Something is happening here but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?
-- me either for that matter. 06.08.2005, 11:18 AM
posted by bob stein
Came across this on a web-site i'd never heard of while searching for audio samples of a sound artist i'd never heard of (Todd Dockstader) that was referenced in a copy of magazine called The Wire that i purchased for the first time.
Stacked in almost innumerable dusty piles around my room are the incoming CDs of many a publicist's hardwork & toil. And for reasons that have more to do with esoteric alignments of the stars than any particular dislike, they often remain untouched & unheard for far, far too long. This very column is somewhat of an attempt to remedy this situation while also commenting on the sheer volume of music, especially electronic music, that continues to be released. It's a deluge of expression via our machines, which has resulted in an inverse response of criticism, a lack of perspective, an inability to perfect the zoom-out on the overall picture of what is being produced by this wired and wireless culture. . .
-- tobias c. van veen in cut-up
reminded me for the 323rd time in the past several months that something profound is happening relative to the "sheer volume" of media being produced and new (online) distribution patterns. would love to start to understand the ramifications. here's one i see in my own behavior -- and you can't imagine how painful it is to own up to this:
in 2001, 2 and 3 i made a scrapbook of things i collected on the web. i included in the scrapbook a record of all the books i read cover-to-cover. each year the number was at least 24. suddenly in 2004 the number went to ONE, and that was a graphic novel that i read in a few hours.
i'm still reading quite a bit but most of it is online and in much smaller chunks than books or even long articles. but also, with the advent of big notebook computers with dvd drives and large screens, some of my reading time has been supplanted by watching time as i've begun to absorb TV series (sopranos, 24, Six Feet Under) -- viewing all the segments in as few sittings as possible, much like the experience of a page-turner novel.
i'm also browsing quite a bit more. when i was a teenager i went to the record store (yes, i'm that old) and would spend quite a long time choosing one or maybe two to buy. then i would bring those home and listen to them over and over and over. now i find i hardly ever have to come out of browsing mode. between othermusic.com, earplug, etc. etc. a scary amount of my conscious music listening can be subsumed by surfing for new sounds.
i'd like to find a way to get people to talk about their media consumption so that we can begin to understand what actually is happening, not just quantitatively, but qualitatively.
(image by Gregory Vershbow)
D Weade on June 8, 2005 11:46 AM:
I asked a similar question yesterday (broader in scope than this I think) on the
William Gibson discussion board.
I think some of the responders have had some very insightful thoughts on the nature of technology oversaturation and how we can deal with the symptoms.
tV on June 8, 2005 12:51 PM:
.. and the CDs keep piling up, the MP3s in the 500gig are overbuffering, more vinyl in white sleeves than a flock of seagulls. Attempts at reduction and filtering are useless. Random chance factor, unfortunately, plays into the hands of the writer carving words on music as much as recommended quality.
Bill Kasdorf on June 8, 2005 5:06 PM:
I think Bob is surfacing and articulating something fundamental here. Here are a few observations from the world I work in (book and journal publishing). BTW, I actually spend much less time on the Web than people expect I do (unless you count e-mail), yet I see these same behaviors in myself. I take forever to read a book because I don't just sit down and spend an afternoon reading a book anymore.
--The death of the scholarly monograph. This has been talked about for a long time; proliferation is part of the problem. Now that it's easy to publish what you write on the Web (I didn't say to publish WELL), and nobody has ever made much money from monographs anyway, I've started to pick up a different spin on this: that people won't even WRITE monographs anymore. That's sort of an overpopulation-leads-to-extinction theory. I have a hard time believing people won't always need to write extended, thoughtful discussions of subjects. But the fragmentation Bob talks about might lead me to think this is a more present danger.
--Speaking of thoughtful, I like to write thoughtful [=long] e-mails. I like to read them, too. But pretty much nobody else does, as far as I can see. I'm willing to concede that the proper use of that medium is terse expressions on very limited subjects, but only if there is also some other place for the more extended thoughtful discussion. Where would that be?
--Even when more extended texts are available, I think people tend to browse them, cherrypick them, jump around in them. I have no data to support that, but I think this is part of what Bob's trying to get at.
