Media: Master or Slave?

June 12, 2010

One could — and I would — debate some of Alain de Botton’s points or their consequences, but a fact like this is striking to someone who carries around a small machine that lends access to literally millions of writings in seconds:

A wealthy family in England in 1250 might have owned three books: a Bible, a collection of prayers, and a life of the saints—this modestly sized library nevertheless costing as much as a cottage.

Al Giordano comes at it somewhat differently.

I shot off an e-mail to Schopenhauer to ask what he thinks about current media, and — like a lot of guys who sit around thinking a lot — he got right back to me with this idea:

The art of not reading is a very important one. It consists in not taking an interest in whatever may be engaging the attention of the general public at any particular time. When some political or ecclesiastical pamphlet, or novel, or poem is making a great commotion, you should remember that he who writes for fools always finds a large public… A precondition for reading good books is not reading bad ones: for life is short.

One of Giordano’s readers is thinking extra-hard:

A media kibbutz?

Yes, that’s one of the ideas I’ve been playing with. Not the antiquated pick-oranges and dance-the-hora stuff and not Jewish either, nor in Israel, but a modern community somewhere in AmĂ©rica where people live and produce media, be it books, a newspaper, photography, film, TV, whatever. It would also be a more permanent version of the J-school. There are agricultural kibbutzim, there are those that produce electronics or chemicals, but I’ve never heard of such a set-up that produces and educates media.

I’d gladly live in that kibbutz if it was also full of communicative performing musicians.