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August 25th, 2011

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10:44 am - Content and clicks
I am marking end of term reports. Only fifteen to go, guys. Too easy to be distracted. Kate Beaton (beatonna) has done a smashing cartoon about Shelley and Byron. And she also points to the drawings of Carly Munroe (tumblr) including some exceptional Mad Men portraits:

Roger Stirling
Pete Campbell
Peggy Olsen

So many talented female artists on the web these days. It is ironic that the same technology which allows people with talent to flourish, also devalues their content. I was depressed by Ewan Morrison's Edinburgh festival talk on the death of the publishing industry. I think he more or less feels that writers can no longer expect to get rewarded for content generation, unless there is a shift away from the current free market model:
any strategy ... is just playing for time as the slide towards a totally free digital culture accelerates. How long have we got? A generation. After that, writers, like musicians, filmmakers, critics, porn stars, journalists and photographers, will have to find other ways of making a living in a short-term world that will not pay them for their labour.

The only solution ultimately is a political one. As we grow increasingly disillusioned with quick-fix consumerism, we may want to consider an option which exists in many non-digital industries: quite simply, demanding that writers get paid a living wage for their work. Do we respect the art and craft of writing enough to make such demands?

I dunno. I expect to be able to make a moderate income from writing for a little while longer. In the long run I have no idea. I feel that the English Language is the greatest asset that I have - through no virtue of my own, just an accident of birth and upbringing - and in my teaching and writing I trade that asset. It is an impressive global resource. But the people who make these decisions don't even see the riches that stare them in the face. They see 'Kindle' as a resource, they don't see the words as a resource.

(4 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:August 25th, 2011 11:29 am (UTC)
Speaking of non-digital industries, why shouldn't taxi drivers and housecleaners get a living wage, just for being taxi drivers and housecleaners? The free market war of all against all driving labour to the bottom was supposedly good enough up to now, in the opinion of some writers I know.
[User Picture]
Date:August 25th, 2011 11:37 am (UTC)
I obviously completely agree with you. I think an interesting feature of capitalism is that individual industries want things for themselves - low labour costs, tax minimisation - which harm the overall system in which they need to sell their goods.

But is Ewan Morrison a bad 'un? I don't know him.
[User Picture]
Date:August 25th, 2011 12:07 pm (UTC)
The Broadway theater is known as "the magnificent invalid" because its death has been not just Rumoured but reported at least since the 1920s. Also, the instability of digital communications is acknowledged--everybody knows it's a lot easier to read a book printed in 1820 than a digital file saved on the Latest and Greatest equipment in 1970.
[User Picture]
Date:August 25th, 2011 12:23 pm (UTC)
It seems every time I talk to a writer nowadays they are fretting about digital death. I hope your sanguine view is right. I use my Kindle a lot but I have realised that I will always prefer books.

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