a bonfire of the vanities?

The Internet could be the ultimate liberation of human creativity: into the hands of anyone with access to it, it puts a printing press and a recording and film studio—all connected to a world-spanning distribution system. By volume of output, by its breadth and quality, it has brought us a New Renaissance. But this revolution casts a shadow.

When one of these dotcom colossi offers social spaces where people can meet and discuss and share, art galleries where people can hang their pictures, concert halls and clubs where they can play their music, cinemas where they can screen their films, presses where they can publish their books—they do so to grow their power. Gorging on our creativity, they have swollen into economic and cultural giants. They own the pipes that channel this artistic outpouring and, though they have not yet laid actual claim it, we have many of us signed it over to them.

We contribute our work and imagination, but it is the corporations that take the lion’s share of what they earn. An online publisher that offers to publish your ebooks, tempts you with the lottery promise that you may have a winning ticket. Like a lottery, very few win. Most only sell their ebooks to family and friends to whom they could simply have given their books directly without need of a middleman. The writer makes a pittance: the publisher, in the aggregate, makes a killing.
While so much of our creativity is being burned to power these corporations—furthering their policies, neutering our opposition to them—we are left with less with which to tackle the problems that face us.

I wrote this in 2014, but have only got round to editing it and publishing it now.



8 thoughts on “a bonfire of the vanities?

  1. I grew up online, where it seemed like we had a new avenue for creative output beyond the control of the – as you say, corporate colussi – but that idea was quickly destroyed. now we see disney and amazon buying up as much as they can, simultaneously suppressing yet “encouraging” creative types. your thoughts on the digital revolution are interesting, thank you for sharing this piece.

    1. *grin* no… I may wish that the system be different, but while the piper plays, we must all dance 🙁 (oh, and I’ve added a line to the post to confess that I wrote this in 2014… which predates me getting down and dirty with Amazon *wry grin*)

  2. Are we really in a New Renaissance ? Is the revolution already here or yet to come, to be energised by a New Renaissance that is in the process of forming? I am not sure if your thoughts distract me, in a nice way of course, or help me with my own current multitude of scattered tiny epiphanies.

    Some days, usually when I am in more of a positive mood, I experience a gut feeling that tells me the ‘evil powers’ (:-) ) are slowly withering; that by virtue of their own greed they have used up all that could be consumed , but, en route, they forgot to train their bodies to survive on more meager rations of gilded yachts, private airplanes, rare fast cars and £450m paintings. That the ordinary man has been pushed into a corner, temporarily paralysed by the ‘social media’ yet now beginning to be empowered by it.

    On good days I get a feeling that the future of our children is brighter than we have fearfully thought of recent, that our children, not us, are the ones who are going to fight and win this battle, for the planet, for themselves.

    1. If you click on “new renaissance” in the tag cloud to the right, you will find a couple of other posts explaining, in some detail, what I mean by that term. It seems to me that there is more art and creativity pouring out now than in the whole of our history; if for no other reason than the vast number of people who have the means and the opportunity to make art. As for the revolution, I was specifically referring to the ‘digital revolution’ that is in its effects perhaps even more liberating and culture-changing than Guttenberg and his press. And the first line of my piece suggests that I agree with you that there is some cause for optimism, and for exactly the reasons that you give… 🙂 (my choice of photograph also reveals that hope.)

      1. Thanks for the pointers. I shall read the other clues to your meaning of New Renaissance. It’s always the same, you join the conversation half way through and you only get half the story.

        1. *grin* given that those other New Renaissance comments were made here in 2012, it may be a bit of a stretch to say that you’re “joining the conversation half way through”…

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