We are headed into the post-media age...or so claims Jeff Jarvis in an intriguing article on where all this over-communication is taking us. In it, the well-known blogger contends that the internet isn’t merely a new form of medium, but rather a whole different beast altogether. To make his point, Jarvis points to the interweb’s most striking feature - the ability to enable conversation. No other ‘medium’ allows the kind of two way interaction inherent on-line. Books, magazines, newspapers and newscasts - they’re all tricked-up versions of one-way communication. Now, with readily-accessible and user-friendly software, Al Gore’s prized invention is reaching its potential. For now we call it the blogosphere, a swirling mass of self-made web pages that grows larger and more dense with every passing moment. Whether or not this roiling cloudbank of vibrant voices and cyber-clutter will ever coalesce remains to be seen, but as Jarvis notes, it ain’t blowin’ over anytime soon.
Transparency… open-source… distributed data… aggregation… search… links… All of these enable the conversation. None of these are characteristics of media as we have known them.
On this we agree, though I contend we’ll still consider the internet and blogs part of the media - at least until we come with a better name for it. (Think the term ’blog’ is lame? I got two stupid words for ya: Information Superhighway.) Jarvis’ larger point could be summed up thusly: Blogs and the modern internet have just started changing everything about the way we communicate. To chalk it up as merely a new wing of the media is grossly underselling it. It’s like describing the Space Shuttle as just another form of transportation.
Jarvis goes even further by pulling the coroner’s sheet back to reveal one of the first victims of this communications overhaul: the novel. Relax, no one’s claiming the Age of Fiction is over, but it’s safe to say that modern day literature doesn’t pack the punch that it used to. Whereas the Great Unwashed once looked to fabricated stories to expose certain truths of the universe, these days we merely twitch a fingertip for more current event coverage and global analysis than we once thought possible. I’m not saying books, movies and other works of art will cease to exist, but I don’t think they’ll ever hold the general populace as completely enrapt as they did say, oh…back when the movie ‘Titanic’ came out. As for books in general, Jarvis makes his most startling admission:
Weblogs have also had an impact on my view of books. Since I started writing this weblog a week after 9.11 and since I became addicted to reading the weblogs of so many good writers in this fairly new medium, I find that I have less patience for authors in the oldest medium. I get impatient with books that drag themselves out to justify book length and the book deal…
Ouch. I don’t know Jarvis but I can assure you this latest divulgence didn’t come without a little pain. Successful writers like Jarvis (and struggling schlubs like myself) worship books, we dissect them word for word, hold them under late night lamplight and marvel at their power. I type this now from a spare bedroom filled to the ceiling with tomes and chronicles, leather-bound editions and tattered paperbacks that I count among my most prized possessions. Ever since my mother taught me how to make thoughts out of carefully-aligned letters, I’ve been addicted to the written word. As a young kid devoid of the athleticism my small-minded peers demanded of me, books were very often the only ally I had. To this day, I lay awake in the early morning darkness and fantasize about my name on a book. I always have and I always will.
But I’d be lying if I said I read books like I used to. Whereas I use to pour through novels at a frightening pace, I haven’t read two consecutive works of fiction in years. Instead I’ve spent the last decade or so devouring TRUE stories, from too damn many How-to-Write manuals to all those salacious tell-alls to my beloved collection of nautical history. I made the switch to non-fiction merely because its what interested me, though I suspect I was subconsciously trying to make up for my lack of formal edumacation. Whatever the reason, it’s more than a little startling to watch pundits and the like embrace my particular proclivities. If I didn’t know better, I ‘d think I was a little ahead of my time- a literary visionary with eyes and mind intensely focused ten years down the road. But that would be silly, for I am just a photog - albeit one who knows a great article and a few undeniable truths when he sees them.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a few more pages left of William Queen’s most enthralling ‘Under and Alone’ - a soon-to-be-filmed true account of a local lawman’s immersion into the world of the notorious Mongols’ Motorcycle Gang. Perhaps if we’re lucky, they’ll make a blog about it...