Popularity, success, quality?

There was once a time where if your work was much attended to it was probably (though not inevitably) because it had merit. Art has in the last half century or so had exceptions to this, but then art has always been a bit of an odd one in that respect. The ‘what is art’ debate will probably continue unresolved for as long as humans walk the planet. So this piece doesn’t fully include that in its considerations.

Since YouTube burgeoned into a money making platform anyone who has spent time there will be well aware that success frequently doesn’t relate to quality content, but to the appeal to trivial amusement, shock value, the apparent desire for the emotional hit drama brings, and the lure of cash. I’ve sidestepped pretty much all these repeatedly. Offers have been made on many an occasion. For some time it meant I had quality viewers and commenters, but as time went on it meant I had barely any new ones as Google steered eyes towards money making enterprises and away from the more altruistic or content and community motivated. Granted, some have succeeded in doing both, though I don’t feel unhappy I’m not one of them.

But this is not me moaning about the inevitable lure of cash and apparent success. This applies in any online venue I’ve encountered. Flickr is a more recent discovery for me. I put any of my photos I consider have any merit there. Success there is much more hit and miss. Some people seem to have found ways to give the appearance of popularity by favouriting everything certain people produce, with the hope they will do the same in return. There are some groups where being selected brings guaranteed success, but those who are truly talented may or may not end up being successful. Some will do fantastically well, while others will languish unnoticed. Essentially, talent and ability is no guarantee of success.

This applies in many other online venues. I’ve been talking recently with someone about the fact this also applies with writing, short stories, fiction (and probably most other forms of writing). There are many books out there which are successful but the writing is dismal, others who have rare talents are unnoticed.

It seems that opportunity for all (or all who have access to the internet, which of course is far from all), rather than discovering real talent, seems to have dumbed it all down, made it increasingly difficult for those who have something to offer to break surface. I suspect in part this is because the push is towards celebrity, money and popularity, rather than the quality of content.

This might sound like sour grapes, but really, it isn’t. I’ve always rather foolishly perhaps, avoided being noticed, so my place in the scheme of things is entirely down to me. Perhaps not in my best interests, but that’s not objectively related to this. In part there’s something rather beautiful and wonderful about most people having opportunity. This never used to be the case. The chosen few would glide effortlessly to the top of the pile and everyone else (with the odd notable exception) would know their place. That was no better. Perhaps its current motivations which skew the whole thing in a less than helpful way. Because within it there are opportunities for some wonderful connections and wholeness which wasn’t present before. I can’t quite work out if that skewing is down to human nature or to corporate greed. Or something else.

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On being clear

This post is inspired by my stumbling upon a couple of people at twitter who champion academia being comprehensible and communicating itself in such a way as to not be exclusive and excluding. That I follow the grand total of 7 people on twitter, and most of what I’ve said there in recent months pertains to how much I dislike twitter, this is perhaps only a springboard rather than specifically to do with that platform. Interesting metaphors I’ve raised there, I now have visions of me bouncing about on a trampoline at a train station. Platform thirteen and three quarters possibly, a new entrance to another world. I will probably share it there but I lack enough understanding of how twitter works to know whether my doing so is likely to have much, if any effect. So please feel free to comment whoever you are and whichever direction you approach this from.

For pretty much the entirety of my adult life it’s been important to me that I can communicate in ways which will be understandable to whoever I’m talking to. Otherwise I see little point in saying anything at all. There are various historical reasons as to why I feel that way, so I will share them:

1 The first ten years of my working life were with people with learning difficulties and mental health problems. To communicate well with anyone loosely fitting into these categories requires you to be acutely aware of how that individual interacts with the world. It may be that they do so in non verbal ways, or incorporate unique perceptions and expressions. You must tailor the way you communicate with each person to that person. Since you are the trained professional who has a deeper understanding of these possibilities that is your job, not theirs.

2 For the following many years I worked as a therapist. This requires you to be an excellent and active listener, to be able to make sense of the mental and emotional constructs the person you’re working with bears, and then to be able to communicate with them in ways which they will comprehend. The better you are at this the better you will be at helping and supporting them and any changes they may be striving to make. Again, this is your professional responsibility, not theirs.

3 The university in Scotland I studied at operated a semester system and was based on the principle that you needed to study a range of topics as well as specialising in one. So while my degree was in psychology I also took modules in education, sociology, anthropology and English. In the last semester of my degree course I was one module short of an alternative subject from my main, which is when I took the sociology course. This meant that I was a final year student on a first year course.

It quickly became apparent that while I was well versed in all the jargon the teaching contained the new students weren’t. Many were anxious that they would fail their end of term exam because they were having to attempt to translate and spend much of their time trying to learn this jargon rather than explore the topic they had interest in. I ended up as a student rep and succeeded in getting a resit option introduced, which many found reassuring. It pointed up to me how unnecessary much of this jargon was, how it sought to exclude and allow entrance to a special smart or educated persons club rather than actually educate. Such jargon by and large did not add much to understanding, in fact in this case it was a barrier to it.

