Note: This piece is a reply to Mr Wang Xinyu’s ‘The Death and Birth of Online Literature’.
Talking about the death and birth of online literature is a bit of a commonplace – below is my view on it.
I feel that the death or survival of such and such may entirely depend on the media.
People write good things based on their own talent, knowledge and diligence. If we want to pull a bit of maths, we can say that among writers, no matter how complex we make the criteria, there are always 5 to 10% of outstanding writers. In fact, our standards to determine whether a text is excellent or not are actually based on the works of this minority of writers. And most people will very naturally file all different reading experiences within the ‘bad’ category. What this means is that whether a media is ‘dead or alive’ actually depends on the media that this minority of writers prefer, or which media grants these writers the highest material and spiritual rewards. In this regard, if the web does not have an overwhelming advantage, at least it is not particularly disadvantages. And time is playing on the side of the web.
In a relatively free publishing age, the rules and distinctions between print, radio and online language and expressions are relatively blurry. The so-called ‘online literary language’ is penetrating into print and radio speech. Pure online language expressions are continuously appearing on the print media or on television. And we can expect the obstacles to this invasion to decrease continuously – that is, if print, radio and TV want to compete with the internet. In other words, these media will eventually converge. But I’m afraid that the result of this convergence is that the internet will become the point of reference – it is after all the most inclusive media.
Content tends to circulate across different media. The following cases are quite common these days.
1) A good print novel is adapted into a film or TV series, then online comics or games are developed.
2) A song gets popular on the internet, and then it starts circulating through print media and on the radio.
3) An online novel is published in print, and then made into a film or TV series.
While waiting for these various productions to reach their final state, who can say that they’re ultimately an online phenomenon, or a TV production, or a paper work? And particularly if we look at the future, who knows if the written medium isn’t just about to be transformed, or if both happened simultaneously – and it will be hard to distinguish between cases. So that in the end, it’s becoming harder and harder to identify which of these works gave birth to which.
And since the ‘fences’ between these different media are weakening, the content is gradually synchronizing, and so, which one will survive depends on a number of factors like subject matter, writing style or mode of transmission.
But we should all be very clear: I’m afraid that, based on these factors, investors, authors and audience will bet on the internet. We can observe the following facts:
Print media are continuously moving online. Some major newspapers have clearly abandoned paper publication.
TV stations are also beginning to have an ‘online channel’, like Phoenix video for instance.
The most critical point is, more and more households no longer buy TV sets and newspapers.
For that reason, I think that not only online literature hasn’t died yet, but it will ‘win’ in the end.
This is what the victory will look like:
The content will be generally circulated through the web.
The content will generally reach its audience through the web.
There’s no longer a difference between TV literature and paper literature, and soon there won’t be any ‘internet literature’, all there is left already is what we call ‘internet literary products’ – the story remains on the internet through its all life cycle.
Mr Wang’s talk of the death of internet literature might have to do with his consideration of the lower quality of online writing. But this is not strictly speaking a problem about internet literature. The reason for this problem has to do with additional restriction on traditional media publishing for so-called ‘XX literature’. If we don’t consider this limit, then we might as well consider the drawings and poetries that primary school children give to their teachers as paper publications, personal diaries might as well be paper publications, and home-videos for friends and families could be TV productions. The iron doors maintained by ‘official media publishers’ to keep out these ‘inferior students’ largely accounts for the higher quality of paper publications and TV productions. It’s easy to see that only this will give a fair comparison, the big picture. Even the trend of ‘lower quality’ internet literature has an explanation – it’s because the internet is continuously growing.
For that reason, we can say that online literature is not dead, and it may enjoy a long life indeed.
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Source : my1510