--Open access is a huge issue in scholarly publishing. That seems to be about commerce, but putting that part aside, it is also about authority and trust. Those have become fragmented today too. There seems to be an evolution of authority--esp. with wikis, blogs, filesharing--that is changing how we decide what to pay attention to.
squonk on June 8, 2005 5:34 PM:
"i'd like to find a way to get people to talk about their media consumption so that we can begin to understand what actually is happening, not just quantitatively, but qualitatively."
Start with a survey - use a freebie from SurveyMonkey.com - it focuses the discussion to a quantifiable sample then allows you to drill down to issues of quality, then clarity, and, ultimately, enlightenment. Settle on 5 questions, post it, let it roll...
"Media consumption" is an interesting way of putting it...as one music friend of mine recently noted, now we are in the days of spending more energy determining what NOT to listen to than what to listen to. How much time do we spend making playlists? What are their intended uses?
I'm interested in uses of technology and media that eliminate boundaries. Conversely, I'm very interested in understanding and creating boundaries of useage in order to restore anti-media intervals in my life. I have had numerous conversations with colleagues in Bryant Park on the subject of electronic media development, but we've never had a laptop with us. My Palm is gone from my life - replaced by my Moleskine, it is, for my purposes, superior technology.
The young ones I know tear through media - both as input and output. It's highly personal and instantly available. I've observed more time scanning than reading, more time chatting than talking - this group is well informed and connected in ways still undetermined by an emerging culture.
"Media Consumption" is certainly changing in our schools and universites: collaborative tools lead to group projects, and no longer is the Freshman college essay restricted by words alone - the new rhetoric employs images and multimedia. (Note how Virginia Tech's Communications 101 fulfills that freshman English requirement, encouraging the use of multimedia.)
"Media Comsumption" also brings to mind a bit of a play on "consumptive" - eaten away by. How do we avoid this affliction? A four hour trail run along the McKenzie River in Oregon or romping down some gnarly single track on my bike here in my backyard provide safe harbors from media...unless I take my digital camera or wear the video headcam to document an outing to share with my friends.
There's plenty of stuff out there - quantity isn't the issue, and I think you've engaged the right course in heading toward a discussion of quality.
I like surveys - they result in quantifiable results that can then be the basis of the next level of discussion.
...or something like that...
benton-c bainbridge on June 9, 2005 12:04 AM:
I've been reading more books these days myself- paperback is a better medium for:
-travel (esp. when things go wrong like being stuck in an airport overnight)
-breaks in between taking care of a newborn
-lulling oneself asleep
and i just enjoy the break from electronic stimulation.
however a good e-book format would cure me off paper. i give away all my books after reading them as i've long ago traded most of my hard media for bytes
virginia kuhn on June 9, 2005 2:02 AM:
I think we need to expand what it means to read--most of the time I am reading word, image and sound (people, events, etc) but in terms of technologically mediated "texts" I am reading in far more combinatory ways: that is to say, I "watch" music in the form of filmed concert footage, I "read" movies via the DVD's subtitles to get an idea of the script (or while I play the audio in another language), and "listen" to web based print texts which incorporate audio. Thus, I think my "consumption" practices are actually often more sophisticated than those I use to read fiction (in book form). So while I like the term 'consumption' as opposed to 'reading,' I also worry that that word suggests the act of swallowing a "text" wholesale without the interpretive element that we grant to reading fiction (or even non-fiction for that matter).
Another pattern I notice in my own practices is that while I am still unable to NOT read a novel from cover to cover, I have become far more picky (or maybe discriminating) in terms of movie viewing--I simply cannot sit through a movie which does not engage me and think nothing of turning it off midway. The sheer volume of DVD offerings, I believe, is the cause of this since I have X amount of time and don't want to waste it viewing dull images. In the past, I would have simply stuck with the film, once I'd committed its viewing--and perhaps this is due to the difficulty or expense of seeing a film that has been eliminated by my Blockbuster movie pass. If the question is sustained reading versus browsing, then I'd have to say I browse more but when I actually settle on a "text" to "read," I think I am still very single minded.
