Problematising the discourse: clear communication fail

I’ve just read an article which used “problematised” as a verb. Apart from causing me to stumble and have to re-read the whole sentence, this uncommon word illustrates perfectly the problem with so much “educated” writing. And with journalism.

Discussing this on Twitter earlier this afternoon, I said I’d save the writer from further embarrassment. And the editor. But I’ve changed my mind, because I’m going to pull them into this conversation.

The author is Jeff Sparrow. The editing is by And the article is certainly something I’m interested in understanding: The Golden Age Of Publishing is an essay on the challenges facing publishers as we move into the digital era.

Here’s the whole paragraph:

That’s why the glory days of the press coincided with the long boom after the Second World War, a time of relative economic and social stability, in which Keynesianism explicitly validated public works and the public sphere. Since then, however, the turn back to marketisation that reached its zenith with neo-liberalism has problematised, more and more explicitly, the very notion of a public. In the idealised free market, there is, as Margaret Thatcher famously explained, no such thing as society — there’s simply an aggregation of competing individuals. In the midst of that fragmentation, the old newspaper model no longer makes sense.

“Problematised”? I’d never seen the word before! I thought it might mean “position as a problem” or something like “assert it’s a problem rather than a benefit”. But no.

So what the hell is this about?

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It’s not a “space”, it’s a “market”

Of all the current corporate buzzwords, “space” shits me the most. I’ve been meaning to write about it, but web pioneer Marc Andreessen got there first:

There is no such thing as a “space”.

There is such a thing as a market — that’s a group of people who will directly or indirectly pay money for something.

There is such a thing as a product — that’s an offering of a new kind of good or service that is brought to a market.

There is such a thing as a company — that’s an organized business entity that brings a product to a market.

Marc’s article goes on to explain why there’s no such thing as “Web 2.0” either — in fact that’s its main thrust. It’s worth reading.

Hell, his entire blog is worth reading.

On the other hand, William Shakespeare is worth reading too.

So are P J O’Rourke, Daniel Petre, George Orwell, David Marr, John Birmingham, James Burke, George Lakoff, Brian Eno, Lao Tsu, Sherry Turkle, Steven Levy, Neal Stephenson, Umberto Eco, Richard Watts, Paul Graham, Bruce Schneier, Father Bob Maguire, Matt Ridley, Daniel Dennett, Zern Liew, Steven Levitt… but you’ve just got to draw the line somewhere!