Don’s right on the money here and it plays nicely into the theme I was getting at with my last link too. Read this and think about these things after Christmas:
For example, it’s great to have new discovery tools, but for better or worse, actual book sales (both print and digital) still rely on identifiers and other metadata to facilitate an actual transaction. Subscriptions and rentals require the ability not only to ingest and display titles and the accompanying metadata, but also to serve content in multiple formats, to interface with accounting and royalty systems and to provide a data mining tools for publishers, among other things.
Direct-to-consumer businesses, both on the sales side and on the self-publishing side require skills not typically found in book publishing businesses, including customer acquisition, understanding the lifetime value of customers/users, customer service and the ability to deal with many small transactions rather than a relative handful of larger orders from more traditional wholesale and retail customers.
But will book reading actually suffer? I doubt it. My kids would love to have Kindles so that they could read spontaneously. They get addicted to a series (don’t get me going about “Pretty Little Liars” right now), and once one book is polished off, they want to start the next one. But the scarcity model of book publishing means having to wait days between reading events if ordering a book from an online retailer; calling around town to find a book and often failing; or checking the library which often doesn’t have the latest materials. Does waiting, calling around, or getting frustrated help the reading experience? Not at all.
Ireland in 2050 touches on a very broad set of subjects, from health, education, energy, employment, global competition, environmental change, technology and wealth and yet it manages to tie all of these to the real lives of people. Kinsella does that by imagining not just a future, but also a future family, the Murphy’s. They experience the best and the worst of the imagined Ireland of 2050 and through them we can see how well or how badly we have adapted to changing circumstances, our successes and our failures. it is a nice device and one, that although I was initially sceptical about, I rather liked.
The book is so important not because it is correct in every detail or because the ideas he explores are revolutionary but because by bringing together these thoughts, by projecting them forward and by imagining an approximate Ireland in 2050, Kinsella has set the stage for an almighty row about, who we WANT to be in 40 years time, how we GET there and WHAT values, hopes and dreams are our priority.
It is a row Kinsella invites us to take part in in his postscript Invitation To A Row and one I think he seems passionate about:
I wrote it [the book] to start a row. I want to invite you to that row, right now. Do you agree with me that Ireland will be a more unequal place in 2050? Do you see privacy going up in smoke? Do you think that half of the couples in Ireland will be divorced by the middle of the century? Do you see the continual erosion of the Catholic Church as a good or bad thing? What do you think we should be doing to get ourselves ready for the future?
But we get to decide
The general tone of the book seems to decry the way we have almost sleepwalked into many of the realities of Ireland in 2009. The marginalised young people of outer suburbia, the old-fashioned, poorly equipped health and education services, the lack of local government of any real capacity to effect change and the startling lack of debate about how and in what direction Ireland will develop.
It is this core message, the need to make key decisions, to look rationally at the alternatives before us and to choose the “best” option that comes through most forcefully in Kinsella’s writing. When he expresses an opinion ,like arguing Ireland should look West to the USA for its future, while at the same time, not letting go of our relationship with Europe, he is reasonable and sensible.
He takes a lomg term view and challenges the blithe assumptions of those who argue the balance of power is shifting east, towards China and India or that Nuclear power is dangerous and unsafe. I sense that he will encounter a fair amount of resistance from the left of Irish politics but at the same time, while he clearly expresses his view, he is often merely describing how changes will impact not how he would like them to impact. His thoughts on the impact of climate change on water supply, agriculture and consumption are scary and yet not alarmist either.
Two areas I think he touches on have been so badly covered in the past at least at a mainstream discussion level that he may as well be the first one to mention it, are the changes wrought by divorce and longevity. In many ways these factors are strangely entwined, as humans live longer, they have more relationships, more chances to live parts of their lives as almost completely different people. They may choose to send half their loves with one partner, a quarter with another and still another quarter with a third, our society will be changed beyond all recognition when that is a frequent occurrence.
