Category: New Media

Make art not content

When I was a freelance journalist many years ago I remember there was a small but significant change in new contracts: I was no longer a “writer” but a “content provider.” This was in lieu of the coming shift in which what ever you wrote for newspapers was to be resold by the parent company across all platforms, and since we were “work for hire” we would never see another lousy dime. So this has nothing to do with the above video, but the title of the talk reminded me of the good ol’ days of journalistic exploitation and the silly notion that our meaningful work was merely “content.”

This by talk, Scotto Moore’s “Make Art Not Content,” is part of a series, Ignite Seattle!, in which speakers each do a geek talk with 20
slides, 15 seconds per slide, for a total of 5 minutes. There’s a bunch of them on YouTube.

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Got mail

This is a clever piece of user generated PR by Google who asked users to submit videos on how Gmail travels around the world. The compilation is a nice summary of the positive aspects of media, which at the core is to communicate (I could do without the soundtrack, though). I think media critics focus too much on corporate media and forget what us little guys are actually doing with it.

OldTube in new media bottles


As the article below indicates, there is extensive hype about NewTube (a placeholder name until NBC Universal and News Corp. come up with a brand identity), which is essentially the big media response to YouTube. Although considering that google now owns YouTube, it’s getting harder to view Internet behemoths as the “little guy” anymore. But I think there is something missing in the discussion about the looming battle of on-line media networks. The essential difference (to me) is that NewTube will not allow users to upload media. So whereas YouTube has spontaneously self-organzied into a “people’s archive,” NewTube is just going to be a venue for corporate media that pays lip service to consumer democracy through its remixing feature. No doubt there will be stuff that people will want (or think they will want due to extensive marketing bombardment that is surely in the works).

I’m not surprised that “traditional media” responds favorably to NewTube, because it fits the paradigm of top-down content generation. I think some old media companies will adopt more citizen journalism and locally produced content as new media practices seems to favor, but if NewTube is any indication, it’s more an example of OldTube put into new media bottles.

NewTube Is Just The Beginning:

For media geeks, NewTube (its executives, unsurprisingly, prefer the clunkier handles NewCo or NewSite) is big news. But the venture, expected to launch this summer, is merely one of myriad developments that will remake the world of Web video in the next few months. Google (GOOG ) is expected to begin rolling out advertising systems for YouTube this summer. This spring, News Corp.’s MySpace will formally push into YouTube’s video-sharing turf, launching an offering that insiders currently call MySpace TV. And top executives at Time Warner suddenly sound confident that a mutual technical solution to copyright issues with YouTube—the subject of a lawsuit Viacom (VIA ) filed in mid-March—is close enough to make likely a content-licensing deal. (Spokespersons for YouTube and other companies declined to discuss potential deals or negotiations.) Mingling within these overlapping layers of competition and cooperation is the suddenly less remote prospect of making some actual money.

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We Feel… madness… love


This is an amazing tool that “feels” the blogosphere’s emotions. Go to the site and click on “Open We Feel Fine” and see what happens. It’s quite an amazing voyeuristic view into the netropolis’ networked feelings, kinda like Vim Winders’ angels hearing everyone’s thoughts in Wings of Desire.

We Feel Fine / Movements:

Madness, the first movement, opens with a wildly swarming mass of around 1,500 particles, emanating from the center of the screen and then careening outwards, bouncing off walls and reacting to the behavior of the mouse. Each particle represents a single feeling, posted by a single individual. The color of each particle corresponds to the tone of the feeling inside – happy positive feelings are bright yellow, sad negative feelings are dark blue, angry feelings are bright red, calm feelings are pale green, and so on. The size of each particle represents the length of the sentence contained within. Circular particles are sentences. Rectangular particles contain pictures.

Media snack


This is where William Burroughs comes in with his Naked Lunch. When we
invent new technology, we become cannibals. We eat ourselves alive since
these technologies are merely extensions of ourselves. The new environment
shaped by electric technology is a cannibalistic one that eats people. To
survive one must study the habits of cannibals”

– McLuhan, “The Hot and Cool
Interview,” 67.


Wired’s latest issue focuses on the current cultural trend to snack on bite-sized media. McLuhan noted long ago that the new media environment would make us return to a hunter gatherer’s mentality. Are we now grazing media as if we were gathering digital blackberries in an electronic forest?

