Tag Archives: Media

“Let no thought pass incognito”

As a relative newcomer to blogging, I count myself fortunate in my readership.  Though my stats are nothing to write home about, I have something much more important (to me at least):  a handful of readers apparently willing to think with me.  I was reminded of this by a comment left on a recent post about Walter Benjamin’s writing on newspapers, one that began (auspiciously) by quoting me quoting Benjamin:

“Work itself has its turn to speak.” I am letting that line echo a bit in my mind….

As Benjamin also predicts, again, what was old has become new again. Thank you for turning this up.

For me, this succinct comment resonates like crazy.  The re-citing of Benjamin’s language (in translation, of course) – “Work itself has its turn to speak” – redirects us to a formulation that appears deceptively brief, almost pithy, and yet is anything but.  “I am letting that line echo a bit in my mind” attests that such distilled and difficult thought takes time to unfold, if it is not to vanish irretrievably – succumbing to the threat of disappearance that for Benjamin haunts the dialectical image (a threat that, for blogger and micro-blogger , is part and parcel of reverse chronology).  Indeed, it recalls another passage from Benjamin’s writing, one I cited in a post written at the end of 2009 (http://wp.me/pLpwg-19 ).  “The Writer’s Technique in Thirteen Theses,” part of the volume One-Way Street, lists the following under number 5:  “Let no thought pass incognito, and keep your notebook as strictly as the authorities keep their register of aliens.”  My gentle reader is precisely not letting this thought – “Work itself has its turn to speak” – pass unrecognized.  (And no one on any side of any border I can think of will miss the stringency of Benjamin’s analogy regarding his notebook-keeping practices.)
The final part of the comment is for me likewise galvanizing:  “Thank you for turning this up.”  My assumption (and I of course stand ready to be corrected) is that the “turning up” involved is not so much a cranking of the volume as a given track is played, but rather akin to an archaeologist’s (or, more prosaically still, a researcher’s) practice when it meets with some success.
 
 
 
But as I have written here before, this blog’s project is very much one of “turning up” writing from the proximate or more distant past that might help us to take stock of our own present, particularly when it comes to the unpredictably unfolding trajectories of media, journalism and historiography.  My own working term and concept for this has been curation, and, for better or worse, this blog is unabashedly curatorial, whether serendipitously or by design.
 
It goes without saying that I am not the only one who is thinking in terms of curation these days.  To borrow once again from an earlier post ( http://wp.me/pLpwg-Fy ), let me cite Mashable‘s Pete Cashmore:  “For those adrift in a sea of content, good news:  A ‘curation’ economy is beginning to take shape….” [“Twitter lists and real-time journalism,” http://www.cnn.com/2009/tech/11/04/twitter.lists/index.html ]  Whether its inception is late-breaking or old news, there is little doubt that the curation economy is the site of important work, where it may even transpire that “work itself has its turn to speak.”

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Media 101 (or is that 2.0?)

What follow are some edifying formulations on “media” from Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus:  Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age (Penguin, 2010, 26-27).

Because we are increasingly producing and sharing media, we have to relearn what that word can mean.  The simple sense of media is the middle layer in any communication, whether it is as ancient as the alphabet or as recent as mobile phones.  On top of this straightforward and relatively neutral definition is another notion, inherited from the patterns of media consumption over the last several decades, that media refers to a collection of businesses, from newspapers and magazines to radio and television, that have particular ways of producing material and particular ways of making money.  And as long as we use media to refer just to those businesses, and to that material, the word will be an anachronism, a bad fit for what’s happening today.  Our ability to balance consumption with production and sharing, our ability to connect with one another, is transforming the sense of media from a particular sector of the economy to a cheap and globally available tool for organized sharing.  (26-7, emphasis added)

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fledgling’s archive, january 2010

 1/06/2010  Motivational reading: Clay Shirky’s ‘Here Comes Everybody’