In short with Ireland in 2050: How We Will Be Living, Kinsella has moved the strategic decisions we have avoided taking for the best part of a decade (resulting on the mess we are in now) right into the centre of political and intellectual discussion and is demanding that we figure them out, make a decision and act accordingly. We should all step up to the plate, pay attention, join the row and make sure our voices are heard and that we make the RIGHT decisions.
This is a fascinating, accessible and readable book that will hopefully kick off a debate that Ireland really needs to be having and make the decisions we need to make to shape our future at best easier or at worst, better understood.
Well worth reading. Ireland in 2050: How We We Will Live is published by Liberties Press is 224 pages and is price €14.99, ISBN: 9781905483693. Eoin
Emma over at Snowblog set some homework. She asked people to read this piece by Mark Booth over at The Independent online and to discuss it. I’ve much to say on it but for today I’d like to hit on CONSCIOUSNESS. To give you a good idea of what it’s about here’s a quote:
The great new literary form that will replace the novel will, I believe, arise on the net and will take on its wild frontier spirit, its intellectual risk-taking, its two fingers at academic control-freakery. But it will also help forge a new form of consciousness in a much more fundamental way that has to do with the form of the internet.
There really is much more to the piece, a lot of which I agree with. For instance Booth talks about the impact the internet is having on reading and the nature of our leisure time. There is truth in that. We are spending more time reading online and that is changing the form. But how far does that go?
Let’s ask Stephen Fry
A man who up until two months ago I’d have thought as unknowledgeable about these things as most but how wrong has he proved me and anyone else who thought like me (just read this post to confirm his wonderful geekery).
Commenting on the strange beast that is Facebook (which I like for status updates, Warbook and the odd photo but otherwise use it very little) he wrote the other day a most apt line:
But let the rise of social networking alert you to the possibility that, even in the futuristic world of the net, the next big thing might just be a return to a made-over old thing.
And therein lies the rub
The assumption that Mark Booth makes is that when there was no way of recording it, there was no internal narrative in peoples’ minds, that they were somehow not at the same level of consciousness or at least that that narrative was different:
In the esoteric view, consciousness has changed in a much more radical way than historians generally allow, and the importance of the great novels of the 18th and 19th centuries is the role they played in forging the sense we all have – and take for granted – that we have an interior narrative. If people experienced this before the novel, if they earlier saw their lives as micro-histories with turning points, dilemmas and meaningful structures, they left no record of it, and, according to the esoteric account, they had no inkling of it except in sermons.
I’d suggest strongly that this is not the case
Just think it through with me. For that to be true we have to assume that people in the past were not like us. That their consciousness was somehow of a different nature. And that situation was caused by their lack of access to the written word, and specifically the novel.
You’d have to accept too that the epics of Homer didn’t build an internal narrative for those who heard them or the folk tales that have gone unrecorded had no role to play in building consciousness and the oral histories or the plays, or even Beowulf with its powerful messages and its heroic themes offered no grist for an internal narrative mill.
Funnily enough Nassim Nicholas Taleb has some excellent stuff about exactly this type of situation in The Black Swan, he calls it Silent Evidence and offers the Phoenicians as a great example of it. It was long believed that they were commercially obsessed and did not use the alphabet they invented for creative purposes. Of course it now appears that they simply used perishable materials to record their creative impulses.
if we can mistake destroyed art for no art, then I suspect we cannot be sure about the hidden consciousness of oral cultures and pre-text cultures. I suspect that the internal narratives we take for granted now existed in those cultures. Perhaps the priorities were framed by different horizons and paradigms, perhaps experiences were more important than knowledge in building that consciousness. There is simply no way to know how they formed, how different they were or indeed how similar.
So you see, I don’t think Mark Booth’s new consciousness is anything other than an old consciousness ‘made-over’ as a new thing*.
I’ll think this through again but I’m pretty sure I won’t change my mind. Eoin
*That’s not to invalidate any of his thinking on the direction of publishing technology! But more on that tomorrow.