Is the internet turning us all into cyborg fiction writers with attention deficit disorder?
(NB Ozeki deals with all of these issues in her book A Tale For The Time Being which looks like a fascinating read.)
After Ozeki’s provocation the writers mulled over the effect of the internet. If quality writing depends on deep time then how does one get to that when constantly connected?
Many talked about how they too felt addicted to the internet, unable to detach, constantly distracted. macfreedom.com was cited as a great solution, a good way of avoiding going online when writing.
However, not everybody felt the immediacy of this problem, some of the international writers saying that this is really an affluent first world problem.
Forms of writing were discussed. Ozeki had referenced the Japanese i-novel as the main literary form in Japan now, saying that every new writer there was expected to write one or two of them. The personal format of the i-novel is inherent, and perhaps grew out of the first person format of the Haiku. In any case, portraying a personal reality has become the natural subject matter for Japanese writers these days.
Then the writers discussed that universal deafness mentioned by Milan Kundera – if everybody is creating, who is absorbing the information? Where are the deep readers?
Not everybody subscribed to Kundera’s view of things, seeing it as arrogant and elitist; an example of the idea that literacy shouldn’t grow amongst the peasants.
We discussed how in Iceland there is a longstanding belief that everybody has the right to tell a story, not just the official storytellers or the elite, and later we discussed how in Iceland’s national newspapers anybody can have their obituary published, not only public figures. The right to tell stories is for everybody and that shouldn’t feel like a threat.
As regards the worry about listening, maybe there are simply different ways to listen, to read. We skim words online, but maybe we are creating more links than ever before. There is a type of effervescence there. Perhaps Sjón’s idea of stories superseding form will also hold for the internet.
And so the Salon ended on a positive note. However the overwhelming impression of the discussion remained the writers’ anxiety about the assault on that ‘deep time’ and about their own inability to resist the distractions that the online world holds.
Listen to Ruth Ozeki’s Provocation on the Salon Podcast
Watch Ruth read from A Tale for the Time Being at Friday’s Worlds Festival Free Read:
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