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The Flip

I know I've pointed to the New York Times a lot recently for stories. Sorry. But there's been a lot there of late.

Most recently, the New York Times Magazine had two essays that put their journalistic fingers on an ongoing cultural trend. The first is by James Gleick, who writes:

Just when digital reproduction makes it possible to create a "Rembrandt" good enough to fool the eye, the "real" Rembrandt becomes more expensive than ever. Why? Because the same free flow that makes information cheap and reproducible helps us treasure the sight of information that is not. A story gains power from its attachment, however tenuous, to a physical object. The object gains power from the story. The abstract version may flash by on a screen, but the worn parchment and the fading ink make us pause. The extreme scarcity is intensified by the extreme of ubiquity.
The second is by Noah Feldman who notes, in his examination of the Mormon religion, that
There is nothing inherently less plausible about God's revealing himself to an upstate New York farmer in the early years of the Republic than to the pharaoh's changeling grandson in ancient Egypt. But what is driving the tendency to discount Joseph Smith's revelations is not that they seem less reasonable than those of Moses; it is that the book containing them is so new. When it comes to prophecy, antiquity breeds authenticity. Events in the distant past, we tend to think, occurred in sacred, mythic time.
And so it would seem that Marshall McLuhan's third law of media, Reversal—in which the ubiquity of text grants rare textual manifestations with the stamp of the sacred—requires more attention than ever. Especially since the paper of record carried two stories that so blatantly embody Reversal in the same issue.

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