Out in the wild: how Ken Layne created an alternative to clickbait in the desert
UFOs, doomed hikers, William Burroughs, singing sand dunes, Elvis, ghosts, roadrunners and rattlesnakes - the Desert…
Dominic Rushe sat down with Ken Layne, who famously helped start Wonkette, one of the early Gawker sites, but who has been doing something quite different for the past decade-plus — Desert Oracle, a physical-only magazine (well, and radio show/podcast) about life in the desert:
“I feel like we are post-language now,” he says. “Things are more symbolic. The relationship between words and facts and objectivity and their impact seems to have separated to the point where most of the writing that I see, especially on something like Twitter, is by people baffled that people don’t get what they are trying to say. It’s depressing.”
That feeling is in part why people have turned to analog media once more, he believes. “You buy vinyl, you put it on and listen to it. No one is going to message you in the middle of it. No one is going to cut you off. These objects that do one thing well are having a moment right now,” he says.
I expect this type of trend to continue — though perhaps more in hybrid form. I’m not sure how long it will be viable to actually print out (let alone ship) physical magazines/newspapers/etc. But you could imagine a device, like a Kindle, focused solely on reading that becomes antithetically obvious.
In fact, it’s pretty surprising how much Amazon has let the Kindle line linger, with minimal innovation. They were early in the space, but seem to have lost interest in recent years, which is too bad. Sure, the space itself (eBooks) has had sort of a rocky ride, but it does seem like there’s a world in which the above makes sense. What if you had, say, a small, light color e-ink device that was for reading only, including magazines like Desert Oracle?
“Why not just read that on an iPad?” has been the argument a decade running, but I think Layne’s comments above will increasingly speak to people. Hell, they certainly used to speak to Amazon!