Variety (is sometimes good)

Courtney also picks up the video (that Alois and others have found) that is a great info-doco about the network. Monika discusses the long tail and Amazon, though the significance of the long tail is not that old things become hits, but that you can now sell things that aren’t hits, but for all the thousands (or millions) of things that only sell three times a month, that turns out to be more sales than the one book that sells a hundred thousand copies. The value is in the tail… Nga pulls up more stuff that Brian mentioned on the Stuart Hall codes and decoding (though I return to yesterday’s point, if an author has to subject themselves to ‘codes’ to be understood then this is, for me, further evidence that authorial intent is not what matters, codes are social and I have to bow to them, as an author, not they bow to me…), and how tenuous intent is. These blogs for us teachers are a case in point. The variety of interpretations, good and, well, just odd, that are made of what we say are really quite extraordinary in their range. So even in the 50 minutes of that conversation, what we mean goes all over the place with you.

Lauren writes about the unsymposium and wonders about intention and authors and that picture book I showed. What I like is her discussion about authors and intent and then she arrives at “if we write something that allows for different interpretations, we are showing that we are understanding how our audience works. actually, i don’t know. i lost myself just then.”. Notice the last sentence: “i just lost myself then.” If you can get lost in your own writing, and I mean lost as in not sure what’s going on, who’s in control, then again, why do we think authors are any different (they’re not, great authors are people who are OK with this experience of being lost and not in control when they write, their writing writes them as they write it).

Ella does a good job on the ‘long tail’, getting the (economic – which is only one point of significance) importance of the long tail, that the slow sellers actually add up to more than the hits, simply because as the long tail shows, there is just so many things there in the tail. And she’s got a link to Chris Anderson’s video discussing this idea.

Tiana uses Sacha Baron Cohen to make the case you can’t use the work to provide evidence of what the maker thinks or believes. It’s a very good example. Then she picks up that surely authors have some control. Except the sentence is “don’t texts have some sort of aim”. My reply is absolutely yes. Texts do. Texts, not their makers. Their makers are part of it (think back to Actor Network Theory, a novel, a film, works the same way between language, form, maker/s, the work, audience, technology, media, history, genre, style). And once we recognise that texts do this, we can think of them as more like people. They have an unconscious, just like us, and things they want to do. Yes, some of this is what we want to do, but some of it is what it wants to do. I can’t make a film that isn’t a rectangle. No matter what my intent. I can’t write a romance novel that is not then requiring me to subject myself to the codes and conventions of the genre – their intent are what I must negotiate. Tiana then uses the excellent example of persuasive writing, which is supposed to persuade. Yes it is, and we have had rules of rhetoric for 3000 years trying to show us how to do it. If it worked would we need 3000 years of commentary on how to do it? And if we knew how to do it, in other words if it actually worked, then why do most ads, most of the time, miss their mark? (After all this an entire very well funded industry dedicated only to persuasion.)