Panel: Literature, Journalism, and the Telematic Society 2: Fact, Fiction, Faction; Converging Styles in Literature and Journalism in On-line Publications
Since the beginning of the Industrial Age, technological advances are constantly producing new means of creating visual, acoustic and narrative effects; i.e., new ways of representing and distorting reality. While most artists and other creative professionals didn’t hesitate to adopt these new media to their own ends-or to adapt their ends to these new means of expression, cultural critics as a group didn’t cope as well. From the early days of, say, dealing with daguerreotype to present efforts to understand digital media, their discourse tends to follow a simple pattern of “sequential thinking”. The victory of photography had to be the end of painting; cinema had to finish off the novel and the theater; the phonograph left no future for concerts and opera; radio then killed the market for records; and TV, according to the fears of its critics and hopes of its producers, had to do away with practically every other media and art form. Right now, we’re experiencing, as spectators or participants, an updated version of this rather stubborn discourse. Enthusiastic friends of digital media are sure – and their foes fear – that online arts and particularly hypertext, its non-linearity and interactivity, will bring about the end of the old analog ways: the end of newspapers and printed books, the demise of reporting and the death of the novel, just to name the few victims I’m personally familiar with. Obviously, this critical discourse tries to understand cultural progress by the scientific paradigm: A new theory about the material world that better fits the experimental data proves the old one wrong and succeeds it. In the same way, progress in the arts is seen as a successional process. If something new shows up, it must either fail or replace the old. That was the logic of modernism, and that makes the history of the arts look like those graphics that illustrate human evolution, the “march of progress” from our crawling predecessor to us, the upright homo sapiens.
Even biological evolution, however, is no story of simple diachronic replacement. Evolution produces synchronic expansion — diversification and the occupation of niches by highly specialized forms. And in this respect, the realm of mêmes doesn’t differ from the realm of genes. In both adaptation rules. I will talk about its cultural function, how ideas and stories, similar fragments of reality, the same interests, obsessions and ideological discourses, the same artistic goals are continuously adapted to different forms of media and communication. And I will try to reflect on what that should mean for literature and traditional (including New) journalism on one hand and for on-line journalism and digital narratives on the other. However, I have to admit that my critical perspective is distorted. I’m no bystander, but an active participant in the never-ending process of adaptation that feeds the culture industries. I’ve rearranged and recycled intellectual material in different media for more than a decade, and still can find nothing wrong with it.
- Gundolf Freyermuth‘s (Germany) writing credits include 3 novels, 8 non-fiction books, and several screenplays. Born 1955 in Hanover, Germany, he studied and taught comparative literature at Free University, Berlin, specializing on media theory and on the history, theory and practice of literary reporting. He also was a reporter and senior editor with TransAtlantik, Stern, and other German magazines. Since 1994, Freyermuth lives on a ranch in the White Mountains, Arizona writing fiction and exploring cyber culture and its effects on traditional media. He is a regular contributor to Spiegel Special, Frankfurter Rundschau, and the online magazine Telepolis. His latest books are Cyberland: Eine Fuehrung Burch den High-Tech-Underground (Berlin 1996), Das war’s: Letzte Worte mit Charles Bukowski (Hamburg 1996) and the novel Bogarts Bruder (Leipzig 1997; writing as John Cassar).