Responding to Bruce…

Last week, Bruce Sterling posted a list of 18 challenges in contemporary literature on the Wired website. Ken Wark responsed with some very pithy and pertinent points on his facebook, so I’ll refraining from taking them all on, but here’s a comment or two:

Bruce Sterling #1. Literature is language-based and national; contemporary society is globalizing and polyglot.

Maybe. I think the second point is right, but there’s much literature that *is* global and polyglot. Ideas and concerns resonate across traditional national boundaries – the issues which concern urban youth have similarities whether they live in Sydney, New York, Berlin or Paris – and incrasingly Shanghai, Mumbai and Mexico City. And whilst language can be a constraint, it’s clear that our literature is responding to changing realities and becoming ‘globalisaing and polyglot’. Leave me Alone springs to mind as an example.

Bruce Sterling #3. Intellectual property systems failing.

This begs the question, “failing whom?” Remember intellectual property systems are supposed to balance providing ‘incentives to create’ with ‘furthering the progress of society’. Latterly, they seem to privilege preserving the profits of publishers. Are IP systems failing publishers? – in a bitTorrent age, probably. But it’s now easier to access creative works (both as producer and consumer) than in any previous epoch so *arguably* society is doing fine out of that ‘failure’. Do we need to talk about intellectual property systems? Absolutely. Does the system have to ensure that the ‘winners’ of the last 50 years remain ‘winners’?? Maybe not…

Bruce Sterling #9. Digital public-domain transforms traditional literary heritage into a huge, cost-free, portable, searchable database, radically transforming the reader’s relationship to belle-lettres.

In my local area, there are a number of large, cost-free, searchable repositories of literary material. They’re called public libraries. I visit with my kids regularly and we leave with stacks of dead-tree books to read. The reader’s relationship is not radically transformed by all of this being in the cloud – it’s just (potentially) way more accessible.

Bruce Sterling #15. Scholars steeped within the disciplines becoming cross-linked jack-of-all-trades virtual intelligentsia.

Got me there Bruce 🙂

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1 comment so far

  1. Miracle Jones on

    We’re responding to Sterling point by point over at Fiction Circus.

    You might find this interesting:

    http://www.fictioncircus.com/news.php?id=428&mode=one


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