If we contrast media consumption with media production (to stand in for reading versus writing), then I've certainly increased my media production over the last few years and this is largely due to available tools. As an academic, I tend to read and write a lot, but lately I "write" with images too and this has really had an impact on the way I use print language.
I've also recently returned to hand writing--I love making cursive letters, words written without standardized fonts; I search out the best roller ball pens capable of making the most curvy characters.
What I notice with my teenaged daughters is that they are willing to watch movies several times, memorizing the lines which often become part of their shared lexicon among their friends. In a similar vein, viewing programs like 24 has become a group activity in my house, one that is always followed by discussion, critique, and often phone calls to those who could not join us. This seems to be very similar to early print reading practices done aloud and in groups.
chris burke on June 9, 2005 11:44 AM:
Sorry for the long post. I mainly wanted to address the music issue, but thought it was important to put it in more of a context of all media.
Television: I haven't have a television tuner for several years now. I don't miss it. To some degree Netflix has replaced it for me, but also, I find that I watch shorter segments of television programs available on the web. Around the election, for instance, I was watching Jon Stewart's monologue every morning for a little reminder that there is sanity in the world. They don't offer the whole show on the web, and if they did, i probably wouldn't watch it all. This is definitely a change in my media consumption patterns since a few years back.
Books: I find that I treat them more as research now. Even fiction. I am often happy to read excerpts to get a sense. I wonder whether the simple act of buying a physical book made me feel I should really read it all and now that I can get parts of it on line for free, I do not feel as bound to finish it. Most of my reading, though, is non-fiction though. For example, I recently downloaded and re-read "Welcome To the Desert of The Real" by Slavoj Zizek. If it's more than a few pages, I print it out. I hate reading on the computer screen but find it more convenient of course and so I do often.
But the treating all media as research, where I don't need to get it all, but just the main points, seems to be the big change in my media consumption.
Best example for me: Music.
It is true, I think, that music is splintering more and more. Bob's quote from Todd Dockstader really made me realize how overwhelming it has become. We have historically relied on a communal sense of musical styles, usually through journalism, to help sort out what we want to listen to. My record buying habits were never directly determined by reviews, but they gave me a sense of the scenes and lent a context to the music I sought out. With the overwhelming amount of music, particularly in the electronic field, due to the availability of relatively inexpensive tools and composition software, I can see that journalism has become more important and yet is utterly unable to keep up with the output. Dockstader is a good example and I'm sure many other critics/journalists feel the same way. I can name probably 25 or more musical genres that most people on this list will never have heard of. And I consider myself quite uninformed in this area. When a fellow composer said to me maybe a year or so ago "I'm working on a new track, but it's sounding too Gabber- I was going for 2 step Garage"- I knew things were moving too quickly. By now I am familiar with these genres, but many more have come to take their place.
Now some might say that labeling music is really unimportant and it's the sound that counts and just "what I like". However, consider how important context is in other media. Without some knowledge of the birth of modern art, Duchamp's readymades would seem quite meaningless. (I'm sure there are better examples.) Music, lacking 'facticity' is perhaps even more reliant on context than other media. There's a great passage in Sartre's Nausea about the relationship between time and a jazz song he is listening to repeatedly in a coffee shop (google it- it's easier than going to your bookshelf). i think it's this intangibility that Sartre is getting at that makes music so reliant on context. Maybe this is also why music lends itself some much more to nostalgia than visual media (debatable)- because it is tied to a TIME-context in one's memory. What else was going on then in music? In history? In my life?
So my point is, that where journalism is failing, online communities are taking it's place as the way that some people make music consumption decisions. Of course there have been online discussion boards etc. about types of music for a while, but now I am seeing more communities of music composers and producers whose audience are other community members, pretty much exclusively. I have become part of such a community called "Micromusic"- a good term for our purposes here. If you go to www.micromusic.net, you will find a community of people from all over the world (somewhat centered around Europe) who make music with either game hardware (gameboy, Atari, Amiga) or vintage synths or toys or all of the above. BTW- please don't mistake this as promo for the site- they don't really care if they get lots of hits. I do think it's relevant though. After signing in as a guest, one can download any of the numerous tracks by the "Micro-stars", people who make the music and upload it to the site. There are several other sister communities to which I belong (chiptunes, gameboy music etc.) that share members. Many of us know each other from the chat area and have even sponsored shows around the world where we visit and perform for other micro-stars and their friends.
