Friday, July 17, 2009

Friend Request

so i talk about the fork a lot, and now i have an opportunity to explain why.

every time they publish one of these "poptimist" columns, i know damn well that something stupid is contained within -- something abrasively, arrogantly, obviously stupid. i'm sure one or two can be dug out that aren't masturbatory pieces of garbage, but if that's what you go in suspecting you usually won't be disappointed.

this one, subtitled "chartopia" is quite disturbing in that it addresses much of the crap i've been yelling about on and off for a few years now. he's talking about culture, about our much vaunted "new media", and how it's affected whatever remains of aggregate taste.

he says something that is stupid, and it's importantly stupid. "In a recent blog post, marketing guru Seth Godin touched disdainfully on the much-predicted demise of newspapers, writing 'Neatness is for historians.' This bon mot duly buzzed around the digiverse. Godin was addressing-- and dismissing-- journalism's much-honored role as 'the first draft of history,' its mission to make sense of the world for its readers. Social media, according to Godin and many similar thinkers, give people the tools to do this for themselves."

now here's why this is really stupid. some people call bloggers "citizen journalists". david simon once asked if you would call a man who puts out a small trash fire he sees while on a walk a "citizen firefighter". he then asked if your next conclusion would be that real firefighters are obsolete.

in reality, bloggers tend to be parasitic (as this blog). we live commenting on other companies' actual reporting. foreign policy blogs link to the new york times and the washington post, and most people don't follow links, meaning readers are consuming the product of a news company, but the company itself has no imaginable way to profit from it. aggregators (blogger's spell check doesn't recognize this last word; is it made up?) like google news and huffington post are the biggest violators of this, but the same dynamic exists for low-traffic blogs.

now, extend this to "social media" (i'm now realizing how orwellian this term truly is). some asshole TWEETS about a band; of the thirty five people who read his TWEETS let's say five take interest in the band; of those five presumably plugged-in folks, let's say one buys a few songs on itunes, while the rest torrent every single song the band has ever recorded and proceed to live the rest of their lives with thirty additional never-to-be-listened-to mp3s. the artist thanks the tweeter for the additional eight cents of income.

the problem with newspapers going out of business is that in order to produce news you actually have to pay some poor cunt to go somewhere and ask some questions and write some shit down. as adorably motivated as most "citizen journalists" are, someone needs to buy your food while you sit around at courthouse all day. reporting news is not an inherently profitable thing to do. neither is making music.

what tom ewing promises in his column is that social media allows people "to make sense of the world". i disagree. i think social media confuses its users, and disrupts any perception of the difference between the real world (of people, things) and the digital world (of pixels, numbers). as this happens, the real life institutions of the real world (newspapers, concert venues, etc.) die very rapidly, because the entire money-having nation spends ten hours out of every day typing and staring and typing and staring and typing and staring, all the while expanding their knowledge of everything, finding more people they know, being lords of their own universe.

sideshow bob once threatened to kill all television from a jumbotron, and i feel kind of like him, i guess. a luddite born in the 80's has a hell of a time these days. at the end of his sprawling, unfocused column, mr. ewing actually says, "There is still a great deal to be poptimistic about." as a musician, i find myself in another camp.

"social networking" (another phrase our society could probably do without) is incredibly useful for self-promotion. as an artist without any institutional support, it's more or less irreplaceable. but the rest of you, those non-creative people, whose generosity has fed us guitarists since the birth of our profession, you need to get off your god damn screens (right after you agree to attend my show). stop talking to each other all the fucking time and do something!

there's only so much that people can share. part of the equation has always been injecting new ideas, previously non-existent and unknowable, into the stream. mr. ewing thinks new media can do this job just fine, and that's why i called him stupid before. for real culture to happen, culture that we can be proud to pass to our children one day, we need to interact with one another in a way that can never be mechanized, a way that simply won't be made obsolete by tiny little machines that break if you kick them.

i'm talking, of course, about live music and fucking. who's with me?!

1 comment:

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