By, of all people, Camille Paglia (q.v.). It’s been something of a Paglia Week here, given that we also rewatched Basic Instinct with her audio commentary activated.

Writing in Communication and Cyberspace: Social Interaction in an Electronic Environment (Strate et al., second edition, 2003), pp. 266–275:

[In 1991,] a visitor from Boston approached me at the podium

Wait. Camille Paglia would ever allow such a thing? If you mail anything larger than a Nº 10 envelope to her offices, it gets returned with a stamp reading PACKAGES NOT ACCEPTED. She’s gonna let people rush the podium?

Anyway, it’s her story.

and asked, “Are you aware that you’re all over the Well?” “What is the Well?” I asked, completely baffled.

A week later, a packet arrived at my office in Philadelphia.

Wait. How? Wasn’t it sent back?

I brandished the thick printout at my colleagues…. “Look – a person in Boston is arguing about my ideas with someone in Tennessee, and they’re both arguing with someone else in San Francisco!”

Well, that would be the expected outcome for anyone from there.

My commitment to the Internet is partly inspired by gratitude: It was the Well, I later saw, that had helped spread the word about my controversial and long-delayed first book, a 700-page tome that its publisher… did not expect would find a wide audience. In an era of political correctness…. the Internet was operating like an invisible subterranean resistance movement. […]

[T]he Internet has caused a tremendous cultural shift whose most profound impact has been on young people. It will take another 30 years before the Internet’s effects are clearly understood. The computer has literally reshaped the brain[s] of those who grew up with it, just as television and rock music reshaped the brains of my Baby Boom generation and made our thinking so different in form and content from that of writers and critics born just before World War II. […]

Throughout the 1990s, elite universities inflicted a cruel cognitive dissonance on their humanities students, who were forced to read antiquated French and German theory… while cyberculture was exploding all around them…. The young knew perfectly well that the language of the future was now the computer and the Web. […]

I submit that the stop/start rhythm of a half-century of commercial TV viewing was Americans’ basic training for Internet communication…. The jump or truncation is an American specialty…. The puzzling failure of humanities professors to contribute in any substantial way thus far to the leading Webzines stems, I conjecture, from their long ambivalence about TV[,] retreating to the online special-interest groups where they resume the same professional conversation they have at conferences. […]

Some academics may feel that Internet writing, like the TV image, is evanescent, but the opposite is true. Ever since it switched from live to tape, TV is the great medium of the rerun…. so with the Web where not only do the search engines net up every obscure, years-old crackpot like debris from the sea floor but where, in the best-organized Web sites, all past articles are miraculously available by pushbutton access in their archives.

Unlike, say, essays on cultural studies and the Internet, which must be painstakingly ordered via interlibrary loan and excerpted so that they can actually be read on the Internet, if only in part. (By the way, Paglia consistently says “Internet” when she means “Web.” The pre-Web Well is a mere footnote to her history here.)

In writing for the Web, I’ve also found that text must be visually designed: Its ideal basic architecture consists of sharply-delineated, single-spaced paragraphs…. I also choose vocabulary that looks interesting on the page, which usually means juxtaposing blunt Anglo-Saxon nouns and high-action verbs with polysyllabic Greco-Roman abstractions…. The text should be palpable and not just a remote stream of cyphers on a glassy wall. […]

While cast in more-lucid prose, the leading [print] articles on literature and culture… are often amazingly verbose, taking pages to make simple points: It’s as if the thought processes of the authors and editors remain untouched by the media revolution of the past century…. Organic also is the Webzine’s ability to correct factual errors or typos in already-posted articles – a luxury unavailable to print journalists, who are stuck forever with embarrassing mistakes (as when copy-editors fresh from college maddeningly introduce grammar errors at deadline).

Paglia then cites the example of the death of Princess Diana, which Salon was able to cover wall-to-wall before the British had even gotten up in the morning. (“And in the process, Salon scooped and humiliated its rival, Slate, which had closed its east-coast offices for the last week of August before Labo[u]r Day [its staff presumably decamping to the Hamptons].”)

Oh, and incidentally, if you’re tired of putting up with Salon’s antediluvian interstitial ads just to read Camille Paglia’s column, be aware that a variation of the Salon cookie trick still works: Visiting salon.com/news/cookie756.html before any page resets the clock and eliminates the intrusion of ads.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2007.05.05 15:49. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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