Monday, August 18, 2014

August 18 2014. The fire-hose factor—too much information, too little focus, superficial comprehension, inadequate analysis, minimal depth, superficial conclusions. As for the written word, the well crafted paragraph seems to be joining the dodo. Wht 2 do is ?

Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but the stories you tell.

Seth Godin,

I grew up—without TV—and became fascinated by photojournalism—and by combat photography in particular. I went as far as doing some assignments—the French Foreign Legion being the most fun—but, in the end, tried business—because it seemed to pay considerably better—before being summoned to do what I was meant to do—write. I didn’t really have much say in the matter. It was an imperative. Best decision I ever made (not that I really made it).

In fact, my main protagonist, HUGO FITZDUANE is a soldier turned combat photographer who morphs into counterterrorism. He features in four books to date—the latest being THE BLOOD OF GENERATIONS. He will feature again.

The balance of a judicious number of truly striking photographs—sometimes just a single image—well displayed, plus text, on the printed page, seemed to be to be a highly effective way of getting a story across.

I still hold to that view. This approach was implemented to the highest standards by magazines such as LIFE and PARIS MATCH. Some of the most impressive work was in black and white. Still is. It adds a particular aesthetic.

This morning I heard Kenneth Jarecke—the photographer who took the grim photo shown above—comment that we had lost the art of such focus and selectivity, and that today a particularly striking image would—as like as not—be displayed as one of a dozen, and thus be lost in the crowd. It would not have the same impact. It would, in essence, be trivialized.

He has a point. In fact, a current common technique, where lead stories is concerned, is for the images to rotate thus covering more topics. It also de-emphasizes the impact of any one story. It’s a technique I understand—but dislike. More is not necessarily better.

The supreme irony of all this information is that you can make a very good case that it is fostering ignorance because most of us don’t know enough to be selective—and lack the self-discipline to focus. We also don’t take the time—or perhaps lack the ability—to write clearly and cogently. In fact, a common technique on social sites is to select from a list of pre-written phrases.

Good grief! Have we sunk that low? Are we that lazy?

Since I believe that the very process of writing promotes clarity, and thus real communication, I find these developments somewhat depressing. Mind you, people probably said that about the telephone. (and they may well have been right). Those who were literate tended to write remarkably well before the phone came on the scene. It was expected. It was a cultural requirement. Other than face to face, writing was the only way people could communicate at a distance—other than by way of an act of war. Better to write well and avoid such misunderstandings.

Am I right that our information age is promoting ignorance? I don’t know for sure. I’m not quoting from any research. Doubtless, there are areas where is doing just the opposite. However, where social issues are concerned, for instance—are people better informed today than they were 25 years ago? I think not—even though highly relevant information on most topics is now much easier—and certainly faster—to find. Since a healthy democracy is dependent upon a well informed public, that is concerning.

For my part, I find adapting to the information age damnably difficult. I grew up in a world of books, letters and telephones—where the volume was manageable. Now, unless one is highly disciplined, the sheer scale can become excessive all too easily. In fact, it is downright frightening. It is also rife with deception and fraud.

I get a great deal of work done with the aid of the internet, and have become fairly adept in some ways. However, when it comes to e-mail and social media—though I have made considerable progress over the last six months in particular—the jury is still out.

I sometimes think that I would do better in social media if I wasn’t a writer. A well written paragraph is all too often seen as intimidating (something I have been told a number of times). To write at length—even if amusingly and with brio—can be seen as downright discourteous, because it is taken to imply that the recipient should reply to the same standard (I harbor no such expectations or illusions).

So my main strength may be my main weakness.

Intimidating! Who knew!

Who said the gods don’t have a sense of humor!




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