Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A conflict of interest?

I spent last Saturday at a symposium sponsored by Sunstone. Sunstone publishes a magazine on Mormon history, literature, pop history, politics, you get the idea. Sunstone also sponsors a yearly symposium in Salt Lake City and smaller symposia in local areas. I visited the one in Seattle.

The magazine and the symposia live on a short list of publications/groups/events the official church (of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, substitute Mormon) at best ignores and at worst harasses. Some 20 years past a number of folks who had published or spoken in venues like Sunstone were publicly excommunicated. I had a bit of a brush with the church over content I had published in Sunstone during that period. But I managed not to fight. And I'm still on the official roles of the Mormon church (but that's another story).

So here's the story on my background and why I'm thinking about this now. Some 20 plus years ago I worked as an editor for Sunstone magazine. I was part of the group who sponsored the original symposium in Salt Lake City. I was the editor for all(yes, I do think all) the articles or books cited as justification for the excommunication of the folks in the 90s. That's my history. Editor. Magazines. Books. Print. Design. The printed word.

That's my past. My present? I work for a software company in Seattle. I create documentation--help systems, tutorials, user guides. I get frustrated every day at work by silly folks who cling to the printed word. I want folks to move online, to the web, and now to Web 2.0--to blogs, WIKIs, tag clouds, community, interactive, up-to-date, way cool communication (so okay "cool" shows my age).

So what did I do last weekend. I found myself volunteering to help with Dialogue--yet an another very Mormon, very much old hat, PRINTED magazine. And over the past couple of days I've been e-mailing back and forth about the younger intelligensia of Mormondom. They don't read the old "liberal" magazines. They flock to the blogs.

The blogs. At work my hope of the future. And at home. My son, my daughter-in-law, they rule in the blogosphere, the bloggernacle (that's the Mormon, mostly faithful, sphere).

So here's my dilemma. Why I'm thinking I may have a conflict of interest, an unresolved tension in my life. How do I bring together my impulse to join the greying crowd who care about a magazine, a print artifact, something bogged down in the past? And my impulse to embrace the web, the community the interaction, the immediacy of the blog, the web, the community--web 2.0 as it's styled by my crowd at work.

I just plain worry about what it means to lose the boring reality of these old print venues. My son blogs very persuasively that the problem is the quality of the work. I often agree that's true. But I find something very troubling in much of what happens on the web, in the blogs I read, as well.

Such short spurts of argument. The emphasis on controversy (lots of comments, fights only generate lots of comments), popularity (again comments and links). And brevity. Again a conflict arises here. I value, conciseness, elegance in the word. But I also worry about the lack of attention, of digging through. I find myself rejecting any comment that goes beyond two paragraphs. What does this say about what reading attention tends to be online. (I still read very long books.)

So you see it here. Look at the length of this mess. Way past the rules of good blogging. Too rambling, too undisciplined to make it into print. Alas, where has the world left me.


Dave said...

Thanks for joining the party. Welcome to Bloggernacle 2.0.

Gilgamesh said...

Welcome -

Although I enjoy both, the printed word has something the blog doesn't - portability and preselection. The idea of needing to print out an article just to read it offline is a waste of time and paper. Having nice and compact in magazine form makes it easy to read anywhere.

Also, when it is published and printed, it becomes a creation in itself. One issue may be geared to theology, another to social issues, etc... In a way, the way an issue is organized becomes an art piece in itself. The blogggernacle, despite its best efforts, cannot create the same artistic tangibility in its posts.

No matter how they are clumped - each post remains independent of the other. One click takes me away from all the other content. In book form, the content remains with me, in my hands, and reminds me that it is waiting to be read.

Also, books (or journals) keep us linked to our literary past. I have all the dialogues and sunstones thnat have been printed. The sit on my bookshelf with the Journal of Discourses, History of the Church, old copies of the Times and Seasons and other written "artifacts" of church history. All of these are tangible creations which can be held, read and appreciated. The are all a part of my past, and are still in my present.

The computer cannot duplicate the reality of such tangible objects. A power outage, a hard-drive crash, or even an update in software can destroy years of colecting and wipe out the information I have discovered. Unless, of course, I print it out - but with Sunstone and Dialogue, that has already been done for me.