----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, November 13, 2009 5:36 PM
Subject: RARA-AVIS: Re: state of NY publishing
It is an overwhelming wave because human beings are compulsive communicators. The extent and complexity of our communications is what defines us as human relative to other life forms (so far as we understand species' communications.) The industrial era of manufacturing was mostly about communicating via transportation- the expression of experience by bringing goods and people together. Digitization initially made production more efficient, and having done so, has moved on to extending the reach of human perception. I no longer need to travel to France to regularly meet and communicate with someone there. I don't have to wait for a book to be shipped to my doorstep to read it. Most tellingly, I don't have to be in the same room with a woman to have sex with her. Hence, the economy shifts emphasis from manufacturing and shipping goods to providing increasingly intimate experiences and services. My computer connection extends my sensory system. It's a work-in-progress, of co
urse, but even in its imperfection, so many want to play because that's what humans do.
By and large, digitization is more enabling than disabling. There's no reason to think books will disappear. For starters, many of those that have already been printed, many from the era of raised metal type, are still about, traded and sold. Some are still produced, and digitization supports efficient continued production through POD technology. You want text on paper, you still have it. My local libraries are still around and expanding their services. There are books on shelves, CDs and DVDs in bins, and banks of computers for anyone to access both the libraries' catalogues, the internet and wherever, though they do tend to limit access to pornography. I am not going to consumate any relationships with distant lovers from my local library any time soon. But then earlier, pre-digital attempts long ago drew Marian's disapproving glare.
What I have noticed with libraries is that they have been able to increase their offerings through digitization. They are less limited by spatial requirements. Books don't have to be on shelves, nor DVDs in bins. Files don't even have to be on my local library's computer. They may be downloaded from a central location that isn't even necessarily in my city. Digital inter-library loans become so quick and efficient that they may overtake local book delivery. As a library user, I expect to have the option of reading files on the library's computer, copying and taking it home to read on my own devices, or perhaps on a borrowed library Kindle-like device. I may even have the option of printing the file out to read on paper. The library's role in education and social issues such as addressing poverty may be met by lending out cheap computers, more than through central warehouses.
The thing most people complain about when they think of digitization is that it is too enabling. Read Kevin Smith's missives. It is so enabling that pretty much everbody can publish their own book, whether or not they can write one. So many are enabled that it becomes difficult to find the good stuff. In part that's because it's a different ball game. Variety and opportunity change the rules of engagement. Your little poetry collection or family history doesn't have to be of interest to anyone other than yourself, your mother and some polite, kissing cousins and friends to have value and qualitative merit. In fact, qualitative valuations become more about how well content addresses issues of common interest in relatively small groups even more than they have in the past. It's not all about small groups, of course. It's a built in irony that people still want to express their individuality to the collective. We still need to feel that we belong, that we have things in commo
n with others, sometimes lots of others. People who meet on the internet still long to meet face to face, so travel is enhanced by communication, not limited by it.
By and large industrial technology with its need for mass production to amortize the big, up-front expenses of tooling, was far more disabling, and of course, cheap as energy has been, it is still cheaper to shoot ideas through a satellite than to ship books cross country. And as I said earlier, mass production requires mass advertising to stimulate demand, which has been met through mass media generally appealing to broad common denominators in taste to provide content that attracts mass audiences they can deliver to their advertisers. Consider this next time you watch the evening news on telly. The industry-based economy expanded the volume of goods and services available to poor, agrarian economy peasants, but it was still a relatively limited marketplace of ideas with a constant need for mass consensus. The North American industrial economy was largely based on the production of automobiles. To work, the idea of owning a house in the suburbs and commuting daily to work
stations had to be widely accepted. Roads needed to be built, requiring mass consensus as to their desireability or taxpayers wouldn't have supported them. Vast quantities of petroleum had to be found and transported through militarily-secured delivery systems. Think of the concensus of ideas required to accomplish that. Industrialization is one step in the overwhelming wave toward what we consider civilization, the development of connections that enhance communications for the exchange of ideas. Culture is the development of a collective consciousness through communication. How's that for an overwhelming wave?
But you can still chop your own wood if you've a mind to. Digital technology won't stop you from heading out to the woodlot with your axe. If you live somewhere with enough space to have access to a woodlot. Or, if you live in a dense, urbanized area you might use your computer to locate nearby woodlots where you can chop your own wood. You might even learn wood-chopping techniques on the computer. "How to Split Wood and Not your Hand from your Arm." Or you might google info about installing your own geo-thermal heating system to get off the intermediated "warming system". Power the pump with a rooftop solar array. Personally, I've been thinking too, that, like urban auto freeways collective municipal sewage systems have grown so large that they're choking on their inherent inefficiencies and limitations. They spread more pollution than they treat, and at increasingly greater cost. Low-water compost systems are looking a lot more efficient at waste disposal. I've encountere
d them at public facitilites in parks both in the States and north of Sault Ste. Marie, and found a local manufacturer of household units on the internet. Fast and cheap access to information is enabling, not disabling.
But are we sufficiently off-topic now to stop this thread?
--- In email@example.com, "gsp.schoo@..." <gsp.schoo@...> wrote:
> Thanks for this. However, the salivating desire of corporations for short term profit without regard for longer term consequences is, for me, so evidently the inability to resist an overwhelming wave that I can't take your insight as a correction.
We should talk a bit about why the "wave" (many waves, actually) is perceived to be overwhelming. Is it that the organized life is such that it kills off any other way of life, in effect makes it inviable? For an obvious example, giving the streets to cars in effect precludes people from walking on them. So it is a disabling technology.
We should think about disabling technologies. With an ax, you can cut wood and warm yourself. With twenty intermediaries feeding into a "warming system" you are, as the saying goes, fucked.
The great virtue of the book is that it is an enabling technology, paticularly with public libraries. The marginalized people will not be buying Kindles or dowloading books from Amazon. If libraries close, they simply won't have access to books.
By the way, I consider this discussion to be right on topic, so no apologies for participating by anybody, please!
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