KYD Advent Calendar

KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

Column: Books and Writing

The great old media revival

by Connor Tomas O'Brien , February 4, 20132 Comments

Image credit: Connor Tomas O’Brien

Have you heard of ‘dancing the flip-flop’? Robin Sloan defines it as ‘the process of pushing a work of art or craft from the physical world to the digital world and back again’. Sloan’s argument is that the best artists and makers are those who can seamlessly move between the digital and physical worlds, instead of restricting themselves to one or the other. Digital thinking can inform physical thinking, and vice versa.

We’ve long been conditioned to believe that technological change involves moving away from the physical world, turning real stuff into code. Books become ebooks. Film negatives become RAW files. Magazines become iPad apps, or blogs, or they just die. Videos become DVDs become transient streaming bits.

Lately, though, I’ve been noticing something, and I think the flip-flop partially explains it. ‘Old media’ is back! We’re living in a second golden age of real books and magazines and records.

If you can cast your mind back to 2009, you’ll remember it was probably the worst year for old media in recent history. By July of 2009, 105 newspapers had died, and by December 367 magazines had ceased publishing (this was actually down from 573 magazines closing in 2007, though the magazines that were terminated in 2009 included classics like I.D., Giant, and Gourmet). It was in 2009 that RedGroup, owner of Borders Australia and Angus & Robertson, began to fail, Blockbuster was less than a year away from filing for bankruptcy, and in the UK, independent bookstores closed at a rate of two a week.

Let’s fast-forward. In 2012, 82 magazines closed… but, holy crap, in just the first half of last year, 133 magazines launched! In the US, about 28 indie bookstores closed last year, but over 40 real world, bricks-n-mortar stores opened.

Here’s what I think has happened: we are now living in a flip-flop culture. In 2009, we weren’t. Back then, we believed that digital would destroy physical. In physical we noticed only limitation, and in digital we noticed only possibility.

In 2010, the iPad was introduced and the Kindle became mainstream. If 2009 was the worst year for old media, 2010 was probably the best for digital. Over the proceeding couple of years, we transitioned to Radio and Netflix and Newsstand and iBooks. But when you reach the point at which you can access anything on one device, something strange happens: you don’t think it’s amazing anymore. Once everything is immediate and virtually free and just one click away, there’s nowhere left to go. The possibilities of digital having been exhausted, you begin to realise what you’ve lost.

I think we’ll look back on 2012 as the year of ambivalence, the year in which we started to understand the nature of flip-flopping. A flip-flop culture is one in which digital is not positioned against physical, but in which we’ve learnt how to create cultural products and experiences in which the two are intertwined. We made our culture digital, and now we are going to work out how to place it in the world again, to make the digital physical.

When I visited Brooklyn last month, I kept being told I had to visit Video Free Brooklyn. It’s a video rental store with the tagline, ‘Video stores didn’t die, they just had to evolve.’ Aaron Hillis, who bought Video Free last year, is a flip-flopper. In the Wall Street Journal, he said that his store is for those who live in ‘a post-Netflix age and…see that technology is not perfect. He uses tools like crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to enable his community to help him improve the store. He’s positioned Video Free as a supplement to streaming platforms like Netflix, consciously considering how to provide a different kind of value.

The new breed of magazines and publishers and booksellers (and video store owners!) will succeed because they understand what they’re getting themselves into. If you want to start a print magazine or bookstore today, you don’t just follow the old template, because the old template no longer makes sense. Instead, you begin by considering how your product or business can offer something that nothing online can. In other words, you learn from digital in order to improve the physical. And you work out how to transfer what you’ve learnt from working physically to your digital practice.

Kai Brach was a web designer before starting Offscreen, a print magazine about ‘pixel people’. Brach makes 90% of all Offscreen sales through his website: he’s made digital serve physical. In creating the magazine, he’s also come to recognise more clearly the ‘ephemerality of digital’. Other magazines, like Kinfolk and Kill Screen and Lucky Peach, are creating print experiences that couldn’t exist without the web.

There’s so much more to say about flip-flop culture and the new/old media revival. And the Kill Your Darlings blog, of course, is a perfect place to write about it. Here, you’re right in the middle of flip-flop territory.

 

Connor Tomas O’Brien is a Killings columnist. An Adelaide-based web designer, he’s currently working on a PhD in the form of a novel exploring the intersection between text adventure games, cults, and Facebook. He’s the co-founder of the ebookstore platform Tomely.




  • http://www.iamverybusyandimportant.net Sophie

    YES! I completely agree. In my own small-scale experience, most of the people who read my zine have discovered it via my blog, social media and other assorted internet channels. People who think it’s a two-sided war are wrong.

  • Pingback: Flip-Flopping To Phew | Boomerang Books Blog()

9508984918_5d8a187fc1_z

Marika Sosnowski

Living Side by Side: Multiculturalism at Home and Abroad

It all seems quite idyllic – people of varying nationalities, religions and cultures coexisting peacefully. It could be a blueprint for the perfect multicultural society. However, there’s something beneath the surface that is troubling to the western notion of modern liberalism. Read more »

9864007066_4a196b364d_z

Tim Robertson

Fear, loathing, and the erosion of civil liberties

The hysteria currently being concocted by Australia’s political leaders is a smokescreen for the more serious threat facing everyone – an attack of the very freedoms and values our nation has been built on. Read more »

308982705_be9f94455b_b

Marika Sosnowski

Back inside: Life on the Syrian-Turkish border

In Turkey, less than 50 kilometres from the border, Syrians have chosen their favourite cafes, have opened Aleppine sweet shops and set up stores in the old city. Read more »