I finally made the time to embark on Clay Shirky’s first book, which I’ve been wanting to read for months.  Having consistently come away from various blog posts and videos that he’s shared a bit wiser than I was going in, I opened the volume with high expectations, which were met in the first few paragraphs.  His anecdotal example of the stolen phone, and his analysis of the extent to which it “demonstrates the ways in which the information we give off about ourselves, in photos and e-mails and MySpace pages and all the rest of it, has dramatically increased our social visibility and made it easier for us to find each other but also to be scrutinized in public,” gets to at least one crux of our historical present.  What I like most in what I’ve read so far, however, is an unattributed quotation that serves as a section header on page 6:  “Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough, and I will move the world.”  For me, this stunning imperative provides a modicum of hope for the future, from the standpoint of a present that reads, all too often, as grim.  I recognize here the topos of the Archimedean point, but I can’t recall the source of this “moving” (motivational?) citation.  Can anybody help me out? Clay, are you there? (You shouldn’t be all that hard to find, right?)

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01/04/2010   Before the fact: Walter Benjamin on blogging

Today’s brief offering transcribes another scrawled entry in my notebook, one that records more of Walter Benjamin’s One-Way Street (which had its own origins in barely-legible notes).  In the context of the year-and-decade-end inbox avalanche of advice on how to optimize, maximize and monetize one’s blog, this comes, to me at least, as sweet relief and bracing reminder.

“Standard Clock”

To great writers, finished works weigh lighter than those fragments on which they work throughout their lives.  For only the more feeble and distracted take an inimitable pleasure in closure, feeling that their lives have thereby been given back to them.  For the genius each caesura, and the heavy blows of fate, fall like gentle sleep itself into his workshop labor.  Around it he draws a charmed circle of fragments.  “Genius is application.” 

 (Selected Writings, vol. 1, 446)

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01/02/2010  @Biz on “A year in the life of Twitter”

A link in the Twitter blog post by @Biz (December 29, 2009) connects the reader to his recent article “Why we can never rest:  a year in the life of Twitter.” 

http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry-sectors/technology/article6968440.ece 

The article’s closing lines are perhaps worth citing, for the record. 

Many people have assumed that Twitter is just another social network, some kind of micro-blogging service, or both.  It can be these things but primarily Twitter serves as a real-time information network powered by people around the world discovering what’s happening and sharing the news.  The Iranian election was the most discussed issue on Twitter in the final year of a decade defined by advancements in information access. 

In the new year, Twitter will begin supporting a billion search queries a day.  We will be delivering several billion tweets per hour to users around the world.  These are figures we did not anticipate when we founded the company in 2007. 

Posted at 09:48 AM in Journalism, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0) 

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01/01/2010  Walter Benjamin on the virtues of blogging

The new year appears to be off to a fine start. I’m fortunate enough to be blogging from a gorgeous small hotel in Toronto, where I’m ensconced as the snow falls softly on the other side of the windows and I embark on my first post of 2010. This time last year I wasn’t yet a blogger; with nearly 100 posts under my belt, I’m feeling at least legit.  As I mentioned two or three posts back, my idea is to take as a point of departure for the next several posts the question of what Walter Benjamin has to teach us, in our time – for example, about blogging.  For the most part, I’ll simply quote his writings, adding commentary where appropriate. 

I begin by returning to a work that I cited recently:  One-Way Street, which is translated and collected in Selected Writings, ed. Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings (Harvard University Press, 1996, vol. 1, 444).  This is the first section of the text, entitled “Filling Station.”  Its pertinence to blogging seems to me self-evident. 

The construction of life is at present in the power far more of facts than of convictions, and of such facts as have scarcely ever become the basis of convictions.  Under these circumstances, true literary activity cannot aspire to take place within a literary framework; this is, rather, the habitual expression of its sterility.  Significant literary effectiveness can come into being only in a strict alternation between action and writing; it must nurture the inconspicuous forms that fit its influence in active communities better than does the pretentious, universal gesture of the book – in leaflets, brochures, articles, and placards [and blog posts, and tweets… – Ed.].   Only this prompt language shows itself actively equal to the moment.  Opinions are to the vast apparatus of social existence what oil is to machines:  one does not go up to a turbine and pour machine oil over it; one applies a little to hidden spindles and joints that one has to know.

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fledgling’s archive, september 2009

09/30/2009 Red-letter day 

  

Perhaps this will go down as a red-letter day of some sort: I just noted my fledgling blog’s first batch of visitors arriving via Google. And it showed up on my own search. Now I really must make these posts presentable.  

