Sure they're tasty, but a steady diet of potato chips does not make you a food critic. Or healthy.

Sure they're tasty, but a steady diet of potato chips does not make you a food critic. Or healthy.

Comic book movies can run two and a half hours these days. Bam! Boom! They’re big in every way, with sleek superheroes whacking and smacking baddies every eight minutes or so.

Here in the twenty-first century, television programs now show up in thick handfuls all at once. The clock strikes midnight on a designated date, and voila! a stack of episodes queue up on Netflix or Amazon, setting you up for a long jag of story and couch-potatoery. According to modern market research, audiences tend to consume those giant troves in just a few sittings.

Photographs have become a potato chip medium. We consume them both by the handful. In fact the metaphor is apt, considering how many photo sharing sites present content according to their creator’s “feed”. Of course, the content development side of the equation has us complicit in the feeding frenzy. People are clicking off photos willy-nilly with their ephemeral electronic cameras. Without film stock or paper or photo chemicals to use up, we capture and transmit pixels with hardly a care in the world. For many people there’s hardly any serious intention ever to see the pictures again after we zip ‘em across the internet to our friends, of whom we count many hundreds or even thousands, if we’re keeping track with social media tools.

Text comes in with a fire hose. It’s a sad reality that comparatively few people read books anymore, but the quantity of text in the form of internet blurbs, articles, how-to tutorials, social media posts, and ever-ubiquitous email has more eyes on more words than ever before, even if those words are more disposable than ever before. Text is the glue of communications these days, but as such it’s value has often been depreciated to little more than the binder holding together efficient exchange of information. Where text used to be an art form at it’s apotheosis, it’s now a alphanumeric encoding system that needs to be gamed so as not to exceed numerical character limits.

More media does not mean better media, whether that’s defined by the overall size of an incoming package or total number of incoming packages. I fear that the ubiquity of distribution and ease of endless consumption is dulling the cultural palette. Where some might charge this worry is the product of cultural snobbery, I liken it to the difference between going to an all-you-can-eat buffet and a fine restaurant. You can get a plate at both and a seat at both, but where one experience will leave you full, the other will leave you satisfied.

When media modes become vehicles simply for their own showiness, they lose some of the graceful possibility to become beautiful, trenchant, important, or even just sublime. No doubt there have been superb examples of modern high-volume media, presented with bright colors or capacious quantity. But as a general rule, more doesn’t always mean more. A plate piled too high becomes unpalatable, and a guest repulsed is a moment of opportunity lost.

@michaelstarobin          or 

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