A few months ago, I walked into the Los Feliz Post Office to mail an order out to the east coast. I wanted to send the envelope media mail, and in return, the teller asked what the contents of the package were.
“It’s a zine, a magazine,” I said. She looked up and replied, “I’m sorry, but you can’t send this media mail.”
Now, the publication I was sending has no actual classification. It’s an art project. It was intended to be the first of a series of periodicals, but is actually just as much a stand-alone work. Which is to say, it’s nothing really, definition-wise. However, I claimed it was a magazine based on both intention and the fact it has saddle-stitching (staples) as binding; not really a book, to my mind.
Yet the woman behind the counter knew nothing of this. She just had an envelope in her hand, and my definition of what was inside it. However, because that definition was magazine and not book—even though both would be equally applicable—the package didn’t qualify for media mail shipping.
Situations like this fuck me up. So much that it’s why I took this blog down—why it’s been down for some time, and why even posting this, I’m not sure of how long it will remain up. A blog is, after all, like my art project tucked in an envelope at the post office: not really defined accurately by any established precedent.1
Sure, this could be disregarded as the ultimate first world problem, but I see a deeper reflection of social fractures within interactions like this. The lack of consistent definition cost me $3.22 in shipping this one time, which was frustrating but understandable: books and magazines are historically different mediums and it’s logical the regulations for shipping them differ.
But now books and magazines are only different in physical application, and digital technology has produced any number of publishing methods that have begun to form a permanent presence in society while remaining relatively undefined in terms of practical utility. The world at large is still learning each day how to communicate with itself, and every new technological development has the ability to alter that process.2
Looking out at the general madness of, well, everything, it’s easy to see the consequences of inconsistency. The world people see online, or in any sort of media, aligns less and less with their immediate reality. Simultaneously, the traditional structures and functions of media have collapsed, allowing mechanisms of power to run rampant and relatively unchecked. In one hand, functional definitions are being rendered meaningless, and in the other, media-based public-interest programs are simply ceasing to function.
Basically, we’re all being told certain standards apply to maintaining the systems of the world, even though it’s quite well obvious they’re all subjective and bullshit.