Monday, August 30, 2010

It's more fun to Compute


I was originally going to make this rant about journalism.

How journalism itself has been twisted into some kind of Frankenstein..., wrung by technological advancements, hung, stretched, disemboweled, drawn and quartered and, then,... put together. It was, back in the early 2000's "crowd sourcing boom," electrified by the amateur blogger power-to-the-people-type 4th estate movement. But now, things seem to be changing again.

Newsweek has two new articles that have stirred existential questions in me: Daniel Lyons has an article on the new Flipboard app for iPad that allows users to arrange the otherwise “clunky” news feed links they get on twitter into their own personal magazine.
-While Tony Dokoupil/Angela Wu’s Take This Blog and Shove It communicated to me the gravity of the, on some level, futility, of shouting one’s voice out into this hellish ether called the Internet. It discusses Wikipedia needing recruiters to keep its e-volunteers (now, likely to be students) to continue “updating” their articles, and about how majority of personal blogs (like this one) have started dying off like dinosaurs and that we now, ever more concretely, live in a micro-blogging world of 140-character tweets or four square updates or blisteringly brief iPhone flip-through’s where we maybe glance a news link posted by one of our facebook friends or we make a snarky comment on Huffingtonpost.

So. Much. Fucking. Access. Journalism is far from dead. As a calling, as a public service, its probably more galvanized than in human history. Because if you iPadders wanna “arrange” your own magazine via Flipboard, you’re going to need the reporters to do their job and write/ post the fuel for your personal cache.

It’s just all internet all the time.

That I take 29 minutes of my day to sit at my breakfast nook and read a newspaper, (emphasis on the palpable paper) makes me feel like an old man.

Find your audience(?)

Audiences are now limited resources. And that goes for everybody. Barnaby in Brooklyn or Floyd in Flint may be putting the most obscure links all over their own freshly bought iPad gizmos, from the scads of alternative news sites out there, from the unabashedly agenda-bent polito-blogs to the muckraking anti-establishment forums to wherever else you can go on the internet.

You, for example, are here. And what’s this blog mean in the long run?

There is no more long run anymore. It’s like climbing a tree now, and we only stay on one branch for so long. Newsweek would suggest that we’ve started climbing past the amateur blog and wikipedia-enthusiastic-updating branch.

Are you looking for news? Perhaps you can go onto Huffingtonpost, read up on the blitz of links and maybe post your humble comment in amongst the white noise of the other daily plod of 10,000 or so.

Are you looking for music? How about Pandora? Playlist? Apple? Last FM?

Shit...Bandcamp - or, you can use Hype Machine to find out which bands are the most "blogged" about.

Writer or reader? Looking for Books? Goodreads? HarperCollins? Publishers Weekly?


We're befuddled by a blur of choices. At least, as audience members.

Which makes those on the other end: “journalists” “artists” “musicians” “writers”... have to reach otherworldly levels of dynamism in display and creativity via publicity stunt-type stuff... or otherwise fall into the rushing current left to either disappear into net blipped obscurity or hang onto slippery root weeds along the shore and be hailed as a niche voice on the internet for the Barnaby’s and Floyd’s to then “arrange” you into their preferences.

To at least know that someone, somewhere, is listening to you, reading you, hearing your music. Do we really need the reassurance?

Because if we do, we’re going to have to sell ourselves. Bedazzle ourselves, gird ourselves with absolute coverage, compatibility and net-adaptability to thus compete with the still-comparable big dogs of the internet.

How do you find your voice with these computers? Blogs once were the answer. Are they still? Aspiring writers/novelists could connect with their readers via blogs. Bands could start their own blogs or hopefully get picked up by one of the other veritable “big dog” music blogs be it an Aquarium Drunkard, Brooklyn Vegan or a Stereogum. But how long will we stay on that branch? How long will we use the Last FM branch?

Until we climb up and we all have to readjust again.

We’ve had to do a lot of readjusting – from the decline of books and newspapers, to the decline of letter writing and now, even the decline of fucking phone calls? (The latter being surpassed for either email, but, predominantly, texting!).

The old man in me, the one who reads the newspaper, thinks its just a wee bit too fast. Though, I am heartened by what I truly believe to be a sign of strength in “the calling” of journalism, via the various sources that exist out there for potential watch-dog-ism (whether they deliver or not), I have to say, so much of what I merely romanticize (printed paper, old tradition) has been ghost-ified.

Computer Voices

How do you find your voice without these computers? How do you keep it? In a music world where you can synthesize bass lines, where you can have computers be your drummer, where you can auto-tune your vocals, and you can now read your books and newspapers off of tablets, you can have computers tell you when to turn and how to get to the next stop by car.

And yet, the five basic modes of artistic expression: -the pen for the poet’s writing, -the acoustic wood instrument for the troubadour or orchestral performer, -the marble for the sculptor, -the paint and canvas for the painter, -and the stage/performing theatre for the thespian, all still survive to this day.

And yet, the poet can blog. The acoustic strummer can electrify even a violin. The sculptor could, if he/she wants, use a laser, perhaps? (Maybe not, I’m talking crazy, right?) But the painter has photoshop. And the thespian hasn’t gone electric yet. But still, in terms of performance, you have Daft Punk making themselves into robots.

I don’t know.

Stopping to Look at Squirrels

It only seems like it’s going fast when you stop for a minute. If we’re all swimming with the current, we don’t feel the monstrous shunt of the wave behind us unless we stop and try to stand up in the middle of the river.

I did that today. I stopped. On a sidewalk, on a sunny day, in suburbia. A squirrel pittered and pattered along the edge of the cyclone fencing beside me. He was a mere two feet away from me and had the gull or the nonchalance to stop right beside me, barely even acknowledging me and certainly not showing any prey-like quiver of fear.

That’s it, I thought. After decades of suburban sprawl, these fuzzy rodents have probably, by now, had generations of lil squirrel families adapt to us. Further and further squirrel-adaptation where the passing generation raises their lil fuzz tailed rattys in a world where the big, cloth-covered bipeds stomp about with their lawn mowers and their automobiles. They know the drill. Try not to get run over when you cross the street. And gather ye acorns while ye may before they turn the sprinklers on…’cuz otherwise those big lightly-haired creatures will leave you alone.

If they keep evolving like that, increasingly downplaying our potential power over them, will there ever be a Conquest of the Planet of the Apes type day where they organize and rise up? I’m sure there could be – but not for a while...they’re only evolving at a quasi-unnatural rate, whereas we keep climbing up this damned digitized tree.

What’s at the top? Cyber squirrels?

Anyway, we’ll use the sculptor’s laser beams to fight them off.

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