Digitalism has clearly introduced our world and society to a new era. It is the era of digitally networked societies, cultures and another step to forward globalisation. Additional key aspects, such as independency of time and space, infinite data space and no expiry date, have contributed to the beginning of another new era- the era of digital publishing.
Barbara Brannon evaluates in “The Laser Printer as an Agent of Change” several of the advantages that we gain from the technology of our time. She names searchability of text, the capability of linking related information, the ability to copy, paste and edit as well as the ability to output the same data in different forms or in different locations according to particular needs (Brannon, 2007). These are only a few of the characteristics that helped to create what McLuhan calls The Global Village. I think this is simply marvellous. Isn’t it amazing how we can all contribute to public discussions? How all of us can communicate with each other from anywhere in the world at any time with who ever we want to? Isn’t it remarkable how we can form like-minded communities beyond regional boundaries and extend our knowledge independently to what we want to know and not what others want us to know? Isn’t it incredible how we can participate in live-time communication about major events and therefore express ourselves in the way we want to present the “I”?
Of course there are always two sides of a story. Will Self is arguably right when he says that serious writing, especially in print, is at its end (Self, 2014) . Mike Shatzkin’s evaluations of the declining print media industry also contribute to that argument (Shatzkin, 2012). Print becomes too expensive and not profitable in times where everyone can be their own journalist, editor and publisher. It’s easier and cost free. This development led and leads without doubt to a flooding of content, or to put it more accurately it led and leads to violent anarchy in cyberspace. This clearly enables the expression of the vast masses of unreliable data or how Mr Self says “Surely if there’s one thing we have to be grateful for it’s that the web has put paid to such an egregious financial multiplier being applied to raw talentlessness” (Self, 2014).
I’m sure Self and Shatzkin and all the others who outline the fading of print media are right, but I’m not sure if it really is the death of print. Every trend causes a counter movement. I still certainly love reading hardcopy books and I’m sure a lot of other people do too.
Nevertheless, one important aspect in Self’s evaluation is that he admits that there still is high quality literature, text and content. I think the most important point here is to outline the existence of serious and meaningful, deep reading. It is only harder to access and find it within the jungle of the World Wide Web.
Why don’t we all spend our time, energy and money instead on the development of quality selection tools for new media than on complaining about its disadvantages? Wouldn’t that be a benefit to all of those struggling print publishing businesses, who could help support strengthening the quality of literature and use their abilities from print in digital? Maybe these kinds of selection tools embody new business opportunities?
Jonah Lehrer explains that it is the dorsal stream in our brain that is bored and that needs some new challenges from absorbing digital content because the media becomes too developed, the content perception too easy and the intellectual engagement too flat (Lehrer, 2010). So here you are, all of you who complain about the great development of digitalism. Please start to see all those weaknesses as opportunities for education, information distribution and business.
If you are missing an old outcome in the new situation, you need to find procedures to get similar outcomes within the new possibility set. I’m sure the medium is the message. Gertrude Stein already knew that in 1920. Now it’s left to us what we do with it.
- Brannon, Barbara A. (2007) ‘The Laser Printer as an Agent of Change’ in Baron, Sabrina et al., (eds.) Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies after Elizabeth L. Eisenstein Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press: 353-364
- Lehrer, Jonah (2010) ‘The Future of Reading’, Wired, September 8, <http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/09/the-future-of-reading-2>
- Self, Will (2014) ‘The novel is dead (this time it’s for real)’, The Guardian, May 2, <http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/may/02/will-self-novel-dead-literary-fiction>
- Shatzkin, Mike (2012) ‘Some things that were true about publishing for decades aren’t true anymore’, The Idea Logical Company, January 12, <http://www.idealog.com/blog/some-things-that-were-trueaboutpublishing-for-decades-arent-true-anymore>