Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Dreams, Digital Swagger and the Endless Conversation

It’s a pleasant Renaissance notion that the best response to a work of art or a poem is another work of art or poem. Modern-day depth psychologists, some of whom use the language of the Renaissance masters, suggest the same advice when it comes to the dream. Carl Jung suggested we dream the dream onward, using “active imagination” to deepen and extend the dream. The idea is not to kill the dream as if it were a snake in the grass, by instant analysis and categorization. The snake is question is not necessarily a penis or a link to the Garden of Eden. After all, I’m not the author of my own dreams.

We are living in the age of the Continued Conversation, where the responses to magazine and newspaper articles are often more interesting than the original entry. In our world of social media where sharing and commentary rules, we are in a dynamic state of co-creating, whether we are talking about a business project or a work-of-art. Digitally speaking, the conversation might never stop, even when we are dead. There are indeed apps for that end state. Technology makes every permutation possible. Google just posted through its Google Art Project 32,000 renowned works of art using its street view technology. The pixel density is just incredible, taking the viewer back to the painter’s brush strokes. Perhaps this is the final solution to dreaming the dream onward and moving backwards to artistic intention.

I come from a background of the solitary writer/artist. Whether a dissertation, a self-help book, a novel, or a poetry collection, the work has been solitary and individual. I just published a book-length poem, In the Shadow of the DMZ, where the zone is physical, psychological and theological and the subject matter is war. I wrote this on countless trips to Asia, especially to China, but the zone of creation was one of isolation, even on crowded planes at 35,000 feet surrounded by a Babel of tongues.

I will do the usual: sell the book on Amazon and the Kindle; market in select urban book stores; give public readings and the like. I’m thinking about putting on a one-act play dealing with that zone between the hotel Americana and the land of pimps. But this is so, yesterday, so 20th century.

I was completely pulled into an interview with Wired contributor Clive Thompson at Findings.com because, while I was ruminating, Thompson was putting down some very interesting fence posts. He mentions reading War and Peace on his iPhone and writing 16,000 words in notes and clippings. He printed these out “as an on-demand book. In short, I have a physical copy of all of my favorite parts of War and Peace that I can flip through, with my notes, but I don’t actually own a physical copy of War and Peace.”

The interviewer, sounding very much like a psychologist, asks Thompson, is he is having a conversation with the text, and perhaps even with his future self? Yes, it is all that, with all these characters present in what could be a lifelong conversation.

Paidcontent’s Mathew Ingram notes that “books remain stubbornly anti-social.”  He had a point, and this is one reason people love their Kindles that are far from the madding crowd.  I count myself among this congregation.  But Thompson is a little less dogmatic.  He sees the opportunity for the book-comment stream to be a turn-on option.  “You’ll have a digital book, and if you want, you’ll turn off all the comments, read in solitude-‘everyone shut up’-or you can say, show me the most awesome comments, show me the highest rated comments, show me everything, show me the fire hose.  What have my friends or people I care about said about a book?  Are there any actual people reading this page right now that I might want to have a live conversation with about it?  There is so much fun someone could have with these layers, ranging from classic, total isolation to like rollicking bar-party conversations.”

Freud famously wrote that even the slip of the scribe is significant.  If books go social we might have to retire that bromide.  Or rewrite it.  With so many people watching, sharing and commenting, no slip or stumble by the scribe will go unnoticed.  Everything is public.

Show me some mercy; show me my mistakes.

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