I understand and appreciate that any specialism will have terms, expressions, concepts, theories etc which are required learning to become well versed in that topic. But that doesn’t mean anyone with such a specialism should always use these when speaking to a wider audience. In fact I would suggest it’s highly ignorant to do so. I find myself wondering from time to time whether those in academia who feel the need to do this are, far from being elite or in the higher echelons of society, so insecure they need to make themselves feel special and better than everyone else. For truly, what is the point of academia if not to educate and to teach the joy of learning? How can you do that if those you are speaking to don’t comprehend what you’re saying because you are using language you know full well they won’t understand?

 

Start again again

I don’t know about you, but often I find the practicalities of life seem to mirror what I need to act on internally. Not sure if that made sense. I’ll try and say it more clearly. Life can present symbolic hints as to what one needs to address in a more personal way. I’ll give the examples which have led me to saying this, which might clarify.

My phone stopped receiving any emails from either account I use a few days ago. It’s a pretty new phone, so there was no apparent reason as to why. I tinkered and didn’t seem to be able to make it work. Then the adblocker I have on here stopped working and everywhere I visited was awash with ads. Not only is that visually irritating, but since I have such a slow connection everything becomes even more ponderous to the point where it pretty much ground to a halt. Again, more tinkering. Turning the adblocker on and off, that sort of thing. No joy.

The key with this kind of thing, in my experience at least, is to ascertain what it is one needs to realise. I don’t necessarily mean in order to fix it, I mean what one needs to learn. So I will generally look at anything presented to me from the perspective of possible acceptance as well as the other options. As I did here.

A few days of general malfunction of technology ensues. Not impossible to manage, but a bit of an irritant. Then I am somehow led to doing two things. Disconnecting my phones connection to the wifi, connecting it to another option, then reconnecting, and throwing away the adblocker and reinstalling it. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea. I hadn’t thought of either before, and I don’t know why either came to me. The mechanism matters less than the opportunity to learn what was in that. Because both worked, and now the ads have disappeared and the phone appears to be doing what it should again.

In some respects it makes me think of mindfulness. of being in the moment. Of accepting stasis when it manifests, difficulty, change when the penny drops, of listening to intuition and nudgings, even if they may not appear to make sense, of beginning again endlessly, at least until I am no more. There are other aspects of this i have yet to consider. There are clues in here for me which are more than this. It might seem a silly bit of trivia, a nothing, an irritant and no more. But to me it looks like the chance to realise, to learn and relearn, to re-member, remind. And so I shall.

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Cacophony

12138017514_b9315ec371_kIt’s been a long time since I posted here. I’ve pondered the notion of taking it up again a number of times, the reasons for which will become apparent as this post develops. But someone posted a couple of replies yesterday so I decided now was the time.

I wasn’t exactly on the internet from the start. In fact I resisted for some time, believing the hype that told me the only thing which was guaranteed was the porn. This turned out to be untrue. But I have been around for a long time. I began in about 2000 so it’s been quite a number of years, and during that time I’ve observed its development, the changes, many of them far from beneficial. Allow me to offer a few of those observations historically to give context.

After some initial fumblings and the feeling I was trying to fly a spacecraft with no lessons I managed to work out the main value of it was to communicate and to be free to express oneself. It was wild country for sure. A sort of chaotic utopia, in that anything you put out there you effectively gave away. That rather suited my personality. Yet paradoxically there seemed all sorts of opportunities for communicating in relative privacy. For example, the number of forums I participated in, helped run or created, all had the options to have layers of transparency, so you could converse in depth without prying eyes, yet enable openness for the newcomer, discovering who they were before they could enter any inner sanctum. If anything privacy was greater than in real life.

These were meaningful times for me. I forged some deep friendships, ran courses for people all over the world, shared creatively with numerous people, found some of like mind (a rare thing for me), expanded and explored with some fascinating people.

Then big business realised the potential for money making here, and it all changed. From being a free for all, a messy, chaotic but fulfilling expansion, it became a free for none downward spiral into a consumerist nightmare. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very helpful to be able to buy most of what you need with the click of a button when you live in the middle of nowhere. But the loss of the freedoms of expression, natural community, being herded into ever more limiting spaces unless you’re desirous of becoming a ‘celebrity’ and making lots of money for whatever provider you happen to be with (and which just isolates in a different way) is not a good thing for anyone other than those who rake in the cash.

Perhaps one of the curious things about it is that there was perhaps an inevitability that humans who want a repeated tiny hit of pleasure will become totally addicted to the screens they carry round with them. Most of us will have seen a number of people in a room all looking at their phones and not speaking to one another. In fact they may even be looking at what each other are doing online. Whether by accident or design big business is cashing in on these desires, as what happens gets ever more trivial or manipulated, and because we find ourselves being told the virtual spaces we use belong to someone else (how did that happen?) we have no right or options any more. There is no longer much natural flow. Well, perhaps a little, but it happens in spite of those who now run the joint rather than being encouraged. It is a cacophony of voices, and I’m uncertain as to whether there is much to be gained any more. So much of it is drama, lowest common denominator stuff, with the more thoughtful, expressive and creative gradually disappearing from view. How is that good for anyone?

Perhaps its time to return to the physical world, which is so much less populated, and where visceral real life engagements may perhaps offer the depths the internet rarely does any more.