Writers as Sandwich Boards

February 3rd, 2010

Every so often I ask myself: Was it simply vanity that led me to build a website in which I promote myself and my books? Why do we writers feel obliged to climb aboard the neon podium that is the Internet and plead with passersby to read our books? Why, instead of, say, reading a good book or trying to write a better one of our own, do we spend hours and hours working on those exquisite sandwich board advertisements for ourselves that are our websites (or blogs)? How much of our souls do we sell in this transaction?

Here is one answer, taken from a book called YOU ARE NOT A GADGET (Knopf, 2010), by the computer scientist Jaron Lanier: “If you want to know what’s really going on in a society or ideology, follow the money. If money is flowing to advertising instead of to musicians, journalists, and artists, then a society is more concerned with manipulation than with truth or beauty. If content is worthless [if, among other things, there is no remuneration for it], then people will start to become empty-headed and contentless. The combination of hive mind and advertising has resulted in a new kind of social contract. The basic idea of the contract is that authors, journalists, musicians, and artists are encouraged to treat the fruits of their intellects and imaginations as fragments to be given without pay to the hive mind. Reciprocity takes the form of self-promotion. Culture is to become precisely nothing but advertising.”

–Dwight Allen

One Response to “Writers as Sandwich Boards”

  1. Rosemary Zurlo-Cuva Says:

    Yikes. Scary and probably true. A reason that some writers promote themselves and their musings in blogs or on websites may be frustration with the publishing industry and the desire to find an audience. That still begs your question, How much of our souls do we sell in this transaction?

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