Old Media Praises New, Pens Own Obituary

Commentator Andrei Codrescu observes that TV, newspapers and books are fascinated by all things tech — especially the Internet. He thinks those old media are busy writing their own obituary as they do this.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Not that long ago, the Internet still felt like a fad. Now that it's here to stay, commentator Andrei Codrescu has noticed something: that the media it's slowly replacing are as obsessed with the Internet as the rest of us.

ANDREI CODRESCU: Lately, whenever I drop in on the old-fashioned virtual world of television, I'm surprised to find that a lot of what goes on there is on the subject of virtuality. On some crime show the other day, the cops look for a killer by going into the Second World game and deducing from the way their shadows fall around the perp's house where he's hiding.

And that's just the lowbrow end of it, because in shows like "Caprica," the prequel succeeding "Battlestar Galactica," the virtual is the only subject. Caprica is a copy of Earth after the humans destroyed it and the new race is about to be born in the recesses of a virtual world created by teenagers.

Now, it's no surprise that virtuality concerns itself with the virtual because every medium reflects on itself, even this engine scripting inputting. Writing thinks about writing, talking talks about talking, images image themselves and so on.

All these media are virtual and they're naturally occupied in keeping themselves going, or as Marshall McLuhan said, the medium is the message.

What is new, however, is how preoccupied all the media have become with the latest in virtuality. Publishing, television, radio, Internet providers are all keenly interested in investigating the virtualities that they fear might replace them.

So, you have books about the Internet, television shows with Internet themes and radio commentaries about the subject.

What exactly are all these media looking for? Why are they abandoning self-reflection for the purpose of reflecting on other media? There are a number of answers, but the most obvious one is that the old media are writing their own obituaries, and they are doing so by making provisions for their successors, passing on the wisdom as it were.

The new media is not particularly interested because in games, as well as in the social network, there is a race for greater and greater interactivity, a race that leaves the players little time to absorb slow lessons from their stiff old ancestors.

Watching television telling stories about Internet criminals is like watching a jet plane from a horse.

SIEGEL: Andrei Codrescu at Exquisite Corpse, a literary journal online at Corpse.org.

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