Why and To What Purpose?
Is the question that we should be asking ourselves.
I don't think there is a better book to read for any aspiring linguist, literary critic, aspiring essayist, poet, columnist, or art-historian (save the works by Cees Nooteboom and Julian Barnes) than Octavio Paz's "Alternating Current". I would like to recommend it also to anthropologists and political scientists, but I don't really know what they do for kicks; still let it be noted that every chapter is inspired by an intuitive eye that glimpses at the reality behind the notions and concepts of our modern time. Not much of an advertisment, I know, but may I add, a well-deserved Nobel Prize was extended to this literary figure, in 1990.
My loyal readership may exclaim, been there, done that! And they may well ask, what makes me mention this book again, so soon? What am I going to rave about this time? I suppose the sudden reappearance of our fellow Steemian @lovejoy and his post-Steemfest post triggers me this time. I'll leave him his enthusiasm about our platform, and myself miffed as to where this hope eternal springs from, but I must share Paz's two cents on understanding communications media, to the purpose of revealing, finally, my metaphoric concept of Steemit, suddenly inspired by the letters of James lectured on by Peter H. Davids (snippets found here; also available as Audiobook).
Currents of Ecclesia!
In his essay "The Channel and The Signs", Paz cites one and sundry, who has something meaningful to point out about the medium and the meaning, the signifier and the signified, signs and symbols, content and form, from the philosophers Nietzsche to Heidegger, the linguists Levi-Strauss to Marshall Mcluhan, tossing Plato and Marx into the mix aswell to conclude, basically, if I follow him correctly, that today's conduit for communication (and he is not even speaking of internet at the time of his writing this essay in 1967) strips our communications down to a bare minimum of communication that communicates we are communicating vessles.
Structural linguist Roman Jakobson tells us that in its origins, as perceived also in parrots or minor birds, as well as in brabbling babies, language is a message to prolong, establish, or interrupt communication.
However, I would add, we would be mistaken to liken our activity here on Steemit to the interplanetary electro-magnetic SETI shout-outs which search for intelligent aliens; or compare our craftings to a bunch of alligator clips, jumpwires and test speakers aiming to measure the output of a car stereo; or consider ourselves a simple girl (with a freaky doll) to serve as a tv testscreen, a mirror on a multi-coloured wall, a call to wait and see what joy there is to be had on this communication medium. Our content is like the letters of James, Peter and Jude: meant to encourage us to commune! They speak of testifying to the poor as good at heart and to bestow them with your charitable deeds (vote here!). They do not see our leadership (our Makers of Steemit) as testing but as providing us with opportunities for a better future.
Steemit is an eschatological project. Steemit is a techno-church.
Granted, the hub of do-gooders (the ones with means, or the Whales, as we refer to our cardinals) are mainly reaching out and checking if the social circuit around us functions; still, might we not conclude that the content providers, the actual members, sat at the front-end of the community, they who pray in the benches as well as the ministers in the pulpits are happy to let our Church Fathers do what they need to do back-stage, having accepted the medium as a place of gathering for our finer purpose?
In any case, it does not prevent our congregation from conveying our intent and sharing our inner state of mind. We have accepted the language of our religion is the post and its counterance of the comment; the language of our medium replaces the spoken word; our speech acts are posts. What we have to say by which to know who we are is identical with the medium. How much of this can ever represent the words we need to learn and hear and teach our future generations? I worry that Steemit will make us forget that only in the clay of the hyper-personal can we ever hope to mold a container fit for social meaning. I anticipate the precipitance of the forgetfulness of the Logos itself.
How can I mean anything to anyone through this medium?
Consider, as for me, so for you: I am not my Steemit post for the day. It is only my message. It is unlikely that we get to read anyone in just one of their works. My entire oevre, perhaps, including my interactions, may be a sign for who I am by what I do (put out) or am triggered by. And that will be ever changing as a human being in flux. (That means reading around 3200 posts in the case of getting to know me in patches.) But is getting to know someone even that valuable? It seems Steemit gives the answer: no, let's keep it superficial or build up reliable working networks (with a conference in the Real World to top it off). The reward and punishment system says nothing else.
At this point, we may turn back to Paz to remind ourselves that his medium/ this platform is per definition a most specifically technological medium, and here my personal gripe with Steemit lies. If you have grasped by now that it is the very inescapable role of a medium to determine itself as signifier of the signified you will understand where my concerns may lie. There is no escaping this context as a signifier of you the signified. Steemit shapes you (limits your outlets), changes you (preselects your choices of communion), pressures you (into conforming), marks you in the same greater or lesser way any church community can, does, and must to provide a form for the liquid that is your life. You must sacrifice for the Church which is the body of some higher, nobler, Representative of Mankind.
Bear in mind that all signifiers mean to interpret the real world, and they may vary per culture and individual even, but at the same time must work within confining and thereby defining parameters in order to mean anything at all (or we get cacophony and white noise). The written word is a collection of explicit or tacit terms in a context which have meanings as determined by society. How variable this is we can see by a simple example: gay was used to describe bonny girls skipping through their gardens, meaning "happy" without any connotations of homosexuality until the mid 20th century. Then there are growing confusions or enrichments caused by exchanges and mergers of cultures who have marked language differences (examples abound, like mist in English is delicate fog, but in German it is manure more here).
