Torill’s essay on digital juggling in the latest Tekka paints wonderful images of multitasking with technology. I find her description of how she didn’t used to do this particularly interesting, because this is how so many of my friends use their computers, and it’s why they don’t get my fascination with web, net, network:

For the first several years I used the computer the way I would use a typewriter, a mailbox or a game-board. When I wrote, I wrote; when I picked up mail, well, that’s what I did; and when I played games I focused on the game. I would occasionally switch between these modes, the way I would change between television programs. Being Norwegian and brought up with the Norwegian State Broadcasting (which has neither commercial breaks or competing channels), I didn’t even channel surf — I’d decide which programs to watch and which to skip, and once tuned in, I’d stay.

Perhaps in Norway we’re culturally aclimatised to monosurfing rather than juggling? Like Torill, when I juggle my windows and programs and worlds “I am happy, a smiling, relaxed but concentrated digital juggler.”

7 thoughts on “juggling

  1. Erik

    Sounds really interesting, too bad you have to cough up $50 to read it.

  2. Jill

    Yeah, I should have put that in the post, really. Sorry.

  3. Elin

    On the other side, $50 gives you access to many other articles and pieces for an entire year, and the authors get paid to write and think about issues we’re all interested in so we can continue to hear more from them. It is funny how we would never complain about coughing up $10 to see a movie, but we’re much more worried about spending money on paying authors what they deserve for their work.

    (smiling, sarcastically)

  4. noah

    Well, I think this is a very important issue, and a difficult one, as I’ve written in the past:

    I think when we advocate subscription and micropayment on the web we’re undermining things for which we should be fighting – such as the dream of the public library.

    As for how to support publications, the two models we’ve got right now are taking advertising and selling physical objects. Of the two, I think the physical objects route is a better one for electronic writers. The Infocom “feelies” were a better idea than the copy-protection access barriers that other software companies were using at the same time.

    Of course, that’s supporting publications, not supporting authors. Most of the literary/academic writers I know expect to be supported by having day jobs their entire lives. That could be teaching (writing, or something else), or computer programming, or being a fireman, etc. The only people I know who expect to make a living from literary or academic publishing are people who work for publishers or distributors. I don’t think there’s any evidence that web distribution can or will change that. So I think, as “content producers” we should be working to support the idea that the web is like a library, rather than like pay-per-view cable. After all, on which model would we rather see our society decide who has access to information?

  5. scott

    I agree with Noah. There’s also a simple market question: what does the $50 a year get you that you don’t get elsewhere on the Web? Considering the comparative generosity of sites like the Iowa Review Web, Beehive, trAce, Kairos, the electronic book review and the level of critical activity on scores of blogs like this one, Grandtextauto, Terra Nova, even Mark Bernstein’s blog, I have a hard time thinking of a reason why, as a consumer, I would spend the $50 on TEKKA rather than on a new media feelie or a conference fee or even four movie tickets. The only reason I can think of would be a political one — in order to say “I support for-fee web publications because I think that’s the way it needs to go if it’s going to be sustainable.” I might feel differently if TEKKA were releasing and funding actual works of electronic literature (if Eastgate moved from publishing CD-ROMs to making those works web-readable for a subscription fee, for instance — $50 a year for the collected works of Eastgate authors would be a decent deal), but there are plenty of avenues available for legitimage criticism of e-lit and web culture that don’t charge $50 a year, and which reach a wider audience. I admire the ambition (we all want writers to eat) of the project, but I think that it’s really trying to run uphill. Most critics and theorists in this field find other ways to support themselves (the university apparatus, jobs at Microsoft, etc.) so I don’t feel terribly if they (or I) don’t make a great deal of money from their critical writing.

  6. scott

    whoops — I meant why I wouldn’t spend the $50 . . . instead . . .

  7. nick

    In response to Elin’s “the authors get paid to write:”

    I’ve written for numerous publications that (a) paid me and (b) made my work available on the Web for people to freely access: Wired, Technology Review, Ziff-Davis publications,,, an alumni magazine, etc. Several others paid me and, while they didn’t put the articles on the Web themselves, did allow me to publish my writing online for free.

    So, it’s certainly appropriate for Tekka to pay writers if it’s a commercial rather than an academic venture, but it should be clear that there’s no conflict between a publication paying writers and that publication making or allowing the writer to make their articles freely available on the Web.

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