A New & Improved Digital Future, Or History Redux?

Herewith, notes from a bitter, would-be messenger.

Like always, please ignore all typos.

While I fully comprehend the strategic leveraging of social networks and viral content on the part of publishers seeking to develop and sustain a business model in a time when the medium is indeed the message, or at least the profit center (though if no one actually buys anything from those annoying ads, where's the payoff, and what is it all really worth?) at some point, the notion that "X Is King" (an ostensibly new-millennium axioma that is connotatively and in reality burdened by a feudalistic presumption) will ultimately keep us from recognizing the real challenge in this (same as any other) era of hasty mis-labeling and subsequent profiteering-slash-bubble-fabrication from said labels: the challenge to create. By this, I mean to say that perhaps the medium isn't the message, and instead, the message is the message.

This new era of tech-overhaul isn't, despite the claims of many, the first element in a dialectic of creation-through-destruction; indeed, if History -- which is to say, the potentially instructive repeated cycles of human nature -- is relevant at all, our new era may indeed lead to the misapplication and tragically narrow constriction of a promising technology to serve short-sighted aims, in yet another cycle of consumption and collapse, to be followed by another pseudo-renaissance ushered in by The Next New Thing.

Simply put, although the anointed/manufactured "King" may have a (gilded) crown, it is still a naked emperor.

We often say that "it's all been done" and "there is nothing new under the sun". Yet, as I have written before, when you factor the infinitesimal number of individuals who've ever even had the opportunity to express themselves, against the nearly infinite number of ho-hums, cast-offs, and the coldly railroaded who've never even tried, or tried, but didn't try, try again (discouraged through conditioning or brutal defeat by powerful interests), the fact is, we haven't even begun to self-express the way we could, and should, given that we are, well, planetary beings desperately in need of genus/species/eco-salvation through, well, re-aligned consciousness, and the sensible utilization of Technology's promise.

And so, while we might admire how we are all worker-bees, we should keep in mind the real-world implications of this metaphor: bees are facing an unknown threat, possibly a virus which could lead to their demise, and this affects our own existence. Corny example, I know.

In a more immediate forecast, our innate creativity may be dwindling, in a half-life which is increasingly accelerateted by our survival/money-making/bill-paying-fueled drive to be the first to discover viral content and profit off its distribution, and this phenomenon woefully foregoes that fact that if we are all looking for "content" to spread, rather than genuinely creating (despite our claims about "Creator Classes" which are usually entirely co-opted by guv grants, think-tanks and corporate sponsorships -- often same diff) we will inevitably fail to solve the problems of our time.

Print, Radio and TV have all been declared semi-obsolete, or at least newly subservient to hybridization, lest they fail. In reality, none of these mediums/media have been developped to their full potential, simply because the motives to either make money by dangerously unaccountable corporate entities, or the motives to control the message by those who fully understand the value of the message, and are concerned with some kind of sacred text-based presumption about our universe, have kept these media from being truly useful.

Yet, those who know the value of these media still use them. Perhaps Newscorp didn't buy The New York Post to save a very old, American newspaper, nor to save print; perhaps it bought The New York Post for the same reason it was founded by Alexander Hamilton, albeit, with perhaps different intentions: to, in some of its pages, control the message amongst those who still read papers: the reactionary class, via distracting gossip and manufactured outrage, as well as semiotic reinforcement of territorial/ethnic/financial biases. If The Post had power in the age when Jefferson claimed his preference -- albeit theoretically -- for a society that had many newspapers and no government, over one with a government and no newspapers, think about the power The Post wields in a time and place characterized by virtually no papers, despite the occasional promise of virtual papers. The Daily News is really no better. In fact, and I say this with love for what is good ("good" being an admittedly subjective term) in the pages of any and every daily/weekly publication in this town: they are all more or less very disappointing; either totally reactionary, or self-satisfied in their conferring of pseudo-sophistication upon readers and subscribers. Where's I.F. Stone when you need him? I really used to enjoy the media-watch column by Doug Ireland and James Ledbetter in the pages of the long-gone Village Voice of yester-yester-year.

Given the times we are living through, bold large-scale publishing is more important than ever, lest The Tea Party -- who know how to work and fund the democratic technicalities of our government, gain Major Power. Today's nuclear option (and Constitutional tragedy) in the Senate is a very good example of how extreme things have gotten.

It's the same with television: "Public Access" channels are controlled by one of the most powerful monopolies we know: the cable industry. So many public access shows are religious or extreme, or both -- all of which ostensibly speak to glorious 1st Amen preservation, yet they are in fact carefully controlled outlets for certain kinds of ostensibly radical free speech. Additionally, how exactly, is C-Span "a gift to the American people" from the cable industry? Can we not give this to ourselves? Is a more powerful version of C-Span not a civic responsibility and potential instrument of real participation? I really like C-Span, they do some good work, yet it often seems the opiate of the pseudo-concerned masses, or the pressure-control valve of the angry and confused, delivering a democratic illusion, a mirage. Perhaps we should fund C-Span with a lock-boxed tax-payer trust? Suffice to say, if we had camera-parity with our government and its processes, we might evolve from the Orwellian to something more Jeffersonian, though in reality, we are all probably too lazy. Forget whether the revolution will be televised, let's revolutionize the television. Sadly, this sounds like nothig more than an ad slogan for a new cable channel.

Random Notes

I was disheartened
when I saw an interview on PBS, in which Jaron Lanier was presumptuously asked whether it wasn't unrealistic of him to propose that micro-payments and idea royalties could be paid to those who, for example, tweet ideas which are subsequently used for profit. What if this could be done? What if ideas were the real currency, and were used genuinely -- not in order to make a killing, but instead to simply make a living? Now that would be revolutionary -- or rather, more importantly, on a human scale -- evolutionary.

Does a journalist really have to have a Twitter and Facebook account to sustain a paid career writing online? Even after ongoing NSA revelations?

Why do Google/Youtube tell credentialed journalists who film live events, that they "own nothing", citing copyright, whilst placing ads on the very same work, and paying none of it back to the journalist who posted the work? Aren't Google/Youtube having their cake and eating it too, whilst not paying the person who gave their time in the bakery, and also punishing the individual for use of the kitchen? Very, very corny example, I know, yet it's fairly accurate. While I have been fortunate with copyright, and I thank many artists, promoters, managers, and publicists, it would be nice for Youtube to simply pay me part of its ad revenue.

How come Google -- which just won a landmark case on books and copyright, in a victory which they claim will help keep us all reading -- insists on keeping YouTube audiences post-literate by limiting word-counts for vloggers and making the reading of any write-up accompanying a video optional, whilst burdening the space with sharing options and ads, to the exclusion of a vlogger's writing?

When David Lynch learned that The Elephant Man was going to make a profit, he re-wrote, re-negotiated his contracts with his crew who'd given their time, so that they could be paid for the effort they gave out of their love for being part of a production, and their need to create work which they believed to be worthwhile. This should be instructive for every media company. Is there not profit enough for all who contribute? Having said this, Lynch's spoof of at-times bloated unions and their occasional sense of entitlement, in the absolutely brilliant Inland Empire was perfect.

Notes on tone: this is a blog, my blog. I'm not always this bitter.

Although "Terms of Service" are legally binding, they are still unfair, and they are unfair for a very large number of reasons, and these are reasons which, if tech companies really wanted to live up to their slogans, they would change. A "community" isn't a community, when lawyers and shareholders have the last word, and it's collected by the NSA. Net neutrality? It died a while ago. Sill-born, actually.