Something That Works, Meant To Last

Cliches, those trite oversimplifications of complex human conditions, are usually born of a desire to convey some  elemental truth. Perhaps no oversimplification speaks to our circumstances as a civilization better than ‘information is power’.  Economic imperialism, much like territorial imperialism,  requires control not only of information, but also of its shadow – misinformation. Conventional wisdom says that information is the ideological currency of freedom and choice, and that misinformation a tool of totalitarianism, fascism, communism and every other ‘repressive-form-of -government-ism’.  Yet in so much as absolute power corrupts absolutely,  information can become an oppressive shadow, while misinformation becomes pinpoints of truth in the darkness. Where there is substance there is spin; if there is access there is censorship.  Freedom of choice atrophies if not exercised.  And just because there is perception of choice doesn’t mean that there is one.  Truth takes no sides – we do.

Some century and a half ago Karl Marx said that “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” It would be difficult to find another instance in the history of the world where a metaphor would produce such tumultuous impact.  At the turn of the millennium, Rex Taylor Smith said:

“Media is the methamphetamine of the masses.”

What, if any, effect this allusion to Marx’s words may have on future history is dubious. But in a culture defined by media content, consider the shadow – media dis-content.   Many will never see the shadow as anything but misinformation.  It is only natural – and safe – to distrust, even fear the view of the world from here.  Alternately, some will see the shadow as a good thing – a respite from the relentless, searing glare of information overload.  I define my own mission as one of illumination.

Ours is a “spin dependent” culture.  A culture drunk on the fermentation of too much eye and ear candy, obese and dull from the glut of superficial, shallow and easy ideas.  I well understand that I am at odds with conventional wisdom, that I am guided by unpopular ideas.  I also happen to feel strongly that “unpopular ideas” and “good ideas” are not mutually exclusive.

I once heard someone say that “integrity is a commitment to disclosure over presentation.” I found this a satisfying summation of that lofty and illusive intention – integrity.  With so much incentive to imitate, invention is a stubborn choice.  Too much of what passes for content is compromise for the sake of popular perception and Return On Investment.  Where is the incentive to inspire rather than impress?  To inform, as opposed to influence?  It is a daunting prospect, but entirely possible to recalibrate our cultural aesthetic to value honest, relevant expression rather than shock and awe spectacle.  It is the disposable nature of modern civilization that we must  stand against.   It is the culture of hack that we must hold in contempt.  Mediocrity has become the default of our times and the standard by which too much is measured.  There was once an almost “church and state” like separation between marketing and the creative process.  The artist wrote, painted or composed with no concern for the R.T.O.  Now it is common, even expected, that marketing drive the creative process.

An audience is no longer the purpose of the show –  no longer a group united by a phenomena of emotional and intellectual response to a shared experience.  Creating that experience is no longer the means to an end of delivering it.  The standard business model for a creative enterprise is invariably some variation of ‘cast as wide a net as possible by appealing to the lowest common denominator for the express purpose of generating the  maximum revenue flow possible’. The audience is now a targeted demographic.   No longer the end, the audience is a means to enrich a few.   And it is to that end that entertainment and publishing industry cultivate the elements of unremarkable and irrelevant, so as to insure that those things which we value but can’t hold in our hand fit neatly into existing models of  asset management.  Applying the planned obsolescence model to the  exploitation of intellectual property is damnable.  It is the reason that the corporate  titans of industry must never succeed in gaining control over the internet.    We need to make well deliberate well-considered choices while we still have choices to make.   And not making one is a choice, in spite of ambivalence.  Media content can be commodity or it can transformative means to justifiable ends.  Substance is the remedy for our discontent.  The most effective defense against the com-modification of cyberspace is, oddly enough, the best defense against the  com-modification of choice:  make something that works, meant to last.

    • cherylmorriswalder
    • September 2nd, 2011

    This really should be read by all ! Excellent .

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  5. Thanks the author for article. The main thing do not forget about users, and continue in the same spirit.

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