This is a #95Thesis post. You can find all of the posts here. This one is on the second revolution of the book. Enjoy.
Editor’s Note: You have to see this post that Johanna wrote. It’s epic.
The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.
Yes, and as I mentioned before, it’s awesome. My fellow interlocutors are from various places across the globe.
The internet is indeed enabling new conversations. However, there are unwanted conversations creeping into the benign and benevolent conversations we’re having. I’m not going to spend yet another post bitching about surveillance, suffice it to say, it’s happening, to all of us, and these conversations are a side effect of the internet’s allowing us to have mass communications.
Is the internet really changing things? Yes.
How those changes will play out remains to be seen. Anonymous and other digital rights groups have mounted protests against various copyright bills, but still can’t seem to muster the power to turn back the tide of digital fascism. I said I wasn’t going to spend this post bitching about surveillance, so I won’t.
The internet has returned humans to the visual age once again. While we’ve been primarily auditory for thousands of years, the internet and the television and the book have shifted the way humans organize information. I won’t labor the point. Suffice it to say, read McLuhan.
I’d like to instead spend some time thinking about the content of the internet’s capacity for conversation and what it means moving forward. The future of human information will be predominantly visual. Youtube and other video media collect more and more hits each day, and while sound figures into the medium known as video, it does not necessarily define it. The reason this is important is because we are, in my opinion about to undergo another “revolution of the book.”
WTF is this?! Apparently, a blow to the spoken word as a medium, and a horrible branding campaign. Play with my V spot…seriously. So, as you can see, the internet makes for all sorts of interesting conversations, every single day.
Anyways, back to the revolution of the book. I think the internet has and continues to have drastic impact on our culture. 2013 is the year where mobile internet usage will outgrow traditional computer use. It’s been predicted, here. It’s not just that the internet is mobilizing previously impossible conversations, it’s doing so on the go. I’m in advertising and I read a lot of marketing blogs, so I see that really big companies are either taking hits or winning big from their ability to have a conversation. The Play with my V Spot ad proves how VOCO dun’ goofed.
But the rise of social media metrics goes in tandem with the whole idea of conversations becoming markets.
Three years ago, people said there was no social media ROI, even Forbes said so in August of last year. Others now are saying that there is, here and here. Now, the reason this is all very interesting is because what’s happening is that conversations themselves are being forcedly turned into markets. This is the very inverse of the markets imagined by the theses, the markets whose primary ontology is conversations. Social media ROI and social metrics are interesting to me because they show our innate trend to want to measure impact, voice and conversation, even if ultimately those desires are then beaten back into conformity with other agendas through normalization. I suppose it was pretty cool a few years ago, when you could just tweet all day and the suits hadn’t really a clue what was going on, only knowing they wanted a social presence.
What does all this have to do with the second revolution of the book? McLuhan in his Gutenberg Galaxy asserts that the printing press altered our consciousness and made us into beings primed for linear thinking. Such thinking began with the birth of the alphabet but was accelerated by the printing press and visual culture. The Printing press, he argues brought about the cultural predominance of the visual over the aural/oral. In a world where every word is written, each sound carrying a letter still predominantly, is a sound, a verbal conversation transmitted to page. Life after Gutenberg means that each sound is no longer predominantly a sound, but a symbol, the product of moving type, of glyphs whose primary function is now the page.
In this passage [Ivins] not only notes the ingraining of lineal, sequential habits, but, even more important, points out the visual homogenizing of experience of print culture, and the relegation of auditory and other sensuous complexity to the background. […] The technology and social effects of typography incline us to abstain from noting interplay and, as it were, “formal” causality, both in our inner and external lives. Print exists by virtue of the static separation of functions and fosters a mentality that gradually resists any but a separative and compartmentalizing or specialist outlook. – McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy, pages 124-26
All that to say, the internet, represents another rise of the visual culture and the culture of the written word. The late 90’s and mid 2000’s rise of the blogger goes to show this too. What does the second revolution of the book look like? It is centralized on visualization, visuals, and logic. We see this already in data visualization set to be a major trend of 2013, and in the ways in which metrics, logic, analytics, ROI, and the culture of visual representation are spreading again. Video and mobile video consumption are growing and there are fears about running out of bandwidth on the internet.
Either way, the Internet is the Second Revolution of the Book, it is Gutenberg 2.0. What comes of it remains to be seen, but we’ve already had Anonymous and the Arab Spring.