March 2010

Consider our electronic communicative potential. I mean yours and mine. If you wish to commicate inexpensively with a large number of people there has never been a better time to be alive. Speaking for myself; I blog, I experiment with the odd video, I don’t tweet although I might, and next month I will publish the second edition of my book, The Tree House and other Stories. In doing so I will join a long list of distinguished names that published and promoted their own work – among them; Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Louisa May Alcott.

Of course, I will also join a much longer list of names that none of us have ever heard of.

Self – publishing used to mean a certain financial risk. Not so much these days. It will cost me a few hundred dollars to make this book available. There will be no inventory because of the miracles of print on demand and drop shipping. The outfit that made all this possible can be found at: their operation offers a masterpiece of convenience for the emerging author. Now if only someone would come up with the self-writing book…

But here’s a problem I have when listening to impassioned mass communication: I find that my ideological boundaries are more pourous than ideally I would care to admit in public. I am susceptible to a well turned message, no it goes further than that, if I watch some of the louder, less plausible infotainment channels on cable, I find myself (usually in full awarenss of how absurd it is) conceeding validity in their argument. And then shortly after I turn off or switch to another channel, I find it ridiculous to have been so influenced.

The best of this feature is (I think) that an actor should be able to inhabit any viewpoint, and have some professional ability to understand something about why people do what they do or say what they say; the worst of it is that my opinion is bidable and subject to persuasive argument; or persistent argument, or loud, or pervasive noise that calls itself ‘news’.

What I’m grappling with is the whole question of how the little guy empowered by technology fits in among the booming voices of the 24/7 media jungle.

I recently started learning Chinese Mandarin formally – this after a year or so struggling informally. I found an excellent teacher here in New York and I go to a weekly class. The material is well presented and leads the student at a fast pace. There is a lot to absorb though and it was soon clear that I would need to practice if I was going to keep up. Just this last week I came across a website: here you can find native speakers of almost any language who wish to improve their English. I posted a profile and within a few days had more responses than I can get to. Communication technologies like Skype, also means that the conversations can happen intercontinentally.

And then there’s the phone question. I have a steam-age cell phone, which I am now embarrased to use in public. I feel deeply under-accessorized when I’m with people who own one of those sleek rectangles that can make movies and translate and calculate and play music. Rumour says that in the summer here in the USA the company with the biggest network is going to team up with the company with the best phone design. A couple of corporations getting together… hmn, if this continues will we move to a time when ‘all the world is one speech.’?

The National Geographic reported that the recent earthquake in Chile was powerful enough to shake the Earth into a new rotational speed, thereby decreasing the amount of time in a day by something like 1.26 millionths of a second. It doesn’t sound like much I know, but I think it’s something to keep an eye on when you think of how our personal days are always getting shorter than they used to be. Not only that the forward march of time means that as each day passes, a day becomes a smaller fraction of the total number of days lived. But also that there was a time when nobody could text, email, or call you while you were out and about – not to mention that no one in those wildly distant days knew where you were unless you told them. And wasn’t there a time before that when we all had to rely on our answering machines? And in the even more distant past a time when the question: does the phone still ring if there’s no one to hear it? Simply could not be answered.

And what about silence? I heard once of a man who went around the world recording what was left of silence. It’s in short supply apparantly. Apparantly there are so few places beyond the reach of the noisy world that we’d better bottle what remains before it disappears. And does more talk mean more listening? And in amongst it all do we really need one more book? Except that print on demand means less waste. And could we imagine a world without physical books? – Sure, when now a single Kindle can hold an entire library. And maybe the day will come when the contents of a book are just streamed to some cyber device planted internally and then everyone will have read everything.

Meanwhile what does it mean to live in a time when anybody can attempt to commicate anything to anybody anywhere in the world anytime? And what about me with my mind that can be influenced, will I change my point of view more frequently as more communication comes my way? And talking of media will I be able to distinguish between the messages of the corporate and or governmental oligargies that control what has come to be called ‘the narative’ or ‘the national conversation’, from the quality works of self-published authors such as, for example, Gertrude Stein, Deepak Chopra, D.H. Lawrence? These and other questions…

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