For the moment, though, I just want to (red) flag a matter for future consideration: the ascendancy of the term ‘friend’ in the context of social media. It is an easy thing to overlook, or simply take for granted, but given the richness and variability of the writing on friendship in the history of philosophy, this certainly warrants further scrutiny.  

Posted at 05:00 PM in Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (4)    

 

09/29/2009  Hectic presumptions 

In the belief – a wager, certainly – that thinking can proceed in part via stepping-stones of thought made accessible by those who have gone before (even just before), let me cite (as I have more than once) an account provided by my friend and mentor Werner Hamacher in an incisive essay entitled “Journals, Politics”:  

Many years ago – it might already be twenty – Max Horkheimer recommended a little experiment during a television interview. He suggested reading newspapers a few weeks or months after their publication. With this he bent over to pick up a stack of rather gray papers that lay next to his chair. I cannot recall his comments on this piece of advice. But one can imagine that the effect he had in mind was supposed to be both philosophical and political. Indeed, the effect of this small postponement on the reader, on his perception of time and on his attitude to news and published opinion, should be considerable. The reader of these old papers will notice that the imperatives, attractions and threats heralded in them reveal themselves as such only to the degree that they no longer directly affect him. The judgments that the newspapers imposed on him at another time can now be dismissed as hectic presumptions. In the future he will no longer so easily obey the regulations of the newspapers and their time…. Horkheimer’s is a piece of political advice that looks forward to the suspension of coercion and to its transformation for another way of life.  

Users, students and teachers of social media stand to gain, philosophically and politically, by conducting for themselves an analogous experiment that would introduce a small postponement in the hectic reverse chronology and “real-time” updates that govern these media, and exercises their own forms of coercion.  

Posted at 12:01 PM in Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)  

 

09/28/2009  ‘The pulse of the planet.’ Perhaps.

  

 Twitter’s coveted prize is its real-time search engine and its global collection of users. What Twitter has done is add a new and important variable into the dissemination of information equation [Man this is badly written – Ed.]. When the user experience is centred around receiving information, they want that information to be relevant, and that’s what search engines are good for. But Twitter’s contribution is to introduce the variable of Time into the equation. With the integration of Twitter’s engine and its users, who provide a stream of real-time data, consumers will get answers to their queries that are relevant – Now. That’s why, as Twitter positioned it, they’re going to have the “pulse of the planet.”  

http://www.searchfuel.com/2009/07/twitter-will-be-the-pulse-of-the-planet/comment    

Posted at 12:13 PM in Current Affairs, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)  

09/25/2009  Pray for – make that on – the newspapers

  

In my last post I touched in a preliminary way on the materiality (and hence biodegradability) of newspapers over against the virtuality (and reverse chronology) of Twitter.  From the first, this blog has been dedicated to thinking through the temporal and material aspects of these media as instruments of historiography in our time.  

As it happens, the materiality of newspapers made them serviceable on at least one recent occasion, duly reported by Robin Wright for Time.com on July 27, 2009 under the title “Iran’s Protesters: Phase 2 of their Feisty Campaign”:  

‘The new cameraderie of resistance was visible at the July 17 [2009] prayer sermon given by former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani at TehranUniversity. Non-religious Iranians turned up for political reasons. The devout showed them how to carry out the rituals, with strangers handing out newspapers as substitute prayer mats for overflow crowds.’  

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1912941,00.html

Posted at 05:13 PM in Current Affairs, Religion, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)  

 

09/25/2009  #IranElection

  

I released my first innocuous tweets in April and May. But in June the stakes changed for me (and so many others) with the advent of the Iranian election and its harsh aftermath. To be part of a virtual social network during the unfolding of these events – and their extraordinary chronicling by other participants – could not but galvanize. One of my several “favorite” tweets from this period was authored by @somegirl604 and posted at 12:02 PM on June 20th:  

show a newspaper from the day in films & pictures to verify date VERY IMPORTANT 4 CNN BBC etc #GR88 #IranElection RT  

At the time, after first saving it to favorites – rescuing it from the obscurity all but guaranteed by the hectic reverse-chronological feed –  I replied directly in succinct tweetspeak: “Great practical advice that also speaks volumes about this historical moment.”  I will likely revert to her formulation more than once in the work to come. (By the way, @somegirl604, have you found a job yet?  Thanks again and best wishes.)  