The funny thing is that I find most of my music consumption is now unreleased micro-stars whom I either have met or chatted with online. My cellphone is loaded with gameboy music. Many of us are in contact frequently on iChat and on the various lists for the software or hardware that we use, and we share techniques and songs quite frequently. So the audience are now also the performers, at least in our little corner, and almost no money changes hands. Many of us do have records out on small labels but the community seems to be the real focus. This to me is a real shift, and one that is probably already having an impact on the recording industry- not only are people stealing the major label tracks online, but sometimes they opt for artists that aren't even on ANY label. It seems to me like that could shake things up if it becomes more prevalent.
Nick Carbone on June 9, 2005 5:29 PM:
Here's another way of framing Bob's observations, and one I've always found useful:
This is the abstract from "The Attention Economy: The Natural Economy of the Net" by Michael H. Goldhaber, originally published in First Monday:
If the Web and the Net can be viewed as spaces in which we will increasingly live our lives, the economic laws we will live under have to be natural to this new space. These laws turn out to be quite different from what the old economics teaches, or what rubrics such as "the information age" suggest. What counts most is what is most scarce now, namely attention. The attention economy brings with it its own kind of wealth, its own class divisions - stars vs. fans - and its own forms of property, all of which make it incompatible with the industrial-money-market based economy it bids fair to replace. Success will come to those who best accommodate to this new reality.
Alan Liu on June 10, 2005 4:52 AM:
The relationship between "browsing" and the "sheer volume" of information is complicated. To start with, I think there is much to be gained in complicating our usually uniform concepts of "browsing" (all shallow, fragmented, attention-deficient) and "volume" ("sheer," as in a towering, monolithic cliff).
We get a sense of the hidden complexity I indicate if we think historically. Below is a passage from Roger Chartier -- the leading scholar in the "history of the book" field -- that should give us pause about making any quick associations between browsing and today's information glut:
"Does this reaction toward the end of the [18th] century indicate a consciousness that reading styles had changed, that the elites in western Europe had passed from intensive and reverent reading to a more extensive, nonchalant reading style, and that such a change called for correction? . . . In the older style: (1) Readers had the choice of only a few books, which perpetuated texts of great longevity. (2) Reading was not separated from other cultural activities such as listening to books read aloud time and again in the bosom of the family, the memorization of such texts . . . , or the recitation of texts read aloud and learned by heart. (3) The relation of reader to book was marked by a weighty respect and charged with a strong sense of the sacred character of printed matter. (4) The intense reading and rereading of the same texts shaped minds that were habituated to a particular set of references and inhabited by the same quotations. It was not until the second half of the eighteen century in Germany and the beginning of the nineteenth century in New England that this style of reading yielded to another style, based on the proliferation of accessible books, on the individualization of the act of reading, on its separation from other cultural activities, and on the descralization of the book. Book reading habits became freer, enabling the reader to pass from one text to another and to have a less attentive attitude toward the printed word, which was less concentrated in a few privileged books." -- Roger Chartier, "Urban Reading Practices, 1660-1770," in his The Cultural Uses of Print in Early Modern France, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1987), pp. 222-24
It's pretty certain that browsing in the face of sheer volume were deep habits of literacy (specifically, of high print literacy). By contrast, one might ask: who read so intensely and deeply -- to instance the extreme -- that they only really read one book? There were probably just three classes of such people: the very poor (I remember, but can't find at present, an essay by Chartier about people in the past who owned just one book, which was found on their body after a coach accident in Paris), the extremely pious (who read the Bible), or the "genius" author. (Think of Blake, for example: no matter how many books he read, he really only had one or two books on his mental bookshelf: the Bible and Milton.) By contrast, everyone else browsed.
