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Bob Stein, Founder of The Criterion Collection, and Surviving the Age of Don't

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Bob Stein, the founder of the Institute for the Future of the Book, has enjoyed a remarkable career. Despite knowing very little about computers, he worked with Atari at the time that company was at the forefront of the personal computer development and developed tools for publishing with floppy disks, CD-ROMS and LaserDiscs that remain to this day influential in digital publishing and how we utilize interactive media.

Stein created the Criterion Collection, a series of important classic films which birthed what we now universally know as "CD extras," after meeting with the president of RKO Home Video who sold him the rights to Citizen Kane and King Kong since "they're not worth anything to us." He later was a partner in the CD-ROM publishing company Voyager. If you don't do anything else today, take some time to read this Triplecanopy interview with Stein.

"You have to understand how much of this stuff is accidental."

The key takeaway for me is how today, more than ever, we live in a world of Don't. Despite the explosion in new technology and digital information, a publishing revolution which we all thought would herald a new age of freedom and self-expression, the pressure to conform and follow the herd has never been more intense. Whether it's the pressure to join Facebook, or signify adherence to societal norms by wearing certain clothes, to read what other people read and think what other people think, we are increasingly moving toward homogeneity, not away from it. There's massive irony to be found in Nike's ad campagin, "Just do it." Never have we been under more pressure to Don't Do It.

Don't disagree*. Don't be a communist. Don't be a Maoist. Don't be a conservative. Don't be a liberal. Don't use anything for a purpose for which it was not specifically intended. Don't smoke pot. Don't drop out of college. Don't try to get a job for which you are not qualified.

This is an age of Don't. Stein has enjoyed a remarkable career by ignoring Don't.

* "Don't disagree" applies only to human interactions occurring outside the direction of television and media, where controlled disagreement is encouraged, even plotted, in order to achieve maximum impact for the corporation through viewer ratings, and thus, advertising revenues, while creating synthetic drama and providing an outlet for undischarged disagreement through the vicarious enjoyment of scripted, and largely meaningless, debates and banter. You are free to watch it from the comfort of your home or bar stool, just don't dare take it outside.
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