6.07.2009

The Speed of New Publishing vs. The Speed of Me

The newest publishing platforms — text messaging and Twitter — are remarkably swift. Their speed is made for an information culture that seems always on the move. This is a fancy way of saying that texting and Tweeting are really built for information on the fly: "I'll be at the bar at 7," "Wanna get dinner?," "Listen to this/see this/go to this site."

These pithy missives hedge moving lives — move here, go here, do this — and are immediately forgotten. This is disposable, if useful, language.

I am not really a guy on the move. I have very few friends, even fewer of whom are local, and even fewer of those whom I ever see. No one is inviting me to dinner; I'm not meeting anyone at the bar. And as an increasingly old-fashioned nitwit, I tend to want my words to linger, to resonate, to reverberate.

None of this is a criticism of texting, tweeting, or the way people use them. No, this is only to say that I come to these media platforms from a slightly different angle. Blogging makes sense to me: I consider my words, I write many of them and publish when I'm good and ready. But texting and tweeting are of another order entirely. And yet I still approach them as the same old media: when I text, I want my words to provoke. And so I find myself sitting in front of my phone or Twitter, fingers poised. But nothing comes as I sit there, thinking. And then, finally, some incisive phrase occurs to me and in a mad rush I type it — only it's very slow going as I am still on a phone keyboard — hit send and, for a moment, I think: gold!

And then the poor recipient's phone buzzes. In their no doubt fast paced life, they check the message assuming it will drive them this way or that — to a party, an event, a cocktail. But, no, it's just some obtuse, poorly punctuated abbreviated rant from Coffeen.

Nevertheless, I enjoy this subtle and unintentional jamming of the information media flow.

(It's funny how, sometimes, applying the old methods to the new media can, in a way, be creative — a thought for McLuhan.)

9 comments:

fernando said...

remember the story of john henry? it was him vs. the machine...

Candice said...

old story-telling method, new internet media

D.

V said...

It's that way with almost anything we learned to do slowly that is now done quickly, that was once savored that is now done for amusement or convenience.

Take games. Imagine if you invented chess today. You'd be escorted out of the Parker Bros offices before you explained how knights "jump," and the "en passant" rule would have them calling security.

Daniel Coffeen said...

I agree with the implied polemic: speed runs rampant over the body and its pleasures. The faster we go — and global capitalism seems to acceleration — the less need of this body we have. Read Paul Virilio's dromoscopy (the book is Negative Horizon).

Of course, I sometimes wonder what body will be forged by this speed — and if maybe, just maybe, it will afford new delightful delights. Of course, it will kill me so I'll never know.

V said...

It will afford delightful new delights. It already has. The Wire would have been incomprehensible to some Russian peer studiously parsing the genealogy chapters of War and Peace through a long dark winter. And it will kill you. Your adaptation gene is defective and, more fatal still, you are proud of that.

Daniel Coffeen said...

What's funny is that I always imagined myself as fast — and in many ways I am. I think fast, I talk fast, I write fast. Too fast, in fact, for the ponderous world of academia. But not fast enough, it seems, for this new economic order. Oh well.

V said...

Two thoughts:

(1) Fast≠Fast: Rate of production (Coffeen fast) is not rate of consumption (academia slow/twitter fast). It would be nice to be consumed at a rate commensurate with your rate of production -- maybe that's what true love is! -- but it's not an easy find.

(2) Words≠Words: Sounds like you treat words as words as words. Instead, maybe think of tweets and texts and Facebook updates as akin to Morse code or semaphore or a baseball coach's signs, wherein the purpose of the symbolic system and the symbols themselves foster if not compel pith.

fernando said...

get a hammer, king.
*whisper* 'smash the game.'

nthmost said...

The fast ones are ineffective. The art of Twitter lies hanging back, assessing the cloud of assertions, and firing off the appropriate compound response encapsulated in one 140 character burst that somehow answers all open questions and poses a new one. And, with any luck, self-aggrandizes the author.

Of course, if you're thinking that your tweet reaches people by SMS, your perception of your effect on your tweeps colors your Twitter behavior in a way it doesn't color mine...