PROMISED a magical new era of instant gratification and
world peace, made - and later broke - fortunes, wrecked
reputations, riled authorities and brought strangers together.
talking about the Internet, of course.
going online is no substitute for the human qualities
that make art: passion, intellectual rigour, creativity & compassion
independent-minded Netizens have thumbed their collective
noses at attempts to exploit the Internet for commercial
that the suits and salesmen have backed off, the Net looks
set to once again become the happy hunting ground of those
who believe in a non-profit, uncensored, bohemian cyberspace.
of all people, should be pleased.
writers, for instance.
global book industry is a shark-infested pool of publishing
houses, agents and distribution cartels based largely in
the US and Europe, whose blessings decree a writer's career.
the Net could allow unknown writers - even in a literary
backwater like Singapore - to reach global audiences, leapfrogging
the extravagant costs of publication, promotion and distribution
and the risk of censorship. Seems like the idea behind homegrown,
edgy e-zine The 2nd Rule (''Well versed in e-mail'', Mar
encountered the power of the Net when putting together No
Other City, an anthology of Singapore city poems, last year.
solid 80 per cent of the submissions solicited from the
public came via e-mail.
talking hundreds of poems from as many closet poets here.
year, submissions for a book of love poems started coming
in minutes (yes, minutes) after I sent out an e-mail request.
were from writers overseas who were not even addressees
of the e-mail.
same process might have taken months or years with snail
there's truth to the claim that the Internet is more efficient
and has wider reach.
why aren't writers putting their novels or poems on the
Net for free instead of publishing books?
writers cite the usual reasons: copyright violations, and
not getting paid.
writer/lawyer Daren Shiau, ''interfacing with art on a computer
screen'' just doesn't match the careful attention readers
pay to hard copy.
and former Straits Times literary editor Koh Buck Song even
feels that the Internet has ''cheapened'' information by
making it too easily available, to the point where swamped
readers can no longer distinguish pulp trash from quality
the writers concur that the Net has potential as a means
to reach out and build communities online.
remains unclear, however, just what kind of clout these
virtual groupings have.
in point: Last year's No Art Day movement, the failed brainchild
of a 300-strong ''arts community'' e-group.
making it easier to communicate or publish doesn't necessarily
improve the level of thinking or participation. The medium
does not guarantee the message.
not just an issue of whether the Net promotes ''convenient
consumerism more than public education'', as fiction writer
Jeffrey Lim puts it.
there's room for both.
agrees that artists could do much more with the Net.
way to go? Treat the Net as a tool like any other, to be
wielded with skill and wisdom.
still a place for the Web as online brochure, marketplace
and ticketing booth, as theatre companies here have shown.
can also be a credible forum for dissenting views, independent
critical reviews, an invaluable research archive, even a
platform for new kinds of hypermedia art.
simply going online is no substitute for the human qualities
that make art - passion, intellectual rigour, creativity
it'd be a shame if artists here and elsewhere neglected
the Internet as a powerful medium to engage a new generation
of net-savvy Singaporeans.
art - like the best dotcoms - will find its niche in cyberspace,
which is still in its formative years after all.
will tell the soul food from mere eye candy.