Tools of Change – times they are . . . confused??

Eoin Purcell

Update: The Digitalist has some good words on Content!

Without content there is no internet, there is no context, there is no point in contacting in the sense that I understand Rushkoff to be using it. Pretty much everything in media is changing true, but the one thing that is not changing is the position of content as the ultimate driver of why people go to where they go and do what they do. While the context of watching a TV show or reading an article may have changed (e.g. distribution channels have migrated to digital) and the ways in which I interact with others around it has evolved I still want to watch something interesting and read something informative. Other factors are always going to be secondary to that.
Content, in whatever form it takes, remains the sine qua non of media. Despite the high profile given to various forms of aggregation, search and networking it seems pointlessly iconoclastic to suggest a displacement as such. Rather I see it more as shifts around content, altering it but not ultimately detracting from its centrality.

I’m an ordinary man
And in many ways I think I represent the crux of the problem the publishing industry faces. I’m an atypical book buyer (I buy many, perhaps too many books) and I also consumer digital content voraciously.

Books, books, good for the heart
I love books. By that I mean printed, bound, paper books. I like hardbacks of old books. Ones that smell musty and have been opened rarely. I love paperbacks, light and easy to carry, almost disposable once read. I love the thoughts and ideas books contain. Every one a treasure of knowledge and information stretching back to its author or its translator. Perhaps it is a newer edition of a classic text or a transcription of a famous oral tradition, perhaps the narrative account of a historical event, the diary of a participant, the now out dated analysis of political events of previous centuries, or indeed a frivolous novel designed to subvert the social mores of the day> perhaps it is none of these things, merely the dry recording of naval stores aboard ships in the Eastern Mediterranean in the years after the Napoleonic Wars. One way of the other I love them.

The web, the web, good for the heart
I love the web, the twisty paths of knowledge you can take, the leisurely reading of varied topics, from politics to anthropology, from science to seasoning, from gossip to goose recipes. That I can jump through the library catalogs of the University of Michigan and peruse the shelves of the British Library online. I like that images enrich my idea of the world almost effortlessly and that references and recommendations offer a much deeper understanding of the world, the concept, the time, or even the place I am reading about.

Rivals for my heart
In one sense these two loves are not opposed but in another they are. I cannot both read books and surf the web. At least not simultaneously. The task of reading requires dedicated standalone time, i can read and surf but not read books and surf. Not even e-books work for me and thus the reason I believe they have little future as standalone computer based products. I think the web page and the web browser will dominate reading of all sorts in the future, not just short form articles and brief blog posts but for magazines, newspapers, journals and books.

E-books will just not work, why would I close my browser and use a different, standalone app when the experience of reading in a broswer where connectedness abounds is so much better?

Add to the mix O’Reilly’s Tools of Change conference last week
And I think you’ll see an industry that is making a desperate attempt to get to grips with the future and kind of flailing around. So much so we are willing to listen to just about anyone who has an idea about where we should be going. Some of those ideas are brilliant and some are quaint, but all of them have potential.

if I was to fall down on one idea it is the one that say that content is no longer king. Somehow I struggle to buy that. I guess I’m a dinosaur then. I’ll think on it some more.

The truth of course is none of us know what is going to happen and although we will claim we saw it coming when it happens, we won’t have. Possibly we will be lucky if we can adapt in time to survive when it does, possibly not.

If I sound sanguine I am, because I remain convinced that what I love; the knowledge and information, the ideas and thoughts, the concepts and contrivances will survive, distributed digitally or in beautiful or cheap volumes of printed ink, it really won’t matter. One way or the other, I suspect I’ll be involved in the process that makes that happen too. Its want I want to do, so I’ll just have to make it happen.

Convinced I’m not obsolete, yet!
Eoin

For the record. Sara Lloyd @ The Digitalist Blog and George Walkley @ Life As Beta Geek were indespensible in following a conference I wish I could have attended.

Oh and tomorrow I have a surprise guest blogger, worth reading!

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