I clicked on this article the other day. It’s David Bowie talking about the internet. There’s a video embedded in the article with an interview Bowie did way back in 1999. Ancient days. RIP, David.
I clicked on the link, because that’s what I do. Click on links. You too. That’s how you got here. The number of hours a person can spend clicking on links is remarkable. The internet is crafty and captivating. Draws us in. Keeps us there. Keeps us here. Matrix, baby.
Bowie talks about the tremendous power of the internet in the interview. For good and for bad. Good and bad are subjective terms. I’ll play with them for a second.
What’s good about the internet? I can connect with people all over the world in a matter of moments. Stay in touch with my (shrinking) family back in Minnesota. Read articles about anything without searching too hard. How to change a tire. How to unclog a drain. How to make a nuclear weapon. Instant access to all sorts of information. And Twitter and social media. Anybody can say anything. There’s a potential for radical democracy, there. The bad? I have no idea whether or not any of this information I read is reliable. And people are so damned good at “liking” posts or thoughts they agree with. Arguing with posts they don’t agree with. With none of the messy, interconnectedness of face-to-face human interaction to muddy singular perspectives. Yuck.
I can fall into the goodness and the badness of this rabbit hole as well as anybody else. Watch an hour disappear before I even know what happened. Scanning Twitter for news. Looking at images of distance friends and acquaintances on Instagram. Swept up in a virtual world of virtual communities by way of virtual text. Search Zelda walkthroughs. Watch Silver Jews concerts from 2002. Read about who the Twins are targeting in free agency. Let’s go Josh Donaldson. There goes thirty minutes. So much stuff to look at it. Stuff you’d have to really search for back in my day. Stuff that’s just there now. Content.
Mr. David Bowie said, way back in this interview from 1999, that the internet would transform the context in which content is created and shared. Changing the context will change the content. The content will change the context. And on and on. The notion of a what a medium is would fundamentally change, according to Bowie. I really like this thought. Seems true to me.
I create lots and lots of content. That’s what this blog is. That’s what last week’s blog was. Next week’s blog, too. 100 years ago this writing may have been a column in a paper, if I were so lucky to have access to a medium. Or a collection of reflective essays, if I were so lucky to have access to a medium. I probably wouldn’t be so lucky. Mostly the rich and powerful got access to mediums.
That’s a good thing about the internet. Everybody can offer content. Radically democratic. That’s the nasty thing too. You don’t have to be very thoughtful or smart about anything to offer up content. Take that link I shared above. The author took a video clip off YouTube from 1999, pulled together a few boring sentences, and posted a piece that probably got more traffic than this blog ever will. That author made money. I remain poor. There you have it.
I’m not very good at making content in this age of the internet. But I keep hurling words out there. I’m not sure why.
I’m three memoirs deep. Way back in 2013, I tried to find a literary agent for a memoir that blurred genre. A memoir that was super dark. And super comedic. A book about surviving a suicide. I failed to find an agent. I wasn’t rich and powerful back then. I’m still not. So I couldn’t find my way into traditional mediums. But I wanted to write and share these damned books. So I did. And I’m proud of the books. They’re good, I think, in their own ways. For what they are. Buy them and read them if you haven’t, will you? Especially if you’ve stayed the course through these blogs with me.
Anyway, I’d count my attempts to offer content through the internet commercial failures. The books haven’t sold very many copies, and these blogs don’t get much in the way of traffic. I don’t think they do, anyway. There’s been little in the way of financial gain for me here. So maybe that’s bad.
But there’s good in this endless stream of content. Every week I work through stories and thoughts and feelings with my writing. Process my movement through the universe, baby. And I share it with whoever wants to engage. Share it with you. So we get to connect in this strange, idiosyncratic way. I like that. And of course this gives me an excuse to work on my writing. Writing is endlessly difficult. Takes practice, determination, and practice. Unless you want to post an interview with David Bowie and write a few sensational sentences. That’s easy writing. Boring writing. I’m not interested, even though I click on the damned link.
So I keep working on my writing. Does it get better? I don’t really see writing as a developmental art. A practice that can be measured linearly. Writing is like improv, for me. You keep doing it and discovering things about it and maybe good stuff will come. And maybe it won’t. But the act of writing, like the act of improvising, is a good thing. According to Kurt Vonnegut, your soul grows when you make something.
So my soul has been growing through all this writing. All this creation of content. That’s probably a good thing.
I keep writing these blogs. Writing other things, too. Books and articles. That’s part of what I do now. Maybe there’s a way to turn all these words into the thing that seems to drive so content I see out there. Cash, baby.
Maybe not. For now, I’m able to sustain the making of this content on my meagre income. So I’ll keep making it. Seeking out audiences somewhere that get into the strange things that emerge when I type, type, type away. Hurling content out into a contested, strange, and virtual version of reality.
Last thought. David Bowie is wildly interesting, isn’t he? I loved that interview. Not the article. That was dumb. The interview. That was cool.
What a space oddity.