Hamster wheeling ....


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I have found the expression ‘hamster wheeling’ useful over the last few years. I tend to use it in the context of any frantic effort where the participants have to keep several things going at the same time, and where it seems that slowing down might cause something to fall off.

More specifically, it is an appropriate description for those operations, common in a digital library environment, where a set of grants are used to keep a set of people working on a set of projects. Many of us are familiar with such environments, either as participants or observers.

In this context, I was interested to see a similar expression used in a report recently in Ars Technica.

But, “these additional responsibilities–and having to learn the new technologies to execute them–are time-consuming, and come at a cost. In many newsrooms, old-fashioned, shoe-leather reporting–the kind where a reporter goes into the streets and talks to people or probes a government official–has been sometimes replaced by Internet searches.”

Thus, those “rolling deadlines” in many newsrooms are increasingly resembling the rapid iteration of the proverbial exercise device invented for the aforementioned cute domestic rodent. The observation was first made by Dean Starkman in a Columbia Journalism Review piece titled “The Hamster Wheel.”

The “Hamster Wheel” isn’t about speed, the report quotes Starkman as saying. “It’s motion for motion’s sake… volume without thought. It is news panic, a lack of discipline, an inability to say no.” // Has the Internet “hamsterized” journalism?


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