Tuesday, April 8, 2008

An up and down of writing

Writing -- producing a collection of published words, is once again becoming sacrosanct. The first shock came with the invention of the printing press. Shortly after it was invented, almost anyone could publish their ideas for anyone to read. The next shock came with the explosion and expansion of the Internet. Today, literally anyone can find a place for their voice to be heard. In both cases there came a backlash from established and recognized authors who felt threatened by the ability of anyone to publish their beliefs. Between those two times, the art of authorship has risen and fell as opinion of its creators changed.
Shortly after the invention of the printing press, those in power, mostly the clergy -- but some young governments as well, scrambled to keep control over the new invention. Approval was needed before a work was published and due to the process of approval, printing of little more than bibles was approved. But as the technology progressed, and became more widely available, works of individuals found their way into the hands of the people. Criticism of those in power and social and scientific exploration were next to be printed. The exact things that those in power sought to stop.
But today's story isn't about those things. They have been covered elsewhere. Today's story concerns those who later managed to grasp and hold the technology of printing hostage. The 1920s saw the build up of monolithic empires founded on the power of words. It was an exclusive group funded vicariously by the pockets of the people, but filtered through the government, and those in power. Words had so much power then that a career in creating them was seen as a powerful goal. Therefore, functional literacy in developing nations began to rise. Individual freedoms were partly express with the ability to read and write. Slowly, inextricably, the opinions of those who were not in power began to be heard.
Fast forward 50 years. In the U.S. of the 1970s and 80s a glut of opinion was available. Authorship, something that almost anyone could do, was looked down upon unless the author was already famous. Millions of books lined the shelves of huge bookstores, hundreds of newspapers were available daily in large metro areas. Authorship, at this point, even though widely available, was segregated. There were those who did it, and those who did it well. The stigma attached with bad authorship began to have an effect on the populace. Functional literacy began to decline. The line of authors waiting for an agent, or those who were taken in and broken by publishing companies seemed insurmountable to many whose books or newsletters would be printed -- if only self-publication was cheaper.
Fast forward twenty years. The Internet boom had come and gone by the late nineties. The survivors of the crash, left to sort through the ashes, discovered something particular. The expansion had been fueled the most by social interaction like email and instant messaging, personal web pages with opinionated statements of the day and pages plastered with the creators artistic displays. Those in position to foster the growth of this new communications medium started work on Web 2 point Oh.
And now here we are. Literally anyone who can get access to a computer connected to the Internet has a voice. Bloggers create more pages and content in one day than was produced in the first hundred years after the invention of the printing press. Individuals are clamoring to find a voice and learning to read an write to do so. It is 2008, functional literacy is starting to increase, the middle class is standing up more often and voicing their opinions to those in charge. And the backlash has begun anew.
Once more the highest paid producers are looking down upon those who are using their voice to spread dissent, expose falsehoods or challenge the old guard on their own territory. Backlash towards bloggers and hobbyist authors has increased and laws have been proposed, or even passed, to try and limit their voice. Those in charge are searching for loopholes in current law to try and revoke the rights of press from the amateurs and return it fully to the hands of those paid by lobbyists to tell a better version of the truth.
Those actions have began to change the opinion of the public and will result in the same correction seen only a few decades ago. The people will be told that only the established sources should be trusted. That these bloggers are neither right, nor should they be trusted. They don't have the sources, or the integrity needed to carry the torch of authorship and reporting. The forcing down has already begun. And it will continue until either the bloggers give up, or the establishment is forced to change. Those who have been attacked include: Wikipedia, Craigslist, Mac Rumors, and almost every website that tells the story of a consumer being given the shaft, and more whistle blower websites than anyone could count.

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Faking Normality. The one place we don't do it. All is not well. The world is not coming to an end. Don't fake normality, achieve it.