Friday, January 01, 2016
What will life be like for classical music after the internet?
Is it a coincidence that Sinfini Music and On An Overgrown Path are falling silent within days of each other? Cotermination may just be an ironic coincidence, because the two websites have little in common other than shared roots in classical music. But it can be argued that they are both in part, if not wholly, victims, of a technology driven change in the way we consume information. In 2014 conductor sans frontières and longstanding online writer Kenneth Woods wrote how 'Facebook ate my blog'. His post lamented how many of the best and most influential blogs are falling silent, including Gavin Plumley's erudite and informative Entartete Musik which had ceased updating a few months previously. The thrust of Ken's perceptive piece was that, to quote him: "Blogging these days is NOTHING without Facebook and Twitter. Nothing". That is a view I share,, and it is one of the reasons why I am now bowing to the inevitable.
Readers will know I have little empathy for social media, and many will simply say good riddance. But before the simultaneous exit of On An Overgrown Path and Sinfini Music is dismissed as mere coincidence, I would draw attention to an article in the Guardian by Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan which discusses the cost of social media's inexorable rise far more eloquently that I can. Central to Hossein Derakhshan vitally important analysis of the demise of blogging is that the hyperlink - which was the raison d'être of the world wide web - has become almost obsolete in online writing; which means that social media platforms now control the all-important traffic generating linkages. The stream is now the way we consume information, and the content of information streams is controlled by insidious algorithms. Hossein Derakhshan goes on to liken streamed content on platforms such as Facebook to personal television, and given the dismal content of established television channels that is a chilling analogy. The conclusion is quite clear: Facebook and other social media platforms control linkages and therefore audience for online content. And just like television, 95% of Facebook and other social media is crap; so you had better join them by churning out crap, or quit. Which means the Internet now practises a Darwinian form of selection whereby only the crappiest survive.
Hossein Derakhshan accepts the viewpoint that the rise of social media is a function of technological change; but still, quite rightly, he laments the resulting loss of intellectual power and diversity. This loss is not confined to blogs, and an earlier post here described the catastrophic damage that the internet has inflicted on the music industry. Classical music still has its head buried in the sand of the Internet desert, whereas, by contrast, rock musicians have been far more vocal in outlining the dangers of the music industry's digital fixation. Just as Hossein Derakhshan delivers an important message about music journalism, so rock musician and visionary David Byrne delivers an important message about classical music in an article that opens with the words: "What will life be like after the internet? ... I mean, nothing lasts forever, right?"
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