Linear Lizards and Guttenberg Minds

Neil Pendock October 18, 2013 0

Will Self (below) is the reason I still subscribe to New Statesman magazine, even if chances of getting hold of a physical copy are only 50% thanks to having the SA Post Office as service provider. Will will probably have to go on my Kindle, which is what I did with the Speccie. Although there are two prices to pay: subscription and having FNB wake you up at 3am once a week with a tweet telling you that your Diners Club Privee has been charged R50.32 (a variable number like the petrol price per litre, dependent on prevailing exchange rates).

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Music to the ears of Diners director Biggie Smalls Lascaris, as that’s another 0.0017c he can use to market Boekenhoutskloof and his other octopus wine brands given the killer strategy of using Diners to do his marketing via Platter and now Rossouws Restaurants, the new edition to his stable.

But has Biggie backed the wrong horse by using Standard Bank shareholder funds to buy Platter and Rossouw? Will will probably think so and I hear from Diners’ sources that this year’s print run of Platter has been reduced. In a review of Hatchet Job by Mark Kermode in the Guardian, Will reflects on how the interwebs have changed everything for critics. Fortunately for Toothy Tim on the M&G and Leaping Lizard (below) on Bidet, Will uses abstract concepts they won’t “get” and so can carry on whistling dixie. By the way and a propos nothing Madame_Arcati, my favourite blogger, noted on Twitter yesterday “To editors I have upset. Diddums. I don’t need you.”

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Will’s points in a nutshell – wish I was more au fait with infographics and I’d illustrate them as pictures, as one point Will overlooked is that words are so last release and pics are the future of communication going forward. After all, each one is worth 1000 words.

“The problem for contemporary writers of all stripes (film-makers and musicians as well), is that the fundamental link between words/images/sounds and money has been severed by the web.”  Sorry for you, struggling Pinelands publicists.

“This severing is irrevocable.” Forget about “monetising web content, [it’s] like a little Dutch boy with his finger stuck in a hole in the paywall, while over the top thunders a mighty inundation of free content.”

The killer app is Will’s explanation of the point made by Marshall McLuhan back in the swinging sixties, to whit “when it comes to the impact of new media on the human consciousness – both individual and collective – content is an irrelevance; we have to look not at what is on the screen, but how the screen is used. McLuhan saw in the early 1960s that all the brouhaha about what imagery was shown on television and what words were spoken was so much guff; the transformation from what he termed ‘the linear Gutenberg technology’ to the ‘total field’ one implied by the instantaneity of electricity was all that mattered, and this was a change in the human mind as well as the human hand. McLuhan’s global village is indeed all about us now, and it already exhibits social, psychological and cultural behaviours that are entirely different from those implicit in the technologies of mass broadcast and individual, concentrated absorption.”

Will sounds the death knell of “professional” wine commentators, noting “the role of the critic becomes not to help us to discriminate between ‘better’ and ‘worse’ or ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ monetised cultural forms [what a great synonym for Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage], but only to tell us if our precious time will be wasted – and for this task the group amateur mind is indeed far more effective than the unitary perception of an individual critic.”

So Biggy would have been far better off investing Standard Bank’s money in Andy Hadfield’s Real Time Wine app than buying Platter, a collection of sighted prejudices from Toothy, Lizzy and some other darling tasters, or Rossouw where it is done solo.  Or not, if you believe scurrilous gossip from a certain crafty cetecean.

And forget about enhanced status and business class tickets for pundits. “In my working lifetime I’ve already seen the status accorded to book and film [and wine] reviews undergo a tremendous decline – not, I hasten to add, because there aren’t good reviews being written (this one is especially good), but because the media they are reviewing and the medium by which they themselves are delivered are both in a state of flux. All sorts of cultural production that was concerned with ordering and sorting – criticism, editing and librarianship – can now be seen for what it always really was: the adjunct of a particular media technology.”

For who can deny wine criticism has “become more a conversation than a series of declarations”?

Will’s concluding paragraph should send shivers down the spines of Toothy, Lizzie and Biggie, if they have any.  “At the moment, the wholesale reconfiguration of art is only being retarded by demographics: the middle-aged possessors of Gutenberg minds remain in the majority in western societies, and so we struggle to impose our own linearity on a simultaneous medium to which it is quite alien. The young, who cannot read a text for more than a few minutes without texting, who rely on the web for both their love affairs and their memories of heartache, and who can sometimes find even cinema difficult to take unless it comes replete with electronic feedback loops, are not our future: we, the Gutenberg minds have no future, and our art forms and our criticism of those art forms will soon belong only to the academy and the museum.”

Note to self: call Ferdi Heyneke when the market opens to dump Standard Bank (now at an all time high) and buy Capitec.

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