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June 7, 2013

I have written two books with a truly great editor. We are both in publishing’s crater. He almost the last editor standing at his press and me writing on 5 blogs and 2 wee magazines. We met this week, and his insight is worth sharing.

After downloading our respective evolving missions, (he grappling with wild diversity of printed product, me with a similarly fractured architecture practice with an orbiting constellation of media efforts), we asked each other the same question: Why are we, and all of our peers in this new place?

Despite both of us have been doing what we are doing for 30 years – with tangible, bankable success – neither of us understand anything about where our worlds are going.

There are huge quantities of work product – words, video, graphics, built and social, the wildly frenetic capacity for over commitment keyed directly to the instant connection between idea and “publication”/communication.

My friend has a job, he gets paid to process. I have a maelstrom of “opportunities”. Thousands read my words and see my work every week – not tens of thousands, but thousands. They see it not because it was judged, filtered and carefully presented by editors at magazines or book publishers but because I was given a forum (or six) by new entities – blogs, websites, Twitter, Linked-In and Facebook.

Fewer people in total than Traditional Media, but unrelenting, everyday exposure – validated only by its content – as there is no advertising, no publicists, no hype, save my own in the very places where the exposure is proffered.

All for free to the consumer, some with tiny compensation for me.

Tons of words, ideas, pictures and people seeing it all at anonymous discretion – but no actual money, or social value or professional lustre. And all of my architecture and writing homies are in the same place.

Why are we here?

My friend had an epiphany. He once (as did I) subscribed to the New Yorker. More than $100 per year, thousands and thousands of pages, hundreds of exquisite pieces, and deep, resonant and abiding guilt over so many unread “opportunities”.

Why had we both ended that love affair with the New Yorker? Why have I stopped reading the local paper? Why is the Sunday Times such an intermittent delight, versus a weekly metronome? Its the Internets, stupid.

But its all free. Instant. And 24/7. I should have more money to buy books, more time to think, or see shows or..or…

My friend-editor then made the point that shifted my perception. While every click is free, having the delivery system costs hundreds of dollars a month. I have 789 cable TV stations, when all I watch are 4 networks, but I also get internet access – all for $234 a month for 4 TV’s and unlimited internet access…

We have made a transaction. We have sold paper out and bought the screen images we are glued to.

We have lost the nature of holding information in our hands in favor of viewing it on any number of anonymous cypher-cyber devices – phone, pad, computer, TV…

I write this on a laptop, sent by software to servers who link to email addresses and websites supported by software…hundreds will see it today, thousands in a month, but what I send is part of a stream of undifferentiated inflow, it is not tangible, it is not held.

It is transacted, zipless, instant and disposed of with but a click of a screen or key.

Ephemeral, intangible but, in an odd way guileless – and I am too old not to notice the shallowness of the transaction and too tired to judge.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Janice Gruendel permalink
    June 8, 2013 4:54 am

    This is immensely thoughtful. In the end, it is our choice not to obtain, touch and revel in the PRINTed word. E-communication is fast and economical and awaits our bidding 24-7. All good. Time for the other, however, keeps us connected to the tangible in life. JMG

  2. June 8, 2013 9:39 am

    Duo, well thought out here. Having been in the television news business for more than 30 years journalists are on multiple platforms too, if it’s any consolation those who control every type of media don’t know where all of this is going either. You’re right, writers keep writing for free putting countless words into the atmosphere because everyone thinks they have to be on as many platforms as possible. Death by blogging…
    The new generation takes it a few phrases at warp speed and they are set for the day without really getting any background on what those few phrases they took in mean. I worry constantly about this as it is a threat to democracy, understanding the past and staying involved. Geeze do you think what will come of all of this is actual eye to eye conversation again some day?

  3. Essex Library permalink
    June 10, 2013 9:10 am

    Personally speaking, they’ll have to wrench my copy of the latest New Yorker out of my cold, dead, hands. I’m good with many things digital but my paper copies of garden magazines and The New Yorker will never be forsaken. Whenever my husband has to power down his iPad on an airplane, I happily hand him a New Yorker to tide him over. And generally speaking, those old eye-to-eye conversations take less time than emails back and forth and laughing with someone in person is so much more gratifying than online LOL’s.

  4. Leslie Krumholz permalink
    June 10, 2013 10:50 am

    To me, here is the bigger question: Is our generation no different than the generations past who feared what radio, or television, or even the telephone would do? or IS this really different? Is this technology so much for insidious? Will the day come when we will never hold a real book in our hands or have the need to look eye to eye at a person and talk to them or walk into an actual business and have a real relationship with it’s owner or truly have an online reputation that has been decided by Google and corp marketers? Maybe generations before us had relatively the same fears…. But for me, I still need to hold a real book when I read and connect with people face to face and my privacy is important – Technology is amazing and it is advancing us in ways we could not have even imagined a generation ago, but I often wonder why we are all just wringing our hands and waiting to see what will happen instead of standing up and saying some of this is just too important to give up… because if we don’t then it may very well be gone in our lifetime.

