Let’s Stop My Growing Conservatism

The other weekend my friend Adam pointed out how my worrying over certain problems with tech/media was a kind of conservatism. Tony Judt’s talked about this, how as the Right has embraced free markets and libertarianism more and more it’s become the job of the Left to preserve/conserve certain American values: union labor, environmental conservation, social democracy, safety nets, etc.

What I want to do to feel good is make things, and this is my chief problem with what I mean by “tech” (i.e., phone apps and interactive media): it doesn’t help me create anything. In fact, it encourages the opposite; hashtag games, ice-bucket challenges, even likes and reposts all reward a kind of open conformity. (Adam had fun making fun of me for sincerely calling myself “a child of the 90s”.) One way to respond is with ludditisim. But I don’t want to be that person.

I want to find a way to not shuffle backward into the future, eyes on the sepia-toned past. If I were a filmmaker or photographer, the way forward would be clear. Phone cameras are good now! As a writer, it’s less clear. Everyone’s writing online. A luddite would start writing on a manual typewriter, “to get back to original prose rhythms” or something. One less conservative way forward would be to embrace the medium and write for it better. Like: to develop an aesthetics of the post. Online writing could use a good critic. The problem of course is that everyone’s a critic, and that criticism comes in the form of shares or comments forums.

Another way forward is to find stuff of the present that’s new and original and championing it, then extrapolating what makes them good and new and applying it to one’s own work. Like Dali reading Freud or Warhol growing up in Pittsburgh. Two things come to mind here: The Comedy of Josh Fadem and The Art of Superjail!. Since online aesthetics[*] are telling me that this post is already too long, I’ll touch on why each of these is new and important in separate posts to come.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. One thing I’ve already noticed about online writing is that links (clickbaity ones or otherwise) either (a) do the job or (b) negate the necessity of introductory paragraphs. If I’m reading a thing because I’ve been enticed to click to it you don’t have me at the same level of attention as if I’ve turned the page on something I’ve bought. In other words: get to the point. How can we artfully start with the point and then artfully develop it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *