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Category: writing

A Story Where Writers Are More Powerful Than Producers


In the movie business, the cost of production placed power in the hands of the producers and “money men.” While essential, writers are at the bottom of the totem pole. The strike has proven how essential they are. Apparently actors don’t make up the words they say.

Writers are starting to understand how the cost of production has changed, and most importantly how distribution models have changed. After all, that’s what this strike is all about. Shows redistributed through the Internet require some payment to the writer. It would be very interesting if the point of contention became the method by which writers suddenly owned the production process.

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No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail Better

Samuel Beckett

A link tossed in to the stream by Joe Tennis on Twitter, stirred up thoughts about failure. Joe’s pointer was to a blog posting on the process of creating computer games, and the ideal of setting up an environment where failure can happen faster and isn’t punished. That’s a unique idea in this day and age.

It brought to mind a quote from a late Samuel Beckett novel called “Worstward Ho.”

Ever tried.
Ever failed.
No matter.
Try again.
Fail again.
Fail better.
Samuel Beckett

If you intend to participate in a creative profession, whether it’s writing fiction, making paintings or plays, creating companies, products or software— you’ll need to learn to live in, and with, failure. In a sense, success is the failure that we’ve made an accomodation with. We shoot for perfection, and we always fall short. Dave Winer summed it up in 1995 in his motto for Living VideoTextWe make shitty software, with bugs. Software must ship prior to perfection, in that way it’s like life. We must live our lives prior to perfection. If we wait, we’ll miss everything.

Failure is tied to risk. If failure is not an option, risk is not an option. If risk isn’t an option, only a very small kind of success is possible. The principle is the same as an investment portfolio. You can banish risk, but you can’t expect a high level of return. Risk is a requirement of potential high return. The same is true in any creative pursuit, if you want a big success, you’ll need to learn to live with risk and failure.

And not just live with them, but to call them friends. Learning how to fail faster means learning how to succeed faster. Creating a safe environment for failure encourages risk taking and exploration. It gets you there faster. But just as with success, not all failure is equally successful. Failures need to be crafted just as carefully as successes. Just ask Samuel Beckett…

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Geomagnetic storm erases earth’s hard disks

Geomagnetic storm

A large geomagnetic storm, caused by unusually high sunspot activity, has hit the earth with the effect of erasing every computer hard disk on the planet. Meterologists have determined that these magnetic storms occur every 250 years. The last storm, while recorded by historians, seemed to have little noticeable effect.

Ironically, Google had just completed the transfer of all printed matter to digital format to create a univeral public library of the world. This digital library’s contents have been completely erased. Fortunately the source materials are still in existence. Another side effect for Google, it’s own indexes, software and search capability have been erased, along with all of the web sites it used to spider. In response, the Oxford English Dictionary has removed the verb “to google” from its pages. Google’s stock price was not effected.

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Intertextuality: the digerati and the literati


The New Yorker has an interesting article about the future of reading, library and books. There’s a quote by Kevin Kelly that caught my eye:

“all the books in the world� would “become a single liquid fabric of interconnected words and ideas.� The user of the electronic library would be able to bring together “all texts—past and present, multilingual—on a particular subject,� and, by doing so, gain “a clearer sense of what we as a civilization, a species, do know and don’t know.�

This exposes the gap between the digerati and the literati. The idea of the a “single liquid fabric of interconnected words and ideas” is called intertextuality and was introduced into the conversation by Julia Kristeva.

Kristeva referred to texts in terms of two axes: a horizontal axis connecting the author and reader of a text, and a vertical axis, which connects the text to other texts (Kristeva 1980, 69). Uniting these two axes are shared codes: every text and every reading depends on prior codes. Kristeva declared that ‘every text is from the outset under the jurisdiction of other discourses which impose a universe on it

While the digerati dream of a liquid, hyperlinked super document living on Web servers, the literati know that texts are connected on many axes. And the connections are not simple links, they contain politics, power, poetic and gender influences— they shade meaning.

Texts are always already connected, but literal connection in a super hypertext document could make implicit links explicit. But will explicit links also expose the influence of the linking? As with all software, it’s not about the code, it’s about the user. In this case, the locus of meaning, the only really important connections, are in the mind’s eye of the reader.