Plato is smarter than you. That’s how an experienced teacher once began a series of lectures on the Greek philosopher. And a good beginning it was, for it put students on notice that, as they read, their first duty was to attend and learn. Plato didn’t have the final word—there would be Aristotle, Epicurus, and others—but no one could enter that ancient conversation without conning the books.
Same with us, only we have a problem: Compared even with people half-a-generation back, we lack the necessary time and patience. We read plenty, but it’s mostly skimming online news and compressed Twitter or Facebook messages. What’s needed, David Mikics argues, is a return to the close-reading practices inculcated by teachers whose influence might be said to have peaked in the 1950s and declined in the late ’60s, with the shift to a politicized pedagogy. That shift changed the game, and many English departments now prefer the label “cultural studies,” not least because it allows them to jettison traditional poems and stories for the sake of TV, hip-hop, fashion ads, graphic novels, and comic books—whatever facilitates (as in “makes facile”) sloganizing about gender, race, and class.
Another tech bubble? A critical look at the whole social media sales pitch, which should make my consultant friends at the Colorado Independent Publisher’s Association squirm.
It will burst within the next 18 months. The reason is this: epublishing is inextricably tied to the structures of social media marketing and the myth that social media functions as a way of selling products. It doesn’t, and we’re just starting to get the true stats on that. When social media marketing collapses it will destroy the platform that the dream of a self-epublishing industry was based upon.
Facebook and Spotify automatically want to share my every waking action…Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for sharing thoughts, no matter how banal (as every column I have ever written rather sadly proves). Humans will always babble. If someone wants to tweet that they can’t decide whether to wear blue socks or brown socks, then fair enough. But when sharing becomes automated, I get the heebie-jeebies. People already create exaggerated versions of themselves for online consumption: snarkier tweets, more outraged reactions. Online, you play at being yourself. Apply that pressure of public performance to private, inconsequential actions – such as listening to songs in the comfort of your own room – and what happens, exactly?
From Brainz, an “analysis” of digg, redditt, Propeller, Slashdot, myspace, Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter. I use Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, but the vast majority of my content is from this blog and my daily posts here automatically post on those three social sites. (It reduces the time on the computer.)
From MediaShift, an assessment of social media, e-books, blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and Skype—all this stuff I thought I’d never do:
So this is what it’s like to be an author now – finishing the book is only the beginning. New technologies allow writers to seek out and engage with their readers more than ever before, and to participate in a community of readers and writers that isn’t limited by geography. The drawback is that for many authors who want people to buy their books, social media isn’t optional. In the years to come, the image of a reclusive writer, isolated in his garret, might become an antiquated one, like that of someone pounding out a novel on a typewriter or reading an actual book made of paper.
I’d actually prefer to be the reclusive writer, but it doesn’t auger well for actually selling books to follow that path—one must get with the times, which involves shameless self-promotion.
Context is dependent on time, and time must pass for our lives to accumulate meaning. New media like Facebook and Twitter are interested primarily in the now; these function in the present tense. And sometimes prose constructed in the first-person present tense can demand too much patience from the reader over the long haul; we are forced to live too long in close-up. (Murch once remarked that any movie running over two hours from a single point of view was living on borrowed time . . .) History cannot be accommodated within the present tense—yet our lives are accumulated history and gather meaning through comparisons with what came before. A status update to let everyone know that one is now named Georgina is of interest only if everyone already knew one was originally baptized George.
Found at GQ, the lead-in to the article states: “In the age of sharing every tiny scrap of our lives—every emotion felt, purchase made and bar visited, and etc., etc., etc.—Devin Friedman socializes with the barely pubescent geniuses of Silicon Valley and asks: What is the endgame of your revolution? And can you promise me it won’t suck?”
The somewhat frightening implications of all this, is that it, well…it may just suck. Nonetheless, I’ve just registered with Quora—a site that these Silicon Valley geniuses say is going to compete with Google. We’ll see.