I’ve been thinking a lot about Jack Cheng’s essay The Slow Web lately. The internet has a current: a way of doing things right; a trend towards a new business model and a new discursive formation. And going against that current is, in the long run, generally not well-received. It may be received with curiosity, good intentions, and a surge of initial interest, but the internet is not fueled by any of these things, and someday everybody will move on.
It takes active, continuous effort to run against the grain of the internet. One needs a very clear reason for doing so, and even then, one also needs to play by the internet’s rules to get the change they want.
I believe Distance is vital and tremendously valuable, but it also runs against the way the internet works. Research? Requiring somebody’s focus for a long period of time? Writing that costs money? Trying to elevate the quality of public discourse? Not seeking explosive growth? All of these run contrary to the way the internet presently works.
You might protest. But I know _______________, and they do these things really well! I don’t know a single one that has mass appeal. The closest I’ve seen is The New Inquiry, and I’d argue that (while excellent) it’s far too niche to apply. And besides, you are probably coming from a perspective that favors such outlets in the first place.
While I wouldn’t be making Distance if I didn’t believe I could change all of this, it’s a monumentally difficult proposition to swim against the currents of the modern internet, the fast web: one I grossly underestimated. Perhaps Distance will pull through; perhaps it’ll be because of the internet, not despite the internet. That’s an internet I’d prefer to have.