There’s a video doing the rounds of David Bowie giving an interview to Jeremy Paxman for Newsnight, in which he predicts with eerie accuracy how our relationship with the internet will develop in the future. The video, from an interview in 1999, resurfaces from time to time, just as someone notices that we’ve slipped a little further towards another of Bowie’s predictions. In it, Bowie talks enthusiastically as the net as a tool for rebellion, but also envisages that we will have difficulty in comprehending the impact it will have on society, both for good and for bad. “I think we’re actually on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying,” he tells a bemused looking Paxman, struggling to keep up. “It’s going to crash our ideas of what mediums are all about.” I think we can say he got that one right.
Back in 2010 when we started Bido Lito!, we did so with a digital presence comprised solely of an email address. Long before we set up a Facebook account or website, the only apparatus we had outside of the magazine itself were A4 sheets of paper pinned to noticeboards around town, and the trolley Craig bought so that he could lug the magazines from venue to venue. It would be reductive to make a ‘how things change’ point about the disparity between then and now – despite being slow on the uptake, we were always aware that we would need a strong digital presence to thrive. I don’t think, however, that we could quite have grasped how vital a digital strategy would become, even merely for survival. We were the generation who grew up with Web 1.0 and were used to living in an exponential age, where the time versus advancement graph always looked like it was about to topple over on itself. But as I stared into the yawning abyss of our newly created Twitter account in 2010, it felt like being on a rollercoaster as it paused before its first jaw-dropping descent. Both exhilarating and terrifying, you might say.
In this issue, we announce our plans for our bido100! celebrations, which will take place in May and June of this year. It is tempting, when you reach a milestone as significant as 100 issues, to look back at your achievements; we won’t be doing that. We believe that it’s far more exciting – and important – to look ahead to the kind of world we want to create for ourselves in the near and distant future, and to work out how we go about achieving it. Over the past nine years, the publishing industry has been trying to put the digital genie back in the bottle in both its (increasingly difficult) pursuit of truth and in working out new models to replace the slow, clunky old ones. But what does the next nine years hold in store for journalism – more swingeing journalist redundancies, like recently seen at Buzzfeed? How will we still access honest and vital reporting? Will the music industry continue to cling on to the coattails of innovation, and be able to work within the newfound democracy that digital brings? And what of democracy itself: are we living through a time when the first cracks in the centuries-old system are mere aberrations, or the beginning of the end? Flying cars, hover boards?
The beauty is that we don’t know any of these outcomes – and it’s understandable if you find that worrying. We can, though, use our imaginations and think of where we want to get to in the future; and plan and talk and build towards whatever kind of a world we’d like to create in an ideal situation. Maybe the words of David Bowie will once again be a guiding light as we set our minds to the task ahead…
“Please don’t tear this world asunder. Please take back this fear we’re under. I demand a better future.”