Nothing adds to sausage like spice. Irony is a spice.

A colleague tweeted a like to a new article by Douglas Rushkoff called Digital Disruption and the Death of Storytelling. I’m prepping some new talks on storytelling, and I find Rushkoff’s writing on the intersections of media, technology, and people often compelling.

Professor and media theorist Douglas Rushkoff contends that social media, Big Data and digital technology, in general, are hampering rather than helping marketers’ abilities to connect with consumers.

Okay, as published on the American Marketing Association site, the marketing angle is not my bag, but I’ve bitten off on the article, starting with the irony of the difficulties the author had with contacting Rushkoff via a tangle of phone, Skype, Google Voice.

Many of us have been there.

I get to a section where Rushkoff sets up the digital irony of the new recasting old structures (my emphasis added):

Q: Talk about the intersection of personal identities and our digital selves.

A: The most sweeping way of explaining it is that digital technology emerged as a set of new possibilities for people to express and experience themselves, and relate to others in new, highly creative and self-determined ways. It emerged as an extension of our human abilities to think, connect, create, exchange value and do all sorts of stuff, really—to design our own reality as we live it. We’ve ended up using digital technology mostly to preserve the market as we know it rather than invest in a new one. That’s led to some real problems. Rather than using technology to extend and expand on what it means to be human, we’ve used it to lock down a very 20th-century understanding of what it is to be a human being, and to prevent any kind of growth.

And then right below the next scroll.


Welcome to the old new age of digital publishing.

My colleague DMs and slips a link to a PDF on Dropbox.

Well, the solves a symptom but ignores the diseases.

Rushkoff responds quickly

and I find the full article PDF, available free, on his blog

The author, Molly Soat, kindly responds, with a free link to the article on issu

The same item, a digital article, available 3 ways free, and one way by paying access. What The Bleep? Is this the internet the wizards stayed up late for?

I am pretty sure it was in Cognitive Surplus that Clay Shirky outlined the publishing conundrum, to paraphrase— if I give you a book, I no longer have the copy- each copy has a material cost to reproduce. But if I give you a PDF of a book, we both have copies; the cost of digital copying is essentially zero. Or, as published in 2010 (and not behind a paywall) on the Guardian site– Clay Shirky: ‘Paywall will underperform – the numbers don’t add up’:

Just as the invention of the printing press transformed society, the internet’s capacity for “an unlimited amount of zero-cost reproduction of any digital item by anyone who owns a computer” has removed the barrier to universal participation, and revealed that human beings would rather be creating and sharing than passively consuming what a privileged elite think they should watch.

Or also from 2010, in the Scholarly Kitchen (available w/o a paywall) Delusions, Illusions, and the True Costs of Digital Publishing

Just this year, Clay Shirky invoked the “marginal cost” argument in his most recent book, “Cognitive Surplus,” stating that, “Information can now be made globally available, in an unlimited number of perfect copies, at zero marginal cost.”

However, for those of us inside the belly of the beast, just the opposite seems to be happening. That is, digital publishing seems to be getting more expensive while we wring costs out of print as we draw it down.

One problem seems to be in the model we’re using to describe the costs involved with digital publishing, relying on a manufacturing model rather than a more suitable model that involves sustaining and spreading fixed costs across a longer time horizon — that is, the software model or, as I’ll explore later, the model being used by digital distributors.

Five years later, the dominant model of digital publishing is to attempt to control the distribution (ignoring people sliding me PDFs under the door), paywalls, and advertising.

For the last 12 years, I have published on this site, with no ads or paywalls, 4351 items, or an average of 362 per year.

Of course, I am no Rushkoff, nor American Marketing Association, nor Guardian. The costs of production are in the human infrastructures, time, etc, needed to create, produce. There are offices to be rented, coffee machines to fill, signs painted, etc.

Yet in two decades of internet technology, has anything changed in the way publications are “using technology to extend and expand on what it means to be human”?

Leave it to the Dutch…

The Dutch revolution in journalism: all newspapers behind one paydike.

I make no prognoses here, but am just observing and just barking around in circles.

And you can read everything here without jumping a paywall or having someone slide you an “illicit” copy. And there is a canine reason why.

Because I can.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

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