Twitter? Move Over. Longform is back.

Will writing itself be revived? (Photo by jjpacres on Flickr)

I’ve heard the arguments much too many times to count. Facebook splinters human attention. Twitter lowers the literary standard to what we can spew out on the way down the escalator to take the tube, spelled in SMS English, with the thought investment of a catchline from an impotence infomercial. The death of journalism as instant news and burns the crafted article at the altar of the here and now.

Well, it’s all bunkum. A full reparte to this general propaganda will wait for a time when I have more time. Suffice to stay, that it is not the duration of attention that has dropped, but the quality of attention that has risen. It is not the intellectual investment in the word that has reduced, but the ideas and methodologies of the writing which deserve full intellectual investment has reduced. The quality of thought is not strained. It has been distilled.

One such form, and the focus of this post, is a recent discovery of mine – Long Form Journalism. In essence, journalistic work far too large for the standard 600-words-ish magazine / newspaper article and of course much too short to be a book. Articles which, unlike the standard-issue state-and-embellish-the-facts-and-report idea of journalism, develops a story. Stories of the journalistic method, of the stories behind events, of the evolution that which are deemed to be considered news.

A good example is the story of Air France Flight 447. A veritable Illiad of an article, it covers the mysterious circumstances of the crash, the ongoing search, and even the commercial / political fallout of the crash. It clocks in at over seven thousand words.

Another example, one which is destined to pull the heartstrings of every cricket, nay, every sports fan around, is the Saga of an American journalist from ESPN visiting India and his coverage of the Cricket World Cup. It is a truly masterful rendition of what cricket means to this nation, the cultural iconography of Sachin Tendulkar, the evolution of the game and its future fate(s). In terms of length, this too is a monstrous article.

Even I would not be so bold as to attempt to summarize, at any level, such Epic works. It would be best, dear reader, if you read them for yourself. I will end here, and return to address both the Cricket article, and the argument at the beginning of this post at a later time.

One last thing: Amazon recently launched Kindle Singles – one-off pieces of longer fiction / non-fiction priced from $1 to $5. The latest in a series of sites riding (and building) the revival of Longform. More here. More from me once I get a good read of all these sites.

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A counter manifesto for the Creative Internet

Some time ago, I came across this article. An article about a bold new book, written by a being with a creditably left-handed style of thinking that ties language to color signalling by cephalopods; protocol-free computer science and what have you. A book, nay, a manifesto, to use the language of the author, that defines creativity in singularly individualistic terms, at the expense of the collective and its consciousness, the internet.

Disclaimer: The book is still in the mail.

The author, Jaron Lanier, posits that the web has not liberated creativity in the species, but has stifled it. That by making universal distribution and access of music (as a nameplate for creativity, one supposes from the set of the article) has made it well-nigh impossible for the artist to sustain himself (or herself) of his (or her) art. That the web, as a collective lacks the underlying design or purpose needed for such a system to foster complexity and ingenuity.

Disagree.

We can take immense pride in the fact that, as a species, creativity is a primal trait. It was born when ancient man looked at the thundercloud and heard the wind in the tree and made music. It was defined by fire and the wheel. It was and is not facilitated by the presence of the barter system, the monetary system, the music label system or any other system. As Alan Moore put in V for Vendetta:

We are told to remember the idea, not the man, because a man can fail. He can be caught, he can be killed and forgotten, but 400 years later, an idea can still change the world. I’ve witnessed first hand the power of ideas, I’ve seen people kill in the name of them, and die defending them… but you cannot kiss an idea, cannot touch it, or hold it… ideas do not bleed, they do not feel pain, they do not love…

The author (from my reading of the article) appears to misdiagnose the transition of the economics of creativity for the death of creativity itself. Yes, it has become a lot harder to become famous and financially solvent on the basis of one’s creative genius alone. But then again, I would posit that the last few decades have been an transitional anomaly as society shifted from mostly-isolated to mostly-connected to entirely-connected. As some may recall, the greatest artistic age on history was formed on the shoulders of penniless artists supported pro bono by money-laden noble houses. We owe the works of Michaelangelo and Da Vinci not just to these Titans, but to the Medici family as well.The world has moved back to a similar state, but for diametrically opposite reasons.

What has changed is the paradigm by which ‘creativity’ is defined. The quality of creativity is not strained, only its flavor. The internet does not foster creativity in the traditional arts, it fosters the creation of new forms of art itself. While traditional art has moved from penniless artists supported by patrons to super-rich artists supported by a pretentious neo-intellectual societal elite, the internet generation lives not for the fame or the money, but for the art. The internet has through universal and instant connectivity, done away with the need for economic sustenance –  patronage, art gallery, music label or otherwise. It is the purest form of a creative democracy, where circumstance of birth or location, networking or luck are zeroed out; where everyone is free to discover their own creativity, in whichever form they please and share it with the world. Instantly.

