Let's flick your switch

by Amar Patel in ,


Literal choice of image. Sometimes Creative Commons can't deliver. Yes my hand is that big

Literal choice of image. Sometimes Creative Commons can't deliver. Yes my hand is that big

It's often said that life is what happens when you're busy making plans. So I have finally stopped talking about it and decided to join the millions of culture vultures out there desperate to be heard. Just what the world needs, I hear you say: another earnest arts blog. No … please don't close this tab. Think it through. We're worth it and I'll explain why.

I make sense is a pledge, not a boast. Lots of blogs out there are all too quick to tell you who to listen to, where to go this weekend and what to wear while you're there. How about the why, when and how? A little context perhaps? The experiences that shape the art, music, design, architecture or any other creative expression that appeals to you. Many of us take the information that we are given, often at face value as there are numerous other things vying for our attention in that moment, consume what's on offer and swiftly dispose of it. Then, on to the next one. Tumblrs are certainly de rigeur, an entertaining visual diary for sharing quirks, likes and whimsy – well made thingsfashion highlife, tattoos and graphics, Ryan Gosling … take your pick. But they are symptomatic, particularly at the lower end of the age spectrum, of society's dwindling appetite for in-depth writing. We respond better to an image or an anecdote rather than an article.

If this stream of compressed, disposable, high-velocity information, as technologist Jonathan Harris puts it, meets your needs then we may be a little too ponderous for you. But if you are less concerned with being first on the new thing and more interested in delving deeper, investigating, interrogating, then I make sense may just fill the void.

It all comes down to one word: journalism. In its purest and noblest form, this craft can raise awareness of important issues, promote understanding, present the unknown and shape opinion regardless of the subject matter. The art of effective communication is something I have seeked to master all my life and that's the way it should be for a writer. We all need to get past the point of simply having good taste, as Ira Glass of This American Life stresses, and really practice. Do it. Again and again. Only then can you live up to your own expectations. So here I am.

As language evolves and society along with it, connecting an idea, an opinion or an experience with an increasingly complex society becomes even more difficult. Thankfully there are many great examples of exceptional journalism – both established and more grassroots – that I can call upon to prove that not all published media is throwaway.

There are amazing stories out there being told in compelling ways, often in collaboration with the public: there is Cowbird, Harris' "library of human experience"; shared narratives about major events such as the 2011 London riots on Storify; and a pop-up bureau changing perceptions of complex cities such as Sarajevo and Detroit through the good old-fashioned medium of print. And let's not forget the great visual journalism produced by familiar names such as New York Times and Time, together with emerging enterprises like Pictory.

In an age where media is more 'social' and readily available than ever before, we are, ironically, less able to consider and reason what we find than ever before. Writer Clay Shirky calls it "filter failure". Author and co-founder of The Upworthy, Eli Pariser, fears that many are trapped in a "filter bubble" where "relevance" – as defined by the architects of search and social media – does not serve up the uncomfortable, challenging and important content that we should consider. I love technology and how it allows us all to progress in life, if we so choose, but these pitfalls are unquestionable.

Here is where the editor and journalist will once again prove himself to be indispensable. Making meaning, crafting a story, curating, giving context. Depth of critical thought is a rare skill and so this blog will be an attempt to not only provide you with the most interesting, imaginatively presented and though-provoking work from the fields of arts and journalism; each post will hopefully spur you into action. 

Enough talk; let's get on with it.



Amar Patel