Involved with the Web since the very early days and credit it has been a magical extension of the mind, of the universal mind, even. But, while it breaks down established media – a pointed example for me is the way it obliterated the computer trade press, the Web must be an afterthought. There is a lot of talk about this of late, and I find Gladwell’s critique of Anderson’s Free manifesto the most compelling digest view of said. Yet Anderson discovered something not easily apparent.
Basically, a band shouldn’t expect even ‘gas money’ out of record sales. It should just get out there and play bars and sell t-shirts. Disruptive new medium has closed the book on the music business as it was known. Yet there were fixable elements of the record business – things could have been done differently – the descent could have been different, even forestalled.
Marshall McLuhan hypothesized that each new medium encapsulates former mediums. This may have been less obvious for TV, which fed on Newspapers and movies, than for the Web, which fed on all of the above. The form the encapsulation took hid the encapsulation from most people. People with a certain level of expertise were very aware that the Newspapers set the agenda for the news that the TV covered, but the effect wasn’t widely felt.
With the Web, which very boldly encapsulates the news from the Newspapers, people are very aware that they can get their news in a different format, “free,” in ready chunks, and stripped of physical outfit, on the Web. When you tally up the expenses of being online, the price isn’t much different than the subscription to the Newspaper, but you were going to be online anyway, right?
McLuhan specified the disruptive effect of encapsulating new media. He saw the computer as an extension of the human nervous system. As such it had special power to upset the apple cart. It was a question of timing, really.
The place the Newspaper takes up in the 21st Century is different than the one it took up in the mid-20th Century, when TV came to the fore. The effect of the Web is quite different - and more disruptive, actually - than the effect of TV on print. How far duplication has come from the days of the monks! How easy it is to pirate things – and if things are easy to pirate, pirating them doesn’t seem so terrible.
How educated is the audience and how little do they value the product of the Media over what they can do themselves [see this and most other any blog]? How the notion of audience has broken down as the means of Media have evolved! Sophistication is an inexpensive commodity now. The experience is what counts, and the mass model has broken. The Web must be an afterthought.
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