“We stand on the last promontory of the centuries! Why should we look back, when what we want is to break down the mysterious doors of the impossible ? Time and Space died yesterday. We already live in the absolute, because we have created eternal, omnipresent speed”
– Fillippo Marinetti, 1909
When a year ago I looked at some of the strange attitudes to copyright and creativity that abound on the internet, vilification followed swiftly. I wondered what was behind odd assertions that “the power of creativity has been granted to a much wider range of creators because of a change in technology”, which grew, without pausing for punctuation, into even odder and grander claims, such as “the law of yesterday no longer makes sense.” ‘Remix Culture’ as defined by the technology utopians wasn’t so much a celebration of culture as it is of the machines that make it possible, we noted. But many people simply find such thinking quite alien. So it’s heartening to see writers like Nick Carr and, today, the Wall Street Journal‘s columnist Lee Gomes join the debate that so animates Reg readers, and question these silly assumptions too.
Gomes hears a dot com executive sell his movie editing service with the claim that, “until now, watching a movie has been an entirely passive experience.”
(We heard a similar, silly claim from Kevin Kelly recently, only about reading.)
Passive? Not at all, Gomes explains today:
“Watching a good movie is ‘passive’ in the same way that looking at a great painting is ‘passive’ – which is, not very. You’re quite actively lost in thought. For my friend, though, the only activity that seemed ‘active’, and thus worthwhile, was when a person sitting at a PC engaged in digital busy work of some kind.”
Which is the world view in a nutshell. The future in which the scribbles of the digerati adorn every book or movie is a nightmare, he agrees. It’s also rather presumptious. Who does this self-selecting group claim to represent?
We’ve had a glimpse into this “future” with Google for the past three years, where to reach some original source material, one must wade through thickets of drivel, some of it generated by bloggers, the rest by machines pretending to be bloggers. It’s hardly anyone’s idea of enhancement, and Gomes calls it “dismally inferior”, and has a lovely simile.
“Reading some stray person’s comment on the text I happen to be reading is about as appealing as hearing what the people in the row behind me are saying about the movie I’m watching.”