Furthermore, may we redouble Paz's emphasis, 40 years on, that the nihilism of technology is the perfect expression of the will to power and that it is this, that lacks meaning. If Eschatology is the "religion" (in service) of the Future: that which we do in the Now for the sake of the Future (like training a soccer team, or drilling a platoon); then I worry that Steemit as such a message-board church (Hello! Here I am!), founded on technology, can only aid the reductivist mechanisation and meaninglessness of our communications. No matter how we colour it in, as colourfully or heartfeltly as possible. We will only be crafting more lures for souls to become entrapped in a technology that can never refill the soul.
It's not so useful to pit Steemit against other social communications media. All social media platforms are empty (forms). They are nothing more than conduits or channels of transmission for Paz's "capsules of meaning".
The content (the signified) is determined by the signifier, which for us has become that what Steemit makes of us as her content providers.
We are bound by (informal, socially controlled - rewarded/flagged -) contract (our dedication) to a technological format (of posts, comments, rewards, curationtrails, tribes etc). A Steemfest, although AFS (Away from Steemit) in the sense of the human rejoining society to communicate with people, DIRECTLY instead of doing so via the MEDIUM of a platform, is not at all away from Steemit, and only draws the individual closer to a platform that has now infiltrated the real world. I remember what happened when somebody posted the personal details of somebody on Facebook, announcing a party at their address and over a thousand Face Bookers turned up on their tiny front lawn. The spilling over of a medium too far removed from the workings of the real world leads to warped realities. Reality is a clever weft but a spiritual one and not a technological one. Its language, therefore, must be reflected in media which can carry this spirituality over (like carefully spoken language may - as explored by poets all the time, linguistic and cognitive sciences, but more esoterically in Eurhythmy).
On Steemit, for being a technological construct we may only expect a minimalist relation between the medium and the messengers. There is no intimate co-dependency. This quickly leads to an attitude of either "anything goes" or its counterpole "much is prohibited". We end up regulating this medium to define it for its own sake: and this is how tv became the controller of our minds in the sixties and seventies, and YouTube or Netflix, HBO and however many rhizomal formats this medium of internet media grows out into. Our meanings do not even feed into a collective meaning (like exists in a church doctrine, which may even help tie some of us to the very idea of faith) but they bleed out into the sponge that is Steemit.
Steemit as signifier and its users the signified.
And that is how our stories end, in the Steemit programme as her content in her pre-determined form. We thus lose our organic ability to function as mediums ourselves. We end up messaging to ourselves the Steemit meaning. I do not blame Steemit, or even single her out as the greatest example but for me, at least, she may sit with the rest of the media as a sign of the times. Let us not make her holier than all the other media we are supposed to give up to invest more here. Such high-flown commitment, I anticipate, may make Steemit dangerous.
Those who leave probably also leave internet communications media in its entirety behind. It was the last chance saloon for many of us. Maybe we should get on our knees and thank Steemit for saving our souls.
Praise for Steemit in and of itself is idolatry
The hard Steemit USP, of course, is its decentralisation. But that is a bit like naming your willy Mr Wonka.
As long as we are people on the same planet, anything can say either something, everything, or nothing to anyone at any given time differently.
If you leave any of us to stand on our own without the Steemit context would we ever even relate to eachother?
This is a most pressing and pertinent question for some of us which will be tested when it comes to taking our relationships here off line. I would go futher and ask whether you can leave your common connection established through Steemit behind, be it farming or cryptocurrency and still claim that this social media is a means to an end as a communications medium ought to be. Which brings us back to the very first question: what aim?
Finding the new gods within
I presume I am offered posts in homesteading or appics or aaa or steem for my own benefit and personal growth. For, am I not here to bond in a Steemit community rather than seek like-minds around my own hobbies? Is the point not that the globe unites in awe and respect of diversity? And not to fall back into hobbyist niches, special expert groups or closed chat-rooms? Which have failed to unite a greater sense of human purpose so far. Are we not all gathered here with the expectation that the Net will finally start to examine its true potential as a medium of SELF-knowledge and not factual accumulation. (Encyclopedias are not new and the technology of the printing press suffices to keep that up and running.)
At any rate, may they who refound true meaning in their AFS life, be hailed as the bringers of the secret ingredients to the meaning of the medium of Steemit. May we perhaps, in their reports find the leadership some of us so seem to crave. However, be prepared, I predict, to discover, also, that it all boils down to the hyper-personal that derives its merit from constructs that reach into a spiritual weft (the nourishing platform). How to infuse a technological platform with this is the only question worth looking into unless you only need a new stockmarket for intellectual properties and self-promoting products.
Still, whatever the conversion rates today, enjoy your day on Steemit, if and while you can. You came here voluntarily, perhaps inexplicably so, for reasons that as yet defy technology even. Those who have very greedy intentions in mind, I prithee, to be kind in your leeching of our spiritually reaped rewards. We won't complain: it's our own fault. We won't sue. But we might not help you either, when you most need it.
Look inside your jeans and see if you are asked (on any of the eight labels in any of the 25 languages) to not complain
All these photos have no other significance than to signify the context outside this content.
Photo at top byBessi on Pixabay
Photo of frost bubble by Ulleo on Pixabay
Photo of larch by JensEnemark on Pixabay
Photo of laundrette by RyanMcGuire on Pixabay
Photo of the leaf trail by Ersi on Pixabay
Photo of washing hanging to dry by Ulleo on Pixabay
Photo of jamjars by Jarmoluk on Pixabay
Photo of colourful pails by Rihaij on Pixabay
Photo of bridge by Free-Photos on Pixabay