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Friday, December 05, 2003

BopNews asked for a "blog burst" on the topic of the transformative power of the internet. In truth it is simple, the internet has rebalanced the speed of communication.

It means, specifically, a few things:

  1. Communities form and can react to the mass media at the same speed, or faster, than the mass media can.
  2. Communities become polities - they have an internal dynamic beyond merely that of being consumers.
  3. Everything becomes source code again - media, instead of being a finished product, can be cut, pasted, ripped, editted, burned, changed and inserted into other products.
  4. While the top-down media still drives the traffic, where it stops is determined, increasingly, by where there is a "there there"

Does this sound bare bones? It is, in a way, but in another sense, it is fundamentally about a longing to find a home - a sense of place, which the mass production world tears from us. Not merely a physical sense of place, but a cultural one. This used to be called "a way of life" - a cycle of activities, both in daily and weekly and seasonal life that add up to the ability to satisfy the needs and desires that all people have. The ability to have that happen broke down, slowly, as the alienation that mass media fosters grew roots into the society. People talked about music as if it were a thing that could be pressed on to a CD or sheet of vinyl - as opposed to a human activity. The idea that muscles and nerves and bone produced it became distant from the minds of music listeners, as they came more and more to see music as what they heard it from - a machine. Musical society became viewed as a machine as well - it was supposed to crank out sound forever, needing only occasional feeding and replacement.

This has changed in our politics, and it is changing in our Art. Texaco no longer sponsors the Met broadcasts, just as much as political parties an sich no longer truly inspire our hopes and fears. What used to be held together by local bonds was shattered by the ability to move about freely that aircraft, railroad and superhighway brought - and now that supersystem is falling apart as well, simply because we cannot find love, or art, in it.

The internet then, represents a search, a search for that sense of place which was lost long ago, only without the ingrown corruption or provinciality that trapped localism in place.

What does this have to do with politics? Social organization is always political, Aristotle's great insight, that politics is the art of combining the other arts, has been repeated in various forms. After all, what is a composer for orchestra but an individual who is trying to combine other arts together to form one sound? Our political mileu produces bonds between people, and they desire to have an artistic world that binds them together.

The orchestra itself comes out of the great project to civilize city life for the middle class - drawn into cities by commerce and industry, they began to demand amusement, order and cleanliness. The City of Paris was rebuilt, in effect, between 1800 and 1870 - sewers changed, the great sprawling markets tamed, streets widened, and the creation of great circles of energy. The whole of the tapestry of the Romantic and Victorian ages creation of civic life is too long to write in a single post, but, its basis was creating holidays - such as the modern version of Christmas - and city institutions: art museums, orchestras, dance companies, arboretae, zoological gardens, universities. The civic life demanded civic art.

We live now in a digital age, and that age too will find a means of making art through the means at hand, and organizing people to support it. At first the institutions will look and sound like the old ones, because we will be arguing from analogy - just as the "salon" remained an institution long after the aristocracy were no longer the driving force of art. But gradually, over time, and with the contribution of talent, genius and energy - there will come new forms which meet the cycle of activity that we expect from the other aspects of our lives.

Blogging has risen because it is a text version of creative commons - but it is far from the last form of creative commons that will rise in this new digital age. Digitality is our challenge, because it requires us to change our habits, norms and manners - as much as the age of mass production did as well.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Audio blogging is coming - blogger is announcing a trial for "phoning it in". As broadband becomes standard, it seems only a matter of time before when the web will be heard and not just seen.

Bets on how long this takes to get shortened to "aublogging?"

Classical Meetup Scores its first victory.

Thanks to the efforts of Ellen Dana Nagler, the first Classical meetup, ever, happened in Santa Barbara last night. Orange County CA was only one RSVP short of having an official meetup.

Ellen writes that these happy few went to Borders, bought music, and planned to expand the meetup for next month.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Thought provoking essay by Denis Dutton on Charles Rosen's new book, Piano Notes: The World of the Pianist.

Monday, December 01, 2003

I've been reading Air Guitar, by arts critic Dave Hickey. Mr. Hickey discusses "communities of desire", which he describes as people united by their love of, and need for, common experiences, especially art. In an essay on the novella "A Simple Heart", Mr. Hickey writes about what happened when he finished reading it:

Thus, when i finished reading "A Simple Heart" that morning in Texas, I did not retire to my couch to savor the experience. Nor did I pick up the copy of Bouvard and Pecuhet that lay on the corner of my desk with its pages still uncut. Nor did I start making notes for my own story in the manner of "A Simple Heart". I started calling my friends. I wanted them to read the story immediately, so we could talk about it; and this rush to converse, it seems to me, is the one undeniable consequence of art that speaks to our desire. The language we produce before the emblem of what we are, what we know and understand, is always more considered. This language aims to teach, to celebrate our knowledge rather than our wonder. It also implies that we, and those like us, are at least as wonderful as the work we know so much about. (Air Guitar, page 30)

This rich paragraph raises many interesting issues that I'm sure we'll get into over time, but the main reason I'm quoting it today is to echo the idea that we should "call our friends" when we hear something that really speaks to us.

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