Posted at 12:11 PM in Current Affairs, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)  

 

09/23/2009  ‘I tweet, therefore I am.’

It was a journalist’s post-Cartesian musing about Twitter and mortality that propelled me from the relative safety of theoretical interest and observation into the riskier business of practice. In late March, 2009, The Globe and Mail ran a feature by Ian Brown under the title ‘Give Me Twitter or Give me Death’ (March 28, 2009, F1, F4). Zeroing in on what he termed the Twitter dictum – ‘What are you doing?’ – Brown sought to align questions of temporality, language, technology and mortality:  

‘…the discipline of compression is part of Twitter’s charm. Brevity and the management of candour are essential. One must, as Mark Twain advised, “eschew surplusage.”‘  

Or again,  

‘The lure of Twitter is the lure of Right Now. There is no death in the moment of Right Now: There is only where/what/why/who I am. If you are tweeting or tweeted, you are not dead, yet.’ 

While such conceptual claims resonated with my own thinking to date, I was struck by Brown’s readiness to take a further, very practical step: to seek in these terms to initiate a discussion about Twitter on Twitter. And so he did, generating a lively response:  

‘People had a lot to say, it was more like tossing firecrackers than writing…. It was exhausting, like climbing into a dryer for a ride.’  

He also reproduced, among others, a response from participant ‘gordonr’: ‘Twitter is phatic communication: I exist, you exist, the channel is open, the network if flowing.’  

Then and there, I signed up.  

Posted at 11:31 AM in Current Affairs, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)  

09/21/2009  George Clooney and I have something in common  

This post’s sole mission is to reproduce a remark by George Clooney that a) made me laugh and b) is tangentially related to this blog project.  In town last week for TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival, Clooney was asked by a reporter why he wasn’t active on Facebook.  According to multiple sources including The Globe and Mail and Maclean’s, he responded that he “would rather have a prostate exam on live television by a guy with very cold hands than have a Facebook page.”  

 As far as I can tell, he had nothing to say about Twitter, to which I will return shortly.  

George_Clooney_9  

Posted at 02:54 PM in Current Affairs, Film, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)  log   

 

09/20/2009  Prelude to Twitter 

With zero readership at this stage, I can probably risk an autobiographical start without fear of losing anyone.  Suffice it to say that I have a longstanding investment in matters of language, literature, aesthetics, media, technology and history, in their various permutations.  So I was of course aware of the advent of new social media, even while I kept a certain critical distance in terms of my own practices (I’m still wary of Facebook, truth be told, and monitor it vicariously through my daughters’ accounts).My initial interest in Twitter stemmed from two decades of reading, teaching and writing about literature, and was more formal than material:  What sort of writing could and would emerge within the constraints of 140 characters? This was a version of questions I had considered in the past, for example with regard to the sonnet as form.  I was intrigued, but not yet hooked.  Then, in March 2009, I came across a feature article in my local newspaper, The Globe and Mail, that altered my thinking and impelled me to register and begin tentatively to tweet.  More about that article and its transformative effects in my next post.  

 Posted at 01:40 PM in Current Affairs, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)  

 

09/19/2009  Fledgling foray  

Let me begin, as I often do and will, by citing someone else:  in this case my old friend and colleague David Bromwich, who offers succinct advice to fellow bloggers, novice or expert:  “A good post is a single thought or observation or anecdote, clearly expressed and directly conveyed.  An essay may cover several topics; a post easily grows tiresome if it aims for more than one” (The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging, 91).   I cleave to this counsel as I ask myself whether cyberspace (to say nothing of any number of situations on the ground) needs another mind brooding in public about the impact of so-called “social media” – and Twitter in particular – on the history and historiography of our time.  My wager is that while my two cents will likely drop unnoticed, they won’t do any damage as they fall.  So I will undertake at least to chronicle my own involvement, practical and theoretical, with Twitter as an example whose value remains to be determined.   

BluebirdFledgling_052308   

Posted at 11:10 AM in Books, Current Affairs, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)     

 

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