Archived entries for philosophy

What remains of printing

[see german post]

Yesterday the printing house in our neigboroughood was getting rid of unuseful things. Lots of printing and typesetting tools, drawers and letter cases were on the street: bulky waste waiting for the garbagemen. Yesterday I already took a big “O” and three small letter cases with me to give them a new home. Today I came by the same place. The garbage pressing machine already hat eaten up and digested the bigger parts of the typesetting leftovers. The smaller ones which still lied on the sideway had been carefully picked up and swept away. Yet I found in the corners of the stone paving some minuscule leftovers – very tiny letters that had passed the brushes of the diligent garbagemen.

And looking at the tiny “ö” and the graceful “c” with the microscopic cedilla it touches me to think: How incredibly laborious it was to set types and to print. How incredible hard work it was to set all those so tiny little letters in their right place, to form words, sentences, whole books. And now I click on “publish” and everything is done.

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The End of History – for creative professionals.

[Original German Blog Post]

Félicien Rops: PornocratesEternal must that progress be
Which Nature through futurity
Decrees the human soul;
Capacious still, it st improves
As through the abyss of time it moves,
Or endless ages roll.

Its knowledge grows by every change;
Through science vast we see it range
That none may here acquire;
The pause of death must come between
And Nature gives another scene
More brilliant, to admire.

Philip Freneau

This morning I printed out a song by Schubert from IMSLP.
Before having considered to play the first note, I listened to seven different versions of this song on Youtube – from every decade between 1930 till now. Why? Because I wanted to compile from those my own interpretation of the piece.
Apart from pulling the music score from the web in the very moment it came to my mind to play the song – my way of interpreting does not only fall back on my own teachers or the style of my contemporaries that I can adopt or from which I can distinguish, but now has countless varieties of 100 years of music recording at hand!

Art appeared to be driven by progress, because the artists always had some teacher or belonged to a certain school which gave the base of their own creative work from one generation to the next. It is just the distinguishing form the teacher’s style, the longing for improving something, what generated this gradual evolution of art which in retrospection frequently looked like an advancement.

Even if a painter could generally learn about past epochs by means of the local monarch’s art gallery, these works remained mostly anachronistic, relics from a past to be only indirectly connected.
More dramatic was the situation with music – before the invention of the record, interpretations of times past where lost – only what could be heard live was palpable.
My initial example should illustrate how the conditions of formation of style have changed fundamentally by having available nearly the complete creative production of mankind well structured and indexed by search engines – for everyone.

Bruce Stirling gave a remarkable speech at this year’s Transmediale: “Atemporality for Creative Artists”.
Stirling pictures by the term atemorality (autonomy in time) the availability of all knowledge and all products independent from their time of production; a phenomenon characterising our time – as said above.
The point when all men in their minds become completely independent from time and space was defined by the French anthropologist and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ as the Omega Point. Taken from the biblical eschatology “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Rev 22,13) this point at human evolution marks the end of history and the entrance of mankind in a time when the idea of progress has become obsolete.

To think about progress finally coming to an end is likely as ancient as the term progress itself. The concept of progression, that is the Weltgeist slowly and gradually moving to perfection (like in Frenau’s poem above) is fundamental belief of many religions and ideologies. Dissolution in the Nirvana like in Buddhism, entering the classless society like in Dialectic Materialism or Endsieg of the markets like with Fukuyama – in the end there stands a state of motionlessness, the end of flushing and rushing.

Without pondering if the return of Messiah or the end of class struggle is pending, Bruce Stirling pragmatically asks how being thus independent from time and space effects the artist.
Despite Fukuyama or Marx making us hope – the world does not become more simple at all: “The situation now is one of growing disorder. A failed state, a potentially failed globe, a collapsed WTO, a collapsed Copenhagen, financial collapses, lifeboat economics.” But he soothes us: “I don’t think that requires a moral panic. I think it ought to be regarded as something like moving into a new town.”
And for not getting blinded by panic of the new, Bruce Stirling recommends to keep a point of view from some distance. If we are looking for today’s avantgarde we should take the perspective of 20 years past. “Strip away the sci-fi chrome, the sense of wonder, no longer allow yourself to be hypnotised by the sense of technical novelty. Accept that it is already passe’, and create it from that point of view.”. – If it works, it’s obsolete.

The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine.

How to make art in a post historic time, when thus progress seams to be nearly impossible? Art after the End of Art? Bruce Stirling sketches two paths that today’s art development may follow – not alternatively but complementary: Favela Chic and Gothic High-Tech. The ruins of a castle, bound for decay sits erected high on top of the muddle of the slum – not a pleasant place but at least still vibrant with life.

Gothic High-Tech is alimented by the glory of the past, by desire for an alternative present.

