Note From David: Living in Real Time, Dealing with the Digital Juggernaut

by David Hershkovits
A technology issue of a print publication? How oxymoronic! Print is a medium under siege, its nearly 600-year hegemony challenged by the upstart digital media -- a brutal, speed-defying force capable of spitting out pages at a rate that would make a Jack Kerouac amphetamine binge look like slo-mo. I remember Internet Magazine, a British publication launched in 1994 that kept up a list of websites because there was no other way to find anything. It did very well until search engines came around in the late '90s and made it obsolete. And so it goes. The digital juggernaut continues unabated while the print world is forced to make adjustments.

There are so many directions in which to look when contemplating the confluence of media, art and technology, so much going on, that it's easy to imagine one's head spinning faster than a food processor on steroids. This perhaps best captures the current state of affairs among the pundits, intellectuals, educators and industry leaders tasked with making sense of the turbulence caused by the technological disruption.

Much of the discussion in the last few years has centered around social media and the continuing disintegration of the hierarchical top-down paradigm -- a game that was best played by large corporations who had no interest or incentive to change. So change came after them and now every brand has a Facebook page. Many -- even stodgy giants like IBM -- have Tumblr pages, and Twitter has become the PR messaging center of choice. Desperate to learn and work with the prevailing technology, the big brands (and their messengers, the ad agencies) are learning the ropes and playing the game at a higher level. No longer able to control the narrative with omnipresent advertising, they supplement their messaging with one-to-one communication, aka social media. Lesson learned, we're on to the next phase, perhaps as some would argue, the eventual morphing of brands into media companies with their own newsrooms, à la Red Bull. Just Google "brand newsroom" to see how big a trend this is right now.

Apart from business interests figuring out how media and technology can make money for them, there is a latent distrust of technology and its disruptive forces. The media tends to follow the fear-mongering storyline in which technology is a force, like Mother Nature, that is not to be messed with. It's out there threatening our very existence with tornado-like fury. From terrorists hacking into our financial institutions to identity theft, stalking, sexting and everything in between, we're told to prepare for the worst. Our minds as well as our "likes" are compromised and placed at the service of Big Data-collecting super computers that turn us into constructs for marketers to sell us shit we don't need or want. It's ruining our children and turning us into Attention Deficit Disordered, multi-tasking machines, breaking down borders and destroying governments. Lets not even talk about e-mail!

Can nothing be done about this? Douglas Rushkoff, author of the compelling new book, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now and a onetime champion of the Internet, argues for a "new humanism," (man over machine) and "living in real time," (not digital time), a form of personal intervention that recognizes that we have a problem and takes steps to address it. Like Rushkoff, Evgeny Morozov (author of To Save Everything Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism) is no Luddite. Morozov questions the abilities of technocrats to solve our problems with algorithms and big ideas like the one suggesting that taking classes online is as good -- or even better -- than attending classes in person. He argues for imperfection: What makes us human and should not be replaced by formulas.

Here at Paper we wallow in our positivity. Long ago we decided to focus on letting our readers know about what we like, not what we disdain (of which, let me put your mind at ease, there is plenty). Likewise when it comes to our technology issue. We're filled with pride at the amazing work of the folks we have chosen to spotlight. And let's not forget our cover friends in the Lonely Island, who owe their superstar success to the Web. You might ask, "Why also include a food section as part of this issue?" Well, here too technology has taken hold, creating opportunities for people to reach across political and cultural lines and to break bread together. So kick back, turn it on, tune it in and enjoy the food for thought we have lovingly and mindfully prepared.

Photo by Jacqueline Di Milia

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