Mass literacy in the twentieth century, perhaps, may be a phenomenon of browsing. Think of Reader's Digest. After my family immigrated to the U.S. in my childhood, we were a kind of microcosm of assimilation (into English literacy) in this regard. There were two major investments in books in my household: the Reader's Digest series of condensed books (a kind of packaged browsing) and The World Book encyclopedia (a veritable lesson in reading as browsing-cum-volume). I drank deeply from both founts as a child, since these were the main books in the house. I was intense in my browsing.
So now let's snap back to the present and the act of browsing cyber- or multi-media volumes of information. I've started a project (combining humanists, social scientists, and computer scientists) called Transliteracies to look into "online reading." It's my hypothesis that there are hidden complexities and intelligences in low-attention modes of browsing/surfing that we don't yet know how to chart. Google, after all, is making a fortune for algorithms enacting this hypothesis. Or to cite a historical googler: Dr. Johnson, sage of the Age of Reason, was famous for "devouring" books just by browsing them instead of reading "cover to cover." (To allude to the titles of the two serial magazines he was involved with, he would have called browsing Rambling or Idling [The Rambler, The Idler.)
Just as "browsing" is complex, so I think that there are hidden complexities in the notion of "sheer volume." Some of the digital artists I know -- e.g., George Legrady, Pockets Full of Memories -- are "database artists" whose work asks the question, in essence: what happens to the notion of art when we gaze not at one work in rapt wonder but several thousand works -- when, in other words, the "work" is "volume"? What if quantity, in other words, was a matter of quality? Aren't there different kinds of "volume," some more intelligent, beautiful, kinder, humane (not to mention efficient and flexible, the usual postindustrial desiderata) than others?
I'd better stop, since this comment is too long. As Blake said about volume: "Enough! or too much."
alex itin on June 10, 2005 3:43 PM:
You've nailed a symptom right on the head bob,
I read chunks of books, but never seem to want, or need to finish them (in my younger days I felt morally compelled to go cover to cover and speaking of records, I needed to own every bowie, every dylan, etc... now that seems absurd... absurd to even try).
Of course with the blog, I'm also writing differently... I'm becoming very comfortable with words, images and sounds blaring at me from all directions and me being a mirror, sort of reflecting them back... This is why that Kane image of infinite mirrors (also Lady From Shanghai)... is THE image of our times... we are all just mirrors to reflect what you are: human all too human.
Digital cable and DVR and ONDEMAND are also a brave new world.... I don't watch t.v. anymore... I currate films off cable and watch that (okay I still make time for The Simpsons and The Dailey Show), but I don't hunt and peck annymore... I scan future listings and record record record. Kagemusha is just waiting for me to be in the mood for Kurosawa Shakespeare samuraiis. Nothing to return or rewind...just waiting.
Lisa Spangenberg on June 11, 2005 11:51 AM:
Bob wrote about how "browsing" on the 'net has affected his media consumption, and finished with:
i'd like to find a way to get people to talk about their media consumption so that we can begin to understand what actually is happening, not just quantitatively, but qualitatively.
My media consumption has changed, but not so much as others, and less recently. I've had high bandwidth access to the 'net since 1989, and first noticed 'net access affecting my print consumption around 2000. By 2002 we had stopped subscribing to most periodicals. We continue to subscribe to a few, but most of our "news"--political, scientific, or media related--we read on the Web. I've also benefitted enormously from being able to read non-English periodicals on the web that I couldn't afford to buy, or would have to wait to read in the library. We've almost completely stopped buying CDs; I think between the two of us we might have bought four last year. That's largely due to iTunes, which, DRM or no, has worked very well for us. We've been slowly going to fewer and fewer films as well; mostly because they're less and less interesting. We still watch the Dodgers, or listen to Vin Scully, and we're about to go to our second Dodger game this summer.
