First, a little sonic amusement…
In looking deeper to what’s beneath the surface of reality, I’ve been thinking a lot about the new website I’m hoping to expand YWG into. I also thought I’d relay a piece of what’s been an interesting discussion this week going on at the old watering hole, I mean the WaterBrook Multnomah weekly editorial meeting.
First, a quote: “Since the Web is killing the old media, we face a situation in which culture is effectively eating its own seed stock.”
This comes from a top-trending article in The New York Times from this week by Michico Kakutani. And another quote: William Gibson said in Wired, “Audience is as antique a term as record, the one archaically passive, the other archaically physical. The record, not the remix, is the anomaly today. The remix is the very nature of the digital.”
A brilliant coworker friend of mine says she thinks this is a big part of why Wikipedia is popular. She’s not convinced its popularity has grown only because it’s free or easy to navigate and search. The interweb’s explosion of OpenSource and CollaborativeThink projects like this feel like home to digital natives perhaps as much because they are “ours” and not something compiled, shaped, and maintained by an outside “them.” And in that way, by being created and policed by its own most active users, Wikipedia is personal, organic, interactive, and alive in ways that more formally-edited and monitored sources are not.
But this is the point: Wikipedia is not always accurate or true and its users accept it and even in most cases defend this essential quality. It’s a “work in progress” and this is it’s deeper value. We’re losing something in a trade for something else. Therefore, giving up the expectation of truth (let alone capital-t Truth) for the experience of connectedness becomes a reasonable exchange.
When what you find most important is the community surrounding the info source, rather than the actual content, the value of the printed book in our society has fundamentally decreased.
And what few in traditional publishing are willing to admit is that this trade off (as the article and Mr. Lanier’s books posit) is exactly what we’re in the midst of.
I believe this is why we need conscious writers who value capital-t Truth to step in, first to stave off this systemic decline in the value of truth, but also to show that truth and connectedness aren’t mutually exclusive. Both are actually predictable results of any healthy community. No one need simply accept that artificial division and its fall-out as inevitable.
I see this supporting the dream I’ve had for the past 2 years or so, to see a healthy community of invested writers and readers online, a place where the best of collaborative input and responsible, informed truth-sleuthing can come together for the sake of something higher than business as usual What if a bunch of writers, editors, agents, and publishing folks were committed to growing, expanding abilities and inspiring their counterparts? What if we took the new interactive publishing to a community of innovation, collaboration, and remixed (“transformed?”) art and words?
What would that look like? Could I find people who'd join?
The strange vision I see is of a group that’s like a grand old antique dining table. Follow me here. When we clear off this table and see under the piles and grime to the ancient wood underneath, its lustrous sheen of years and years …and years…of human history, see the deep, rich color of memories reflected in its surface, then we know the true value of our various combined contributions. We find countless somethings we didn’t realize were there or even available before. We remember the deeper importance of what it is we’ve been looking for underneath it all. And we find our places to sit at the table together and just commune, break bread, and listen among the foundational connections we’ve enjoyed over time and space with countless voices throughout the years.
There is a way forward here, for many of us, where there wasn't before. In that place, I’m thinking anyone missing this connectedness could find it in a reading and writing community online. Through different seasons of life, talking about writing and authors we’ve loved, new emerging talent, and the beauty of words and literature, a blog is nice. But a bigger community for the book workers, those who do this every day like me, I imagine there are others who feel they could use this as much as I do.
Would you be drawn to such a community? Are you currently missing discussion about the deeper purpose of your work? Let me know if you'd like to share.