I’ve been wondering a lot about how new media works. Partly this the consequence of trends in the Centre at Goldsmiths, where our recent hires have set a blistering pace in buzz, concepts, light and heat… academia more interesting than the material it examines for once [I went to ZKM and was more interested in the museum having a Pacman game than any of the history of ‘new’ media – I still think television is new. Before then the world was black and white, right?].
Anyway, the internet and blogging are topics I normally steer wide away. But a discussion with Ulki in Kolkata has renewed old interests in how writing and style is formed, conformed and malformed. Ulki – wonderfully sharp graduate of Jadavpur – presently works for a web portal that gives instructions on how to write articles – say on cats – in a way that generates the most hits from search engines and catapults said article to the top spot on google etc. Of course the game is all about guessing what people might enter as search parameters. That this shapes writing is going to shape writing… In an article on cats one should ensure mention of all of the following: Cheshire cats, Siamese cats, cat’s cradle, sick cat, Fatcats, Felix, Topcat and kittens, and so on. More no doubt, but you get the idea. In an article on Foucault and Order you would expect camels, flies, water-pitchers and all of the above. On Marx’s 18th Brumaire I guess Napoleon, organ-grinders and peasantry… and so on.
So how pleased was I to get from the wonderful Ceridwen a gift copy of the News Limited (evil media empire inc) publication “Style: the essential guide for journalists and professional writers”. This is an amazing volume, which tells all the dos and don’ts of contemporary ideological mass management… Conveniently, it is very instructive on how to address people in a text. For example, in the section on the honorific ‘Mr, Mrs, Ms’, we are advised that this is used for all people except “sportsmen/women, artists, actors, authors, musicians, convicted criminals, journalists and the long dead” (p 45). I so agree that we should list journalists in between criminals and the deceased. Certainly separated by at least three words from actual authors since journos would all sell their siblings for a story…
So the News Limited Style book does not give the current code for optimal hit webpage verbiage, but its glossary of acceptable language could readily be adapted I think. I will devour it and you watch as my language transforms, the hit count rises, the readership dumbs down, and all will be well with the world. Inshallah.
Thanks Ceridwen, in membrance of the Lygon Street blackout, March