I'm still reading a couple of books a week, at least, in traditional codex form, but fewer of them are unrelated to work. I have fifteen library books for my current academic research, another ten for some work-for-hire scholarship I just completed. A number are from interlibrary loan, from libraries outside of California, and even the U. S., books I requested over the web. We walked to the local public library today, and I brought home three novels, though not the one I'd checked for online since, despite the catalog's insistence to the contrary, it wasn't on the shelf. Some things never change. There are another seven books that I've promised to write reviews of in the next couple of months. So I'm still reading a lot of books. What's changed is that I'm not buying as many books as I used to. I've gone from browsing in bookstores real and virtual and buying fifteen or twenty novels a year, to buying very, very selectively, and, more often than not, in digital or hardcover, rather than paperback.
My book buying has been affected, not so much by the Web, as by e-books, and by economic and spatial considerations. I realized early on that texts I read for scholarly or pedagogical purpose have definite advantages in the digital form; this struck me the first time I saw Colin Holgate and Michael Cohen working on the Voyager Expanded Book version of The Complete Alice. From that point on, I was sold. I've been buying fiction to read on my Palm since 2000; I find that an airplane trip back east means at least four books on the plane, and I can fit more than that quite conveniently on my ancient Palm. Last year, when I realized that the new paperback copies of Beowulf and Jane Austen that I taught with in 2003 were already yellowed and decaying, I decided to rely on e-books when I taught "classic" texts. I've been using and teaching with Expanded Books, TK3 Books, HTML versions of books, and .pdfs whenever I could, since 1994, so this wasn't a sudden conversion so much as a deliberate decision regarding the future.
I'm also doing almost all of my scholarly periodical reading on the 'net, via Project Muse, JStor, Ingenta, and yes, even the much-maligned Google Scholar. My access to the first three of these is through the university--I'm consequently downloading pdfs of articles I think I'll want access to in the future. Even though the text is imaged, often too poorly for OCR, it's better than nothing, and digital files take up less space. Unfortunately, my campus library systems, like many others, has been forced to choose between online access and printed forms of many journals, so often, if I don't download an article now, there's no guarantee I can easily obtain it later; if the subscription ends, so does the campus access to back issues.
Bob and others have also spoken about how the 'net, particularly the Web, has changed their reading habits in terms of the process of reading--that is, they "browse" rather than read. I find that this is very true of the undergraduate students I teach; they tend to read, and to listen, looking for sound bites. I spend more time now teaching students how to analyse what they read, how to find the inherent structures, in the work, and at the paragraph and sentence level that help organize and reveal the argument, and the (often hidden) agenda. Oddly, unlike most people I know, I don't see "browsing" (sometimes I think we would do better to say "grazing") as a new habit; I think it is a variant of the old medieval habit of reading in search of the commonplace, reading for the sententiae, the sound byte, if you will. As with the medieval manuscript as hypertext, I would argue that we are returning to medieval reading habits, even to the point of the steady increase in sales of audio books. I've on occasion compared blog comments to manuscript glosses made by readers, who, in the act of reading and glossing become writers. I look forward to better ways of annotating texts and images on the web; there are several efforts towards not only traditional annotations but new ways of annotating; social bookmarking and folksonomies are just the beginning.
I can't separate reading from writing. I am writing far more now than I did even ten years ago. I find this more than a little ironic, personally, since I've spent much of my life avoiding writing (I'm exceedingly dyslexic). The computer has made it not only possible for me to write, but I've been making a living from digital text, one way or another, since 1989. I still tend towards hypotaxis, though, as you can see.
So, yes, I see changes. I think Richard Lanham has some useful thoughts; he's currently working on a book The Economics of Attention , but this early paper on "The New Economics of Human Attention" is quite pertinent, as is this one. The dates of these two papers, 1993 and 1994 are interesting, because they describe much of what we're experiencing now.
montgomery knott on June 13, 2005 11:14 AM:
i liked what you were saying in the post. it's been two years since i've read a book cover-to-cover. and this 'crisis of proliferation' does seem to cut across all media. BUT. i'm stumped as to how to start the dialogue. this seems to be a discussion about filters. and right now, it seems like we're experiencing a highly unfiltered (or perhaps hyperfiltered) moment where the roles that critics play as filters is in transition. (and isn't that appropriate: are we hyperfiltered or unfiltered? they would seem like contradicting indicators, but it might be impossible to tell the difference.)
