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Embrace tradition, discover a flexible mind.

June 24, 2009

I am sick and tired of hearing the debate between ‘traditional’ media and ‘new’ or digital media. The old guard of the media world are grimly holding onto the term ‘tradition’ to keep themselves afloat in the rapidly changing media landscape. What disgusts me most about the old media guard, the ‘traditionalists’ of the filmmaking, television, newspaper world etc are that they blatantly misuse the term ‘tradition’. They brandish it as a weapon against the ‘new innovators in tradition’, like myself, who are more interested in telling a good story than in the eventual form it takes.  The old guard fire their ‘tradition propaganda’ so they can maintain their balance sheets and/or elite ‘art’. Tradition is being used as a tool to maintain power and money in the hands of a few select individuals. Well, those days are numbered. Tradition is bigger than all of them and here’s why:

One of my great pet hates in life is the way that people buy into ‘tradition propaganda’ and fail to think through issues for themselves. As a result they use tradition to disguise their own inflexible, and narrow mind.

Let’s look at what tradition actually is:

‘The word tradition comes from the Latin traditionem, acc. of traditio which means “handing over, passing on”‘- thanks Wikipedia.

Now let’s split this debate over tradition into its form and its function.

  • The FUNCTION of tradition is to pass on stories or beliefs that represent an important aspect of humanity
  • The FORM tradition takes can vary from the macro level of religious institutions, political systems, symbols and mythology through to the micro level of families, village cultures etc.

I studied architecture for a number of years and there was often the debate over form vs function. There was always a great deal of discussion over what should come first, form or function. The end result was always crystal clear for me. Those architects that began with the function of a building and allowed the form to develop always created the most unique, breathtaking, and engaging works of art. Those that began with the form, were generally left with a showy, useless piece of crap that fell apart in a few years.

So for me, the debate around tradition is fairly simple. Those that start from the position of form are either:

  1. Wankers: largely defined by the way they mask their insecurity through megalomaniacal displays, verbose self-congratulatory language and recycled ideas (think the old guard) Or;
  2. Narrow-minded: and unable to think outside the fear box being broadcast at them. They are scared that if they do start thinking for themselves, those vile, persuasive messages being thrown at them might jump out of the screen and make them so obese that they won’t be able to stop their family being captured by paedophilic terrorists. Or;
  3. Both. These are the worst kind: Wankers, that have no idea what they’re talking about.

I’ll throw the types outlined above into the same category of ‘Dumbos’. These people have an inherent need for the existing superstructures to be maintained. That is, they either have a vested interest in maintaining their own power (wankers), or asserting their own stupidity to make them feel better about themselves (narrow-minded).

It is these very people that tarnish the word tradition. They usurp the function of tradition and then deride innovators or original thinkers for not being respectful of tradition.

Hence pioneers of digital media are often derided by ‘traditional’ mediums as being crass, cheap and unmindful of traditions.

Dumbos are also the ones that can be found arguing that a political system, religion or village culture is inherently good or evil. (Let’s not get into a debate on Fascism etc here). It is the people in charge of instigating the policies in such systems that do good or evil. I believe there are some underlying, basic human morals and innate beliefs that transcend a political, religious, village or family system. These are what together make up the FUNCTION of tradition, not the political, religious or other FORM they may take.

Which leads me back to the story. And digital media.

The medium of delivery whether it be a film, novel, artwork etc is not the tradition. Just as a religious or political system are not the tradition.

They are the FORM that tradition takes.

Let’s start thinking for ourselves again and look at the FUNCTION of tradition. What are we trying to say? What is our story? How are we going to communicate our tradition most effectively to future generations?

By starting from the FUNCTION of tradition some interesting, innovative and engaging FORMS of tradition may emerge.

Let’s embrace tradition, and hand over and pass on the messages and stories that are really important to new generations. Let’s start sharing stories about climate change, cultural diversity and shared growth, how we value an individual’s contribution to society beyond dollar signs, and the mechanism’s we need to not only ‘advance’ but to ‘connect’ as humans. I could add many more stories to this list, but you get the idea.

And while we’re at it, why not embrace the new technologies that allow us to share these stories with the world like never before? Even more than sharing them, we can make them calls to action by getting people involved in the conversation. Yes, sometimes we all want to passively absorb media, but we all also want to communicate and share our ideas.

Welcome to the world of The Digital Wave, the real-time ambient conversation. But that’s another blog.

For now, don’t be scared. You’ve got a flexible mind, should you choose to use it. Within our tradition is your story waiting to be discovered and shared.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 24, 2009 1:53 am

    In keeping with your theme I have an anecdote.

    When I was organising my charity cricket match, I was trying to get journalists to play in it, so I contacted the Australian Editor of the website cricinfo. In the email I said I was looking for proper journalists to play in the match. He said it was not very often he was looked upon as a proper journalist. This is the Australian editor of a website that has over 20 million users. If Ricky Ponting breaks his leg tomorrow, more people are going to read this guy’s articles than any others. And in the industry the newspaper journalists are still more respected…

  2. August 4, 2010 7:09 pm

    hi i was wondering if i can use this essay on my project blog. will link back and credit. thank you. its relevant to my ongoing research.

    http://chanjelings.wordpress.com/

    • August 5, 2010 2:59 pm

      that’s fine – I’d love to read a copy of the essay once you’ve written it.

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