages, for the same reason. I used to subscribe to these points of view, but as time has worn on I’ve drifted away from them.
There is a parallel between this and a common criticism of the television and film industries. Apparently, Spinal Tap was very nearly never released (I believe they decided to base the decision on whether or not to release and distribute by the opinions of the first two critics to see it) because the studio felt that the humour was too subtle for the American market—without which the distribution of the film would not be profitable. Of course, the humour was well inside the capacity of the American mind—it’s a nonsense to suggest otherwise—Americans have exactly the same capability for comprehending humour as everyone else. It’s simply ridiculous to assume that such things are governed by nationality, or any other demographic. But what this demonstrates is the low opinion this particular industry has of its audience. In many ways, the conventional wisdom of writing for the web is just as ridiculous. Yes, we are lazy readers—yes, we do tend to skim rather than fully digest every word—but that doesn’t mean that everything on the web should be watered down to suit the lowest common denominator.
Much in the same way as with film and television, the audience doesn’t always want to be spoon-fed. Sure, mindless fun has its place, but there’s much more to life than the superficial and instantly gratifying. In the consumption of media, the audience will generally get back what it invests. If you take the time to consume something thoroughly, you should get back more than a quick laugh or a singular outlook. So I don’t think I’m posting intelligently, if such a thing is even possible, I think I’m just posting things that require the audience to engage their own intelligence. I’m just not watering down.