Carlos Leyva

Silicon Stories

Chapter 9: What Comes After What Come Next?

Morning in America

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Despite the critics and the cynics, and despite the fact that we still live in dangerous and troubled times (when have we not?), there is a new day dawning and the digital revolution is poised to play a leading role. Why? Because anytime the factors of production, especially with respect to art, music and literature, are placed in the hands of the people—people do what they have always done best—they create.

Working as a printer, editor, journalist, and publisher during the years of the publishing industry's phenomenal growth, Walt Whitman became keenly aware that the tools necessary for his emergence as the new, democratic poet were at his disposal. He believed he could bring poetry to the common people, and with the publication of his 1855 Leaves of Grass, he assumed for himself the role of the American Poet, referring to himself as "one of the roughs," a common man.

—Jason A. Pierce

Do you think that the Great American Poet could have published Leaves of Grass in 1855 had he not had access to the best available technology of his time? Is it remotely possible that an American slave in 1855, of impeccable erudition, could have produced such a work? The question itself is ludicrous. That an educated slave during Whitman’s time could have produced such a work was impossible.

Why? Because a slave had no access to the technology and the institutions required to publish and distribute. In 2002, what was once impossible is within our reach. Such an effort was not then, is not now, and will never be, possible, without the will, perseverance, inspiration, blood, sweat, and tears of the indomitable human spirit; however, today, any descendent of an American slave, possessing these qualities, and an impeccable erudition, could (and I believe will), produce a body of work of equal magnitude.

I do not mean to imply that all the questions of access to the machinery of society have been answered. As we all know this is a work in progress. However, the fact that the impossible is now possible is a testament to how far we have come. We should draw strength and optimism from our achievements and learn to celebrate victories large and small. The Net and other enabling digital technologies have had, and will continue to have, a democratizing impact with respect to questions of access. Meanwhile we just have to keep on keeping on.

Someday girl I don't know when we're gonna get to that place

Where we really want to go and we'll walk in the sun

But till then tramps like us baby we were born to run

—Born To Run, Bruce Springsteen

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