From the category archives:

Audience

From “I Thought You Were a Poet” by Joshua Mehigan:

It seems to me that narcissism is ineluctably at the heart of poetry, maybe of every human enterprise. One-third of people will think I’m an idiot for bothering to state this. Two-thirds will think I’m repugnant for suggesting that poetry isn’t soul magic. But, however magical your soul, doesn’t its unveiling imply a touch of egotism? In lyric poetry, especially, some degree of narcissism seems unavoidable. Even Dickinson and Hopkins sought readers at some point. Now let us observe a moment’s silence for the Unknown Poets, who have defeated narcissism and won oblivion. Then, since there’s nothing to build on there, let us quickly turn in gratitude to their egotistical fellow poets, who reached through self-regard to give the bitter world a little beauty and insight.

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By Margaret Atwood

 

via The Future of Books

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From Ars Technica:

In June 2010, the government was expressing real interest in social
networks. The Air Force issued a public request for “persona
management software,” which might sound boring until you realize that
the government essentially wanted the ability to have one agent run
multiple social media accounts at once.

It wanted 50 software licenses, each of which could support 10
personas, “replete with background, history, supporting details, and
cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographically
consistent.”

The software would allow these 50 cyberwarriors to peer at their
monitors all day and manipulate these 10 accounts easily, all “without
fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries.” The personas
would appear to come from all over the world, the better to infiltrate
jihadist websites and social networks, or perhaps to show up on
Facebook groups and influence public opinion in pro-US directions.
As the cyberwarriors worked away controlling their 10 personas, their
computers would helpfully provide “real-time local information” so
that they could play their roles convincingly.

While hackers get most of the attention for their rootkits and botnets
and malware, state actors use the same tools to play a different
game—the Great Game—and it could be coming soon to a computer near
you.

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Dave Allen:

We live in interesting times. When The Guardian has an article with a headline that asks “Will Radiohead’s The King of Limbs save the music industry?” You have to laugh. Why would they want to do that? And so it is with the iPad apps and the media publishing industry “Will Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily save the newspaper and magazine industry?” Well, that’s no laughing matter.

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“I couldn’t imagine a life in which I would not be surrounded by music. It shelters you from the world, which protects you, which keeps you at a certain distance from the world. Because I think that the only advantage that any artist has, the only thing that any artists can really write about, and all artists do write about it, whether they know it or not, is that distance from the world. I do realize it, and I know that I obtain it through media, and I know that I would be very unhappy as a 19th-Century man.”

– Glenn Gould, in the new film Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould

The embedded video is from nowness.com. For some reason — probably some intellectual property law absurdity — only Canadians can view video on the promo site for the film, even though it’s now playing in the US.

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William Zinsser:

The epidemic I’m most worried about isn’t swine flu. It’s the death of logical thinking. The cause, I assume, is that most people now get their information from random images on a screen—pop-ups, windows, and sidebars—or from scraps of talk on a digital phone. But writing is linear and sequential; Sentence B must follow Sentence A, and Sentence C must follow Sentence B, and eventually you get to Sentence Z. The hard part of writing isn’t the writing; it’s the thinking. You can solve most of your writing problems if you stop after every sentence and ask: What does the reader need to know next?”

Hmm, I guess I’ve got some thinking to do.

via @WaltPascoe and @zoewesthof

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In an excerpt from from his recent project “A Week at The Airport“, Alain de Botton interviews the head of British Airways, and considers the true yield of ‘profitless’ industries:

Considered collectively, as a cohesive industry, civil aviation had never in its history shown a profit. Just as significantly, neither had book publishing. In this sense, then, the CEO and I, despite our apparent differences, were in much the same sort of business, each one needing to justifying itself in the eyes of humanity not so much by its bottom line as by its ability to stir people’s souls. It seemed no less absurd to evaluate an airline according to its profit-and-loss statement than to judge a great poet by his or her royalty statements. The stock market could never put a price on the thousands of moments of beauty and interest that occurred around the world every day under the airline’s banner: it could not describe the sight of Nova Scotia from the air, it had no room in its optics for the camaraderie enjoyed by employees in the Hong Kong ticket office, it had no means of quantifying the ecstasy of takeoff. In order to understand such things properly, society would have to learn to look at airlines as one might consider a work of art.”