Punk is the obvious reaction on our epoch with no future perspective: “You have taken my future now I Kill somebody, kill myself, throw bricks to policemen” – a primitive anti-statement that would be as useless nowadays as would be the other poses of the 20th century. But Punk is also about making your clothes and accessories yourself – the Bricolage – the handicraft work as that might be translated, the denial of mass culture and pop by one’s own creativity.

The Frankenstein Mashup is the logical consequence, an eklekticism of finds glued together as in DJ music or post modern architecture. And from the lost utopias of the past wistfully collaged to Lost Futures: Where is My Space Age? – Steampunk, Atompunk, Dieselpunk.

Favela Chic won’t give you the grandiose staging, no ingenious creations of a centennial artist, but lives from swarming which might be found from time to time loosely organized in the Net.
From that two completely new approaches evolve: Generative Art is created by software, if taken strictly by the letter it is only indirectly to be regarded as art, for the visible or audible appearence is technically produced by an algorithm. Collaborative Art makes use of the option to create jointly in the Web, loosely tight together as Wiki-Art or Art-Mob.

These perspectives for making art after the End of Progress are likewise to be transferred on other parts of culture: publishing, film production, cuisine, even laws could be collaboratively negotiated.

Thus decomposed, or recombined,
To slow perfection moves the mind
And may at last attain
A nearer rank with that first cause
Which distant, though it ever draws,
Unequalled must remain.

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The Brand Eins

[See german post and comments]

„To me“, that is what my friend Anna said, „to me slow media is brand eins.“ Everytime she is at home at her friend Peter’s house – who subscribes to the magazine brand eins for years – and everytime she has time and quiet to do so, she reads a brand eins. And everytime she likes it, she says. “No matter whether it’s the current issue or from the last year. Even if I do not agree to every article, brand eins is always well done and worth reading.” This describes exactly what I want to call media sustainability. The articles published in brand eins are longlasting and stay fresh over months and years. Their effect does not stop with actuality, nor does it stop at one single reader. A brand eins is enough for several readers.

Behind Slow Media are real people, that is what we say, and you can feel that. And that is how you feel behind brand eins the people who make it, people who always believed in this magazine. Even after the failure of Econy, the forerunner of brand eins, they believed in bringing close economy and ethics. And in including high-end Editorial Design (still cared of by Mike Meiré). Of course the chief editor Gabriele Fischer and her team do not write all the articles themselves. But their way to look at the world, the values they share and their attitude towards their readers speak to us throught their magazine.

This is not just showing-off, something they only say or pretend to be. You find these values – without getting too much into details – also in the contracts with their authors. Of course authors also give away their rights of use, just as in other magazines. But – and that is a big difference – they are spoken to as respected partners who add value to a valueable content. Trainees are told to write articles that are worth reading even after an year. So what my friend Anna told me was no coincidence. This after-effect is a declared aim. This luxury of quality is not only focussed on hit and run selling but on longterm effect. The ambition is being read and inspiring people, not just selling. It’s about bonding with the readers. And that creates loyality.

This attitude allows courageous decisions. For example the Special Edition April 2000 (sustainability until now: over 10 years). The first 30 pages are dedicated to the Cluetrain Manifesto and its 95 theses concerning the change of the markets driven by the internet. The Cluetrain Manifesto is now known to have been visionary. It has still unbroken, even increasing actuality (itself a perfect example for slowness). At that time is was unknown and strange. Everyone else was happy with the dotcom-boom. It was not evident to talk of markets being conversations and of the end of fast profits. But the manifesto touched the brand eins team and they decided to follow their inspiration with a special edition. This was exactly while the boom peaked in mid march 2000. “Didn’t we – despite all enthusiasm for the founding boom – expect more from the New Economy than just more and still more millionaires?”, asked Gabriele Fischer in the preface of that special edition. Managers and politicians didn’t want to answer, their press officers where told to say they didn’t have time to answer that sort of questions. Well, but the brand eins wanted to look for answers.

When did they finalize the april issue? Before the crash? At the peak? After the crash? Anyway. An opposite position like that was courageous and risky. You don’t do this when you just want to sell your edition.

So here is good news for those who think “slow” might be just romantic and far from reality: Users feel the mindset behind media. They notice the ambition behind it – like my friend Anna – and they are ready to pay for it. Slow Media can be well done and profitable.

You might say that Anna herself did not pay for the magazine – so inspiration does not necessarily create profit. Here is my answer: Her friend Peter does not have time enough to read the brand eins, but he still subscribes it. He would never cancel his subsription of brand eins just because he does not have time to read it. He stands by his magazine, he told me, no matter how short time is. That is loyality between readers and their magazine.

Additional note:

Gabriele Fischer just answered the question “When did they finalize the april issue?”: The april issue was already produced when the dotcom-boom was still blowing up. The Cluetrain-Special-Edition of the brand eins was in the printing process when the dotcom-boom turned into a bursting bubble on March, 13th.


Other articles on magazines on the english Slow Media Blog:

Wired Magazine

Scientific American

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