April 18, 2014 by musehick
I don’t believe that books are under threat. Is that the prevailing wisdom? Who knows? But man, isn’t millennialism one of the most tiresome things ever? Rock is dead. Hip-hop is dead. Radio is dead. Television is dead. The book is dead.
What is the common thread in all these proclamations? Dinosaurs are screaming about the end of the world. Spunky little mammals are pretty confident they are going to survive the transition. What’s the difference? One species is looking forward to the future and one species is looking backwards. Yeah, I know this suggests a conscious awareness of the impending death of a species (look we have antennae that are probing the collapsing probability waves of future all the time, and if you don’t recognise that you are distinctly unaware), and that sense of species death gets mistaken for mode of communication death (or in the metaphor, death of the whole world rather than a specialised group). Yes, I know I get into these convoluted and freely mixed metaphors, but they work for me … at least in my own mind.
What was the point? Ah, well obviously part of it was that there is a misidentification of what doom is approaching for. The other point I didn’t quite arrive at was that evolution is the thing to bear in mind. Evolution solves the problem. With media we very rarely see the medium disappear completely, and most new media are in some sense analogous to old media because they are trying to answer similar if not the same question … which means they have to tick some of the same boxes. The other thing I have noticed and which I am sure more eminent and noteworthy people have commented on is that these media more often than not go into communication with each other and change how each of them functions.
It’s useful for journalists and anyone trying to expound a theory to have a nice clean break, but when has anything human, or maybe anything been that easy? Take a cross-section of the stratified layers of history, or dig back through the deepness of cultural manifestations, and what you will see is stubborn examples of the old clinging to life as the new order sweeps in, proponents of the new order harking back to the old, and some interesting fusions of the two. We play jazz with everything – we can start with a jazz standard and we can run and riff endlessly on that – we are amazing innovative creatures and our creations reflect that.