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“…so that might suit, say, a young couple just starting out in the catering business in the North Wales area?”  — Fry & Laurie

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Amanda Palmer said:

artists need to make money to eat and to continue to make art.

artists used to rely on middlemen to collect their money on their behalf, thereby rendering themselves innocent of cash-handling in the public eye.

artists will now be coming straight to you (yes YOU, you who want their music, their films, their books) for their paychecks.
please welcome them. please help them. please do not make them feel badly about asking you directly for money.
dead serious: this is the way shit is going to work from now on and it will work best if we all embrace it and don’t fight it.

i am shameless, and fearless, when it comes to money and art.

i can’t help it: i come from a street performance background.
i stood almost motionless on a box in harvard square, painted white, relinquishing my fate and income to the goodwill and honor of the passers-by.

i spent years gradually building up a tolerance to the inbuilt shame that society puts on laying your hat/tipjar on the ground and asking the public to support your art.

i was harassed, jeered at, mocked, ignored, insulted, spit at, hated.
i was also applauded, appreciated, protected, loved….all by strangers passing me in the street.
people threw shit at me.
people also came up to me and told me that i’d changed their lives, brightened their day, made them cry.

some people used to yell “GET A FUCKING JOB” from their cars when they drove by me.
i, of course, could not yell back. i was a fucking statue, statues do not yell.

if you think i’m going to pass up a chance to put my hat back down in front of the collected audience on my virtual sidewalk and ask them to give their hard-earned money directly to me instead of to roadrunner records, warner music group, ticketmaster, and everyone else out there who’s been shamelessly raping both fan and artist for years, you’re crazy

via Walt Pascoe et al

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Clay Shirky on Weekend Edition Saturday, with some emphasis added:

The conversation around the digital divide, this gap between who can participate and who can’t, has shifted. In the ’90s, it was mainly about access to hardware and network connections. Right? Not everybody has a computer. But as computers have gotten cheaper and spread, as they started showing up in specific places like libraries, and as phones increasingly have, even just through SMS, these kind of functions, the conversation’s really shifted from the question of access to a hardware to the sense of permission and to the sense of interest. And that’s a much squishier, more social question.

So part of the digital divide question, the new digital divide question is, how do we go to people who don’t sense they have permission to speak in public and offer them that permission? And then the other, as you say, is the interest. If there are people who are just uninterested in this stuff, how can you make an experience that’s still satisfying for them as, you know, traditional consumers of media, without making them feel bad for not being the people posting the Flickr pictures of potholes or, you know, adding a comment to an NPR story?

There can be a tendency amongst the tech-savvy to assume that if it’s important, if it matters, it is already bouncing around Twitter and Facebook and MySpace.

“If people aren’t comfortable and inclined to jump in, who cares?”

We risk missing far too much of the world’s experience with an attitude like that.

Later in the segment, Shirky touched on the dimensions of our online conversational patterns:

The closest most of us get to this is our wedding day, when you gather, you know, as many of the people you most love and would want to talk to in the world that you can get in one room. And then you suddenly realize I got three hours. And so, there is a constant width versus depth tradeoff, where you can either talk to a few people for a long time, or you could talk to a lot of people for a short time. But you can’t actually do what you want to do.

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No, I don’t mean Marshall McLuhan.

I’m doing some research on Glenn Gould at the moment, and was floored at the prescience of this passage:

“Electronic transmission has already inspired a new concept of multiple-authorship responsibility in which the specific functions of the composer, the performer, and, indeed, the consumer overlap. We need only think for a moment of the manner in which the formerly separate roles of composer and performer are now automatically combined in electronic tape construction or, to give an example more topical than potential, the way in which the home listener is now able to exercise limited technical and, for that matter, critical judgments, courtesy of the modestly resourceful controls of his hi-fi. It will not, it seems to me, be very much longer before a more self-assertive streak is detected in the listener’s participation, before, to give but one example, “do-it-yourself” tape editing is the prerogative of every reasonably conscientious consumer of recorded music (the Hausmusik activity of the future, perhaps!). And I would be most surprised if the consumer involvement were to terminate at that level. In fact, implicit in electronic culture is the acceptance of the idea of multilevel participation in the creative process.”

– From “Strauss and the Electronic Future” which appeared in the Saturday Review on May 30, 1964

I wonder what he’d make of GarageBand, MySpace and YouTube?

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W.H. Auden, in the essay “Reading” from the collection The Dyer’s Hand:

What is the function of a critic? So far as I am concerned, he can do me one or more of the following services:

  1. Introduce me to authors or works of which I was hitherto unaware.
  2. Convince me that I have undervalued an author or a work because I had not read them carefully enough.
  3. Show me relations between works of different ages and cultures which I could never have seen for myself because I do not know enough and never shall.
  4. Give a “reading” of a work which increases my understanding of it.
  5. Throw light upon the process of artistic “Making.”
  6. Throw light upon the relation of art to life, to science, economics, ethics, religion, etc.

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George Carlin, remembering his early career:

“I was doing superficial comedy entertaining people who didn’t really
care: Businessmen, people in nightclubs, conservative people. And I
had been doing that for the better part of 10 years when it finally
dawned on me that I was in the wrong place doing the wrong things for
the wrong people…”

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I feel ambivalent about Banksy. I find some of his work really impressive, while other pieces are either a yawn, or overdone, or a yawn because they’re overdone.

But taking over your hometown’s main museum for the summer, with only a handful of people knowing about it until the day before it opens?

Not bad…

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