  5. Bugs Baer permalink
    June 10, 2013 6:50 pm

    As another New Yorker reader, I note spelling and grammar. Such as “A peak inside the mind of Duo Dickinson” and “neither of us understand anything . . .” Grammar and spelling are being lost. “Data” is plural in the Wall Street Journal but singular in the New York Times. Does anyone remember that a gerund takes the possessive? Does anyone remember what a gerund is? Not just the editors are being lost, but the whole language is being degraded. That may be a millennium-old complaint. Latin morphed into Italian. Norman French met descendants of German and they both lost their grammatical genders and their complex endings and became today’s English, surprisingly the world’s common language. We know it is changing but can we really say it is for the better or the worse?

    • Sue permalink
      June 14, 2013 10:13 am

      Good point! I read my tablet, my smart phone, my computer screen but I still really enjoy the physicality of reading a magazine, newspaper or book…something I grew up with no doubt…and funny thing…there is nothing blinking at me, nothing I can mistakenly “click” on launching a video or pop up ad…no links to take me somewhere else…and the cool thing about a paperback is I can drop it in the pool and who cares? Or leave it in the doctor’s office…so I will still subscribe to the New Yorker.

  6. June 10, 2013 7:56 pm

    Actually the peak is intentional…it is a high point. As to neither, Strunk & White would be miffed, and I apologize…

  7. sam permalink
    June 10, 2013 10:09 pm

    Milan Kundera had a great title for his ok novel when he called it “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” There is a direct relationship, I believe, between what I call “quantization” (the phenomenon of quantifying many aspects of reality into bits and bytes) and the
    consequent lack of what someone else called “The Weight of Glory” (C.S. Lewis, I believe).

    I think it affects my enjoyment of life and my sense that life is serious when my already godlike powers have been extended through the internet, and when I can reach others and be reached by others almost anywhere and anytime. It really does take gravitas away from life when I have far more access to far more information than I will ever need, and it is instant, easy – and therefore trivialized, even if it is important. It calls for discernment. The difference between information and education is but one of the many aspects of gravitas that are being lost when we succumb to a world of quanta.

    I’m GLAD I typed my last few college papers on a typewriter just as Apple was making it easier. I’m GLAD I got to go to a cinemateque for years and watch old movies with the sound of a projector in the background – and better visual quality, to boot. I LIKE records that have a little dust in the grooves and a few pops and clicks, even a skip – and I could care less if the same music is available in cool, perfected sound sampled 84,000 times per second – I want my sound waves to have a warm and human dimension. This is one area actually, where there is hope for those of us who think that a line has been crossed – that life really WAS better when there were less electronics and computers in control. CD sales are way down, and vinyl sales are up! Independent book stores are not disappearing, and won’t if we buy real books, either.

    I have deliberately chosen not to have facebook or twitter accounts – email and a cellphone are my concessions so far. I refuse and resist the invasion of electronics and computed reality. I fight it by having a garden, by reading only real books, by writing real letters – I do get news online and by radio – and by not watching tv. It feels good, and I get the satisfaction of knowing that my kids think I’m weird – but not THAT weird.

    • Sue permalink
      June 14, 2013 10:18 am

      I like that…writing real letters and reading real books…and gardening…it also sounds so romantic…I do write real thank yous…and as letters become rarer maybe they become more special…
      Here’s a weird thought…what about all those scrap-bookers? Turning paper into this art-craft form…it must be hotter than ever because i see products for it everywhere with Martha Stewart on the bandwagon…special scissors, paper cutters, etc etc etc…stamps all kinds of products…

      just a funny thought…and the trend towards crafting…there are – again countless websites and videos …about making stuff by hand…

  8. June 12, 2013 7:46 am

    Published thought is beyond either or (print/web) and Duo making deliberate choices as to which platform you words will inhabit may save you time but think about it. Your blog has the typical share buttons below, or for that matter the web address itself can be shared. Perhaps not by you as you’ve declared limits but by any visitors who are inspired by what they read here. It’s as if your words aren’t your own any longer! The sharing of ideas, of content is the idea of the web, but to what end is my question.

  9. Audrey scanlan permalink
    June 30, 2013 6:09 pm

    Yup. Don’t Get Me Started On My Love Affair With My Kindle. My Library Is Weeping.


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