Mattepainting. Speedpainting. Dynamic typography. Virtual choirs. Microbloggging. Forget Impressionism and Realism. Forget Michael Jackson. This is the internet generation. This is art:

and this:

and this:

This is the internet. This is a wonderful place. Money? Fame? pfft. It’s on youtube.

(More once I read the book..including possible retractions with humility..)

The world is full of interesting things

Google has this pretty awesome slide-show of interesting things on the internet. While the slideshow does plug a lot of Google stuff like Chrome Ads and a stylesheet for Google Reader; and a lot of content is sourced from off youtube, everything on the whole probably does merit its place.

I’ve collected a few here from the slide-show which I thought were absolutely amazing:

1. The Wilderness Downtown: A chrome-optimized, CPU-intensive HTML5 video. (or videos. It opens many many windows. Don’t panic). Just sit back, don’t touch anything, wait, keep waiting, and then watch the video. Quite an interesting visual experience. The load time is mighty annoying (and ironic considering the soundtrack).

2. Singing Fingers:

3. You’ve probably heard of this – the Youtube Symphony Orchestra

4.Pixels – the movie. Very hilarious:

5. Remember those spheres from a couple of years ago showing the shrink in net worth of the largest banks? This is better.

6. Whoa.

7. Guess what this is. Brilliant. (This is cool too)

8. Mildly hypnotic. Very very cool:

9. WHOA.

Notable mention to the epic-in-scope life-in-a-day.

 

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The five best sources of great photography on the internet

My previous post on the Flickr Hive Mind inspired me to share what I think are the best sources of amazing photography on the internet. I’m not going to go into a rehashed mess of the traditional sites, but on specific links to high-quality (skill and creativity, not resolution) photography.

just a random pic that looks nice

so cool!

Hive Mind: Like I’ve mentioned before, a fantastic source. I am thoroughly confused how it does what it does, but the end result is a constant stream of wow!

The Big Picture: A sub-site of Boston.com, and naturally very journalistic in flavour, but excellent photos nevertheless.

National Geographic Photo of the Day: A very focused site in terms of subject matter, dealing almost exclusively with travel and nature. The photographs of course, are legendary, almost all of the class that graces the covers of National Geographic Magazine itself.

deviantArt: I am sure to get panned for this. But the fact remains that among the tides of pre-pubescent and post-adolescent ‘artists’ and unending manga-derived graphics are some true photographic gems. It takes some hunting, but it can be worth it.

WordPress Photography: I am not joking. There are some seriously superb photographers on WordPress, as I have discovered in the recent past and continue to do so in the present. This and this are just a couple I’ve come across recently.

There you have it. In addition to the ‘common’ photo databases like photobucket and flickr, these 5 sites have been the mainstay of my photography browsing recently. If anyone has similar places they count on their favourites folder, do share.

On a last note, I cannot stress this enough when I ask everyone to always respect the copyrights and wishes of the photographers, wherever you may find their work. A vast majority of photographers will not have any problem with your using their work in a non-profiteering context. Just ask before using. It’s polite.

Sunday Linkdump

I’ve not been posting very frequently this last month. There have been numerous reasons, all of them remarkably stressful. I, of course, am too manly to unload tales of woe on my blog and thus turn this into. well, a diary. eww.

anyway, I’ll slowly ramp back up to mightier than ever.For now, LIIIIINNNNKKKDUUUMP!!!

I’ve been wanting to post about this for some time. I come across a lot of seriously amazing images as a i trawl the ‘net, and visualizeus has turned into an ideal way to save them all. (without the pain of downloading them). A handy (if annoyingly slow on the download) firefox extension makes things easy.

Shaun Wolfe via FastCompany. witty, my Dear Watson.

Intel just ranked their processors. Nice and useful for people who dont want to care about FSBs, L2 cache and overclocking. My late-2006 personal laptop with a Core 2 Duo gets 3 stars. My newer work laptop running a single core celeron (a vintage piece with .5 mb L2 cache) gets 1 star. Now guess which one is running Vista. (Hint: its not both, and I’ve mentioned this before on this blog).

Elections are coming up in India. Politicians have gone berserk wooing the illiterate masses who overwhelmingly outnumber smart people. (note: this is a global phenomenon and not restricted to India). I will not be voting. I know there are a lot of ‘get-out-the-vote’ esque campaigns running across the country, i know the usual arguments about not having the right to complain if i dont vote when the time comes blah blah, I know the national-duty argument yadda yadda….but the vote is a powerful thing. It signifies support and agreement. It takes a stand. Not voting is not so much as apathy as taking a stand against everyone. That’s what I’m doing. I will vote when I come across someone worth voting for.

I’m very interested in the latest Cognitive Daily’s Casual Friday.