Our Technological Land of Oz

For nine years, I have been poised as a magazine publisher, ready to leap into the virtual world entirely. From about 2006, I was expecting it every month. It has yet to happen. Earlier this year I witnessed another magazine, not unlike ours – one that I regularly flicked through – go online and I stopped reading it entirely. No one will find that surprising.

We may find it easy to revert to clichés and say that people will always want print, or that balance is everything, but, while that may be true, it also entirely underestimates the profound impact that technology has had on the magazine industry. Behind the scenes, technology has entirely transformed the way they are written, designed, edited, administered, illustrated and even discussed. Where just five years ago a dial-up internet connection meant approximately two hours of the day was spent waiting for internet pages to open, for files to download, or for emails to be received or sent, it is now practically instantaneous. We can now work in three separately located offices yet maintain communications almost on a par with being in one. High-speed technology has changed the way we read and write, and it follows that it has changed the way we think. But on the surface we are still surrounded by paper so we presume that our familiar ideas about culture are holding their own.

What this says to me about technology is that there really is no actual balance that we can strike. Balance is an illusion, but one we believe we have control over. Technology is rushing at us from all sides, somewhat like the tornado in The Wizard of Oz. We, like Dorothy holding on to Toto, cling on to what is most valuable to us, but meanwhile the house is gone. But as Dorothy discovered, you get a whole new world in return, and that can be just as interesting.

So what musically do we want to hold on to? For some, it may be the piano in the hall, or the pleasure of a live concert performance. For others, it is the LPs and CDs on the shelf. Whatever it is, even if they appear to be staying the same, their meaning in a society that is undergoing a technological revolution, has entirely changed.

December 2009

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