The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

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Media as underwear

In the comment thread for his last post, Tim provides my new preferred master metaphor for media:

Charlie Stross has a different metaphor. He compares the novel to the corset, and the novella to the bra. I love it! What could be more obvious, more taken-for-granted, than underwear? And yet, what strikes us as an odder set of conventions now than the underwear of the past? It’s made to fit and support our bodies, but it reshapes us too, as we wedge ourselves into it.

Seriously: I am thinking deeply on this. I think it might be really, really useful.


I hope novels don’t become as expensive and hard to find as corsets now are . . .

I think the point of the metaphor may be less “look at these archaic conventions” and more “look at how we’re moving from a very rigid, constrained market for fiction length to a model somewhat less constrained, but still bounded by certain practicalities”. And it’s not just novellas – Stross also suggests serials and mega-tomes as potential formats that could emerge in the e-book market, once the strictures of the profitable hardcover novel loosen.

I’m chuckling at the fact that guys are the ones who coined and are applauding this metaphor.

Unless you are crossdressers, I’m not so sure you are qualified to say that corsets and bras are taken for granted, and they operate quite differently.

Ha hahahahaha. Touché.

Tim Carmody says…

“Taken-for-granted” may be the wrong phrase. The form of underwear appears necessary. It’s difficult for us to imagine alternatives outside of a limited range.

And, just because a new form starts to become dominant doesn’t mean the other form goes away. But it does take on a different meaning. And hey! Maybe the corset + the rest of the getup works. Maybe it’s a better choice right now than a bra and panties. At least for a lot of people.

Also, basically what we have right now, with print publishers trying to imagine a digital future — well, it’s a lot like men trying to imagine a new kind of women’s underwear. As hard as it is for you to imagine a new version of your own underwear, try imagining something different for the other gender.

That’s why so many traditional publishers are (ahem) fumbling around in the dark.

The snarkmatrix awaits you

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