057212e0462005b9_Thumb

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part One): TV, Books, Technology

In the first of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in television, books and technology. Read more »

isabelle_cover_grande

Dark Places and Safe Spaces: S.A. Jones’ Isabelle of the Moon and Stars

S.A. Jones’ Isabelle of the Moon and Stars is a powerful and affecting depiction of a young woman struggling with mental illness and emotional turmoil. A book like Isabelle might well be described as the underdog of Australian publishing: a character-focused literary novel published by a small press … Read more »

w527705

Carody Culver

Taking Christmas off the shelf

Ah, Christmas – for some, a time of gift-giving, awkward family gatherings and over-zealous consumption of rum balls; for booksellers, a time to weep silent tears of stress and experience the irrational but persistent fear of being buried alive beneath boxes of the latest Stephen Fry memoir. Read more »

tumblr_naod7i6Sj61tk49ymo1_1280

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part Two): Film, Music, YA Literature, Pop Culture

In the second of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in film, music, young adult literature, and pop culture. Read more »

mariah-carey-all-i-want-for-christmas

Julia Tulloh

A SuperFestive Christmas playlist

I know what you’re thinking: lists like this became redundant in 1992, when Jon Bon Jovi rubbed shoulders with Cindy Crawford beneath a Christmas tree for the first and last time. Does the ideal of Christmas music get any better? Perhaps not, but many have tried. Here are a few other Christmassy pop goodies. Read more »

Kim_cover_web_

Julia Tulloh

Kim Kardashian, butts, and the internet

We’re used to seeing her butt, and we’re also used to Kim doing crazy publicity stunts. Her entire life is a publicity stunt in itself, both the means and end of a crazy, money-making, power-acquiring trajectory. Her very fame is built on the playful and shameless self-exposure captured in the Paper shoot. Read more »

tumblr_naod7i6Sj61tk49ymo1_1280

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part Two): Film, Music, YA Literature, Pop Culture

In the second of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in film, music, young adult literature, and pop culture. Read more »

Exodus-Gods-and-Kings-Poster-Bale-and-Edgerton-691x1024

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Problems with God: Exodus: Gods & Kings

This is the thing about retellings of old and beloved foundation stories: it’s impossible to come to them fresh, without trying to compare and contrast with previous versions for veracity and style. It’s usually the modern incarnation that comes up short. Read more »

Screen-Shot-2014-10-01-at-11.22.21-AM

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Can too many parts destroy an adaptation? The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

It’s a relief to feel the weight of fidelity lift off an adaptation film, as Mockingjay: Part 1 becomes a meta-exploration of fame, franchise and future. Read more »

057212e0462005b9_Thumb

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part One): TV, Books, Technology

In the first of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in television, books and technology. Read more »

3991099211_8397c745fe_b

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Taking up space: The legitimisation of creepshotting

There is a relationship between catcalling and creepshotting. Both are practices that involve the reduction of strangers to objects to be gawked at and commented on, which is what makes the ‘Men Taking Up Too Much Space on the Train’ Tumblr blog interesting and complex. Read more »

IMG_0086

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Pictures of pictures: Monument Valley and the rise of the in-game photographer

Presenting screencapturing a game as a form of camera-free ‘photography’ gives rise to a conceptual issue. If the ‘photographer’ is moving through, and capturing, a world created entirely by others, then who exactly should take the credit for any images created? Read more »

tumblr_naod7i6Sj61tk49ymo1_1280

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part Two): Film, Music, YA Literature, Pop Culture

In the second of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in film, music, young adult literature, and pop culture. Read more »

2447663467_2d543e6c87_o

Danielle Binks

Young Adult literature: genre is not readership

YA is not a genre – it is a readership. It may seem like pedantic nitpicking to focus on this distinction, but so pervasive is the mistake, amongst even established literary channels, that explaining the difference has become increasingly important and indeed necessary. Read more »

00page

Danielle Binks

Disability or superpower? Deaf identity in YA

‘We actually need more stories about deaf and hard of hearing characters and for their experiences to be shared in stories. Often, young readers believe they are ‘alone’ in their deafness and do not realise that there are many others like them.’ Read more »

tumblr_naod7i6Sj61tk49ymo1_1280

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part Two): Film, Music, YA Literature, Pop Culture

In the second of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in film, music, young adult literature, and pop culture. Read more »

mariah-carey-all-i-want-for-christmas

Julia Tulloh

A SuperFestive Christmas playlist

I know what you’re thinking: lists like this became redundant in 1992, when Jon Bon Jovi rubbed shoulders with Cindy Crawford beneath a Christmas tree for the first and last time. Does the ideal of Christmas music get any better? Perhaps not, but many have tried. Here are a few other Christmassy pop goodies. Read more »

drake-cover-650

Justin Wolfers

Drake’s climate change epiphany

Or: ‘Heat of the Moment’ as an epiphany in which Drake realises the urgency and importance of acting on climate change Read more »

057212e0462005b9_Thumb

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part One): TV, Books, Technology

In the first of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in television, books and technology. Read more »

??????????????????????

Stephanie Van Schilt

Lady Bosses on the Box

An increasing number of female-driven comedies, dramas or melodramas are popping up on our screens. Through the filters of fiction, the worlds these heroines inhabit directly reflect our own. This is the age of the lady boss. Read more »

105768385_5672eae965_z

Stephanie Van Schilt

Bananas without pyjamas? Budgets cuts and the next generation of ABC kids

From my humble beginnings watching kids’ programming, I learnt that ‘Your ABC’ was indeed, our ABC. The protests and public outcry which followed this week’s announcement of cuts to the ABC demonstrate its crucial role in fostering a sense of community for Australians. Read more »