I’ve added the postal address in the sidebar, so feel free to send me postcards, crudely photocopied situationist rants, mix cds, etc.
I suppose this relates in some way to the discussion over at Woebot about the nature and ethics of mp3s. Dave Stelfox is, I think, completely on the money when he talks about the lack of involvement that chronic downloaders have, both with the cultural side of the musics and possibly with every day life.
Certainly I have a nostalgia for ‘objects’ like records or fanzines or letters or whatever and this is partly because of my age (starting doing this sort of stuff before the internet existed), but I can’t help feeling that something is getting lost along the way. It’s great to have everything available all the time, but there is some value in NOT having everything available all the time.
I discussed this a bit with Joel Biroco when I met him a while back. He was talking about doing the I-Ching (an oriental system of divination – very crudely summarised as a taoist version of tarot cards or runes). Joel’s been doing I-Ching stuff for years and has written what is generally agreed (at least by people who I respect) as being an excellent book and various commentaries on the subject. He was frustrated at the fact that people who don’t understand the reading they have come up with now just get on the net and ask people on a discussion forum about it. Whereas in some ways, the whole point of that sort of activity is to spend some time reflecting, getting to know yourself, exercising your own mind and developing new lines of questioning.
In having everything available, the quest and thrill of the chase is lost. The random elements are kind of removed from the equation. The net provides for different relationships with people. I realised last night that a lot of the people that might be at the Stewart Home reading were people I had met through various online forums, for example. But the fact that I actually met them is probably mostly to do with my pre-internet practice and personality.
My impression is that chronic mp3 downloaders (i.e. people who get ALL their music off the net for free) are in some ways (consciously on unconsciously) avoiding this sort of thing. Activity becomes about acquiring data, not about the people involved. I’m not going to pretend that I have a fantastically well developed friendship with the guys who work at my local specialist reggae shop, but they do recognise me when I go in and we can have a chat, and you also end up talking to people at the counter about stuff. And it’s the same at other shops or when you go to soundsystem bashes. Those little glints of human contact which reinforce what is special about the world and give me hope for the future.
Opposed to that is the unspoken rejection of the physical which chronic downloaders are heading for. No more dusty and dirty record shops, no more vinyl, no more random flyers or accidentally stepping on people’s toes and then apologising and having a chat for twenty minutes about King Tubby. No more of that non-verbal communication – the nod of recognition or raised eyebrows. No more context…