[Marxism] In defence of print (was Re: In defence of Jack Barnes)

Nick Fredman srcsra at scu.edu.au
Sun Nov 20 18:45:22 MST 2005


>we are going through a sea change involving politics and technology 
>that is analogous to that which took place when Gutenberg introduced 
>the printing press. Politics in our age are being defined on the 
>Internet, not on dead wood<.

As I've remarked before, people have been saying this for well over a 
decade. In fact, in some meeting when the project to launch in 
Australia a new left paper, that became Green Left Weekly, that is in 
1990, before most of us had heard of the Internet, some academic 
opined that such a project was a waste of time as the death of 
newspapers was imminent. Reports of that death were exaggerated.

Ecommunications, like printed text and graphics, telegraph, telephone 
and megaphone, is just a channel for communication, not a way in 
itself to organise. Politics, and real-time and real-body organising, 
are still key. I just did a union delegate training course for 
activists in the higher education union, and a repeated concern was 
that, in an industry where everyone has ready online access, we've 
come to rely too much on email and really have to get out and talk to 
people more.

Of course change is a-comin', is already happening, if not quite 
already here. We tend to see websites as auxiliary to newspapers, 
even though, for example, many more people read GLW online than in 
print. I think it's safe to say that we'll have a daily-updated left 
website in Australia before a daily left print newspaper. But the 
relationship is dialectical, as I doubt GLW would be the most visited 
Australia political website without its regular and extensive street 
presence. A group's website can also reflect its organising ability: 
the apparently parlous state of the Australian ISO is reflected in 
the fact that it hasn't updated its site since August, while its more 
dynamic split-off, Socialist Alternative, had reports of the November 
15 mass union mobilisations within days, like GLW (if less extensive 
coverage). I think one thing we could do better is to edit some of 
the interesting discussion and information on the web for left print 
publications, like the bourgeois papers do.

Ecommunications are still far from perfect for those, like me, not 
into eye-strain, rapidly developing myopia, back and neck pain, hand 
and wrist RSI, and possibly brain tumors related to staring at a 
screen too much. Those who think the Internet can solve everything 
forget that, great as e-communication is, print has some  technical 
advantages, like complete portability, a user-friendly interface and 
a very high definition display. Anything more than a fews paras, or 
that I really need to comprehend, I'll print out.

Print also has advantages in terms of pleasure. Print will be out of 
date for me when I can lie back in the bath with a water-proof e-book 
with a soft, paper-like display.


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