Malthus might be consulted, but he seems to have been proven somewhat wrong about expotential growth and the ability of ecosystems to absorb that growth. or Warhol's famous dictum might be reconsidered as less a wise prophesy and more of warning or admonition. it's very hard to know where to begin. perhaps a fill in the blank sentence contest, like:
"when everyone's a critic..."
"when everyone's a memoirist..."
"when everyone's a musician..."
"when everyone's a blogger..."
will these proliferations lead to a populist backlash? are there precedents in history where technology radically altered people's consumption patterns?
or if declining book reading rates (anectdotally surmised or statistically measured) also mirror declining movie attendance (every week of this year), does this mean we're all online more and/or does it mean that these proliferations have diluted the quality of all medias and alienated all audiences -- except the one's that are open to everyone's 'participation' (video games, internet medias).
i don't know.
or there's this quote from this week's New Yorker from Gertrude Stein:
"When my mother died she had been ill a long time and had not been able to move around and so when she died we had all already had the habit of doing without her." [Stein] adds, "I have told all about her in 'The Making of Americans' but that is a story and after all what is the use of its being a story. If it is real enough what is the use of it being a story." And, "What is the use of remembering anything. There is none."
and then, actually, Stein retells some of that same 'story' in her 'real' Autobiographies. the article talks about 'The Making of Americans' as a mostly unreadable book that has a huge meta-textual component because a group of Stein scholars is battling over the legacy of her writings and life.
'The Making of Americans' is an impossibly long book that repeats itself. that tells the story of America through the story of an unremarkable family and goes on and on for endless pages with no real incentive to finish it, and yet for those who do...
it's like the Internet, yes?
Frank Beacham on June 14, 2005 9:00 AM:
Now that you bring up the subject, I'd say my personal media consumption has changed radically in recent years due to a several factors. My importantly, I think the changes have come through a combination of place, new technology, and the impact of corporate consolidation of media.
When I moved to New York City from Los Angeles just over a decade ago, my consumption of television radically decreased. I attribute this to the unique lifestyle of New York City, where I spend less time at home and more time engaged in activities.
I haven't subscribed to cable in over six years and, outside of the rare breaking news events picked up via antenna, I never watch my 12-inch television set. My video consumption at home is the occasional DVD on my computer screen. I rarely watch feature films on small screens, always preferring to see them in a movie theatre, which I attend often.
As to music, the thriving of the live music scene of New York City combined with the invention of the iPod, have radically changed my listening habits. I now tend to buy and listen to the music of artists that I either discover through live performance or by the recommendation of friends whose musical taste I trust. I rarely ever buy music in a commercial record store unless I already know the artist and go there specifically to purchase new release.
The iPod has allowed me to better appreciate the music I already own due to playlists and the ability to make connections and discoveries through musical influences of artists I already like. The playlist is a very powerful concept and has opened me to a new world of music over the three years. Ironically, I purchase more CDs than ever now, but usually only "rip" them once and then shelve them for backup.
The combination of "discovering" new artists through live performance, a follow-up visit to their web site, and the direct purchase of their music is a radical change in my media consumption.
A more recent development in my music listening is satellite radio. XM Satellite Radio is the one pay media service to which I subscribe. I like to listen especially to day-long live music events. It replaces radio, which I think was destroyed by media consolidation over the past 25 years. I spend a lot of time with XM in the background of my day.
As to the written word, with a broadband Internet connection I spend more time reading online than ever before. Yes, shorter "nuggets" of information are the new norm. However, I still read the wood pulp version of newspapers each day and a few books a year. As a writer who works daily at the craft, I find that the more I write the less I read for enjoyment.
Another form of media that has significantly increased in my life in recent years is live theatre, especially drama. I find this mode of storytelling very satisfying in a world dominated with artificial images. There's something very primal about engaging in a story through live actors. Not only does the story resonate on a higher level, but great writing can resonate more than ever. I am going through this process now having recently seen the revival of a few plays by Tennessee Williams and having a new appreciation for his writing.
