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Friday, August 04, 2017

A golden age of criticism?

Most of humanity's writing is taking place on phones, but only rarely is this writing given critical focus or appreciation.

What could the patterns and institutions look like that appreciate a great Insta convo? Great FB groups mgmt?

For older ephemeral writing, eg newspaper columns and letters, it took centuries to develop institutions and attitudes to collect and criticize. What is our @nyrb? What is our ? What is our Cahiers du Cinema? Do these analogies exist? Will they?

And, what has to expand and evolve in step with these media so that we can recognize, and not dismiss, the forms that are emerging?

The notions of "selected letters and essays of _____" was born of scarcity of printed pages. How does this translate in the age of scarcity of attention?

The dichotomy of literary/artistic creators vs. critics was born of a scarcity of publishing and performance space and time. If it's difficult and costly to sample, say, a play or a volume of poetry, we need critics to indicate which are broadly worth attention.

Since internet media are fundamentally easier and cheaper to sample and switch in and out of, do we still need critics? In what role?

Is a social media filter like Upworthy an analogue to a curator: applying an opinionated lens, and collecting a live and historical archive?

Do we still need boundaries between what is and isn't included in some collection? Are they only a vestige, or do they help focus?

is there something fundamentally patient and accessible about letters which makes them able to be appreciated by strangers? is a wonderful letter something we want to reread, whereas a wonderful SMS, even if it deeply thrilled the writer at the time, isn't?

Letters and prose as a form are inherently recursive: a novel can have characters write letters to each other and print those in full. But books, film and television are still struggling with how to work smartphone based communication into their narratives.

The most successful attempts at this seem to me to come from the bleeding edge of social media creation, like Vine and Yung Jake's Unfollow.

Is it fundamentally a problem for storytelling using current forms of writing that the technology itself changes so fast? A novel from 100 years ago that includes letters is perfectly understandable today. What about a video from 2003 about Myspace? Can teenagers today even understand what's going on in the scene in Scorsese's The Departed where Matt Damon texts from his pocket?

More importantly, does a creator like Scorsese avoid using true current forms of writing in their stories because of rapid obsolescence?

In the past, critics have often come from ranks of former creators. Are forms of writing evolving too rapidly for a community of critics to emerge?

Do critics perform a significant enough role in reality for their declining presence to matter? Or are critics actually doing quite well, because the lowering of barriers to writing means that many more people can fluidly participate in criticism?

Is this, in fact, a golden age of criticism?

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