Finally, I find as the need increases for genuine criticism to help me find media I might appreciate, there is less of it avalable. I rarely trust criticism of anything that I find in commercial publications. It has almost become a joke with me that if the critics like it, I don't, and if the critics diss it, it MUST be good.
In my life, at least, there is a huge disconnect with the media produced for mass culture and what I personally enjoy. I know of no reliable "system" to navigate the vast choices of modern media. So I trust "serendipity," a concept that his served me well. I follow my instincts and word of mouth and have found that works better than any form of modern media criticism. In fact, even the "randomness" of my iPod Shuffle tends to make better choices than most critics.
pedro meyer on June 21, 2005 2:08 AM:
Bob's commentary ellicit a number of ideas, which I do not find have been taken into account. For instance I spend a huge amount of time these days, reading about technical matters just to keep up with all the things I need to resolve to make my life function (computers, software, etc not running as they should), reading time that in the past I did not need to do as much of. However it is infinetly more efficient these days, running on the internet, than when the only hope to find answers to such questions was attending trade shows.
I live in Mexico City, so having access to information that is accesible (obviously not only in this part of the world but elsewhere) in real time, vs. having to wait months to get to read such materials, has also transformed my life and what I read and how. Just think of all the wealth of information that is shared here on this site (blog) which is of great merit, and which in the past would hardly ever have reached the shores of distant lands, as not only was the cost of printing such materials an expense to consider but mainly issues of distribution.
So yes our habits for reading are being trasformed as we discuss these topics here, one of these is learning the art of not hoarding information, but disovering and deciding what we want to read for, and then going about doing precisely that.
I see my ten year old son Julio, who is a great fan of multitasking and of playing games on his computer, X box, play station, game boy, and what have you. AND, then picking up a book and reading it as well. He has read more books than kids who in fact do not play any such games at all. I believe his mind has been trained to multitasking since he was born, and the art of choosing what you want to do. This discipline is something I did not grow up with because I did not have to decide among too many options, there were simply none there to compare to his choices. His world is probably a hundred times more challenging and demanding than it was for me sixty years ago. That makes for the synapses to also work at different levels.
So the world being more interconnected, brings information, which is wealth, to a more just distribution among peoples of the world. This is a fact that has been very little discussed how the democratic proccess of access to information has created such a huge transformation. As recently as 1995 there were only 95,000 connected to the internet in Mexico, ten years later there are 14 million.
It used to be that books in English in Mexico City, were sold in one or two books stores at the most, and then if you were lucky you waited for a month if you pre ordered a title. Think about luxuty items, such as fine furnishings, oriental rugs, swiss chocolate, french wines, or the likes. Books were for the most part in such a category. A book was not only the information, it was also the fact that you were consuming an item of luxury. A certain cachet was attached inevitably to such items. Didn't we even discuss the smell of books? There were books that i prefered reading, because they smelled so nicely.
I have tried to sniff my Powerbooks, and they never deliver anything of the sort. Possibly now in the near future, with the new INTEL chips inside Powerbooks they will manage to add something as important as a bit of distinct odor. Couldn't they make Powerbooks that give off odors? We could then imagine to have gained back some of our lost connection to books.
Bob, I do not think there is too much information available today, anymore than I believe that there are too many people in the world, and we would do better by having less humans alive.
What we need are ever better tools to harness all that deluge of data, But I am sure that these will emerge as soon as we become aware of their need.
I am very optimistic that it can only work to our advantage, world wide, to be inundated with information. I am reminded to a little story I heard last year when visitng Bangladesh.
It was explained to me that so many governments, aid agencies, ONG, and so on, got it all wrong when they try to avoid the yearly floods that have been with them for centuries. Instead of understanding that the floods are good and helpful, they try to stop them instead of just helping people to deal with the flood as something natural.
I think that the flood of information is good, it should not be stopped, it should only be dealt with in different ways so that we can benefit from it. And just as the farmer learns that his habitat has to be of a portable nature, so that when the floods arrive, they can move to safer grounds and return later, the same way with our life today, we have to learn to be more portable.