Wired 15.03: Minifesto for a New Age:

Replace Nabisco with Apple, the Mini Oreo with the iPod nano, and youve got a blueprint for the current boom in what might be called snack-o-tainment. Apples single-minded marketing campaign for the iPod (its tunes – not albums – in your pocket, after all) taught us the joy of picking the choicest cuts and shuffling them into individual hit pdes. The same with television: When the video iPod launched in October 2005, we were suddenly eager to pay $1.99 to watch a music video or a recent episode of Lost in a smaller, portable version of what was already available for free on that big square thing in our living room.

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Text vs. hypertext

Hey, nice handwriting! This video is in response to “The Machine is Us/ing Us,” which I posted about here (if you haven’t seen it, you really must!).

The text in the video reads as folllows:

Media philosopher Marshall McLuhan observed that “The Medium is the Message”. That is, the form of media is what changes consciousness irrespective of the content of that media.

Michael Wesch speculates that the accessibility of the internet both to add and receive content is leading to a massive paradigm shift in human thought and society.


The internet still follows the fundamental form of the written word and the motion picture: non-participatory reception of information.

The exact interface of scripting language is irrelevant… The internet is essentially a series of Guttenberg presses and Edison kinetoscopes connected by telegraph wire.

The accessibility of these devices to add content had only changed the scope of the content, not the basic form. Regardless of who made it, I’m still reading text and watching movies.

A semi-global library is a remarkable acchievement (Remember that most people in the world still don’t have net access).

But the real acchievement of the internet has been to SIMULATE participation. It has made non-participatory addition of responsive content more rapid… even instantaneous.

E-mail or a chat room, for instance, has infinitely sped up communication across distances… But it is still not a fully sensory, participatory conversation, and we’ve had to find ways to compensate for that…


This trajectory will eventually lead to virtual reality… Increasingly sophisticated pseudo-sensory simulations of the full sensory, participatory reality of which we are a part.

This is a movement towards making the non -participatory form imitate the participatory reality.

We’re trying to makle the printed word imitate what we already experience every day…

The natural interaction between us and the world.

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Greatest generation gap since rock and roll?


Yet again the new cultural practices of kids are getting demonized by left and right. Geeze, adults can be so lame sometimes. One article in particularly really got under my skin, “Mirror, Mirror on the Web” by Lakshmi Chaudhry. She thinks kids are too narcissistic. This is how I responded in my letter to The Nation:

While it’s easy to appreciate the sentiment of Lakshmi Chaudhry’s article, “Mirror, Mirror on the Web”– that the tendencies of our young narcissists are exacerbated by new media– I wonder if this article really serves any purpose other than to gratify a sense of superiority over pop culture that is so common in the Left. No doubt the human tendency to show off is enhanced by the number of outlets available to create opportunities for bloated egos to wend their way to audiences though the Web 2.0, but to paint such a picture only tells one part of the story and unfortunately promotes a subtext that is shocking to see in The Nation: the demonic matrix of youth and media strike once again! These are the same tropes you’ll see cycled repeatedly through the conservative press, and it is one of the many curious commonalities that Left and Right share these days.

As a youth media educator who has worked with thousands of kids across the United States, I have found maybe 5% fitting the description of the raving narcissists described in the story. I found it particularly troubling this notion that feel-good messages from the ’70s are the culprit. Many kids of color I work come from broken homes and could use TLC to build self-esteem. The anger towards this parenting approach is unfathomable to me.

The underlying motive of all children (adults too!) is to connect with others and to be loved. Media education programs help build esteem because they enable kids who normally have few venues for expression to have a voice and learn the tools of a system that is so regularly derided on these pages. This has great benefit to the society. Sure some kids want be famous. Don’t we all? This is America, darn it! (After all why do we write and produce media anyway?)

And I thought their war mongering parents were bad! Anyhow, there is actually a more balanced view over at New York Magazine, a choice observation (below) comes from video game theorist, Clay Shirky:

Kids, the Internet, and the End of Privacy: The Greatest Generation Gap Since Rock and Roll — New York Magazine:

Shirky describes this generational shift in terms of pidgin versus Creole. “Do you know that distinction? Pidgin is what gets spoken when people patch things together from different languages, so it serves well enough to communicate. But Creole is what the children speak, the children of pidgin speakers. They impose rules and structure, which makes the Creole language completely coherent and expressive, on par with any language. What we are witnessing is the Creolization of media.”

That’s a cool metaphor, I respond. “I actually don’t think it’s a metaphor,” he says. “I think there may actually be real neurological changes involved.”

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War of (media) worlds

This video by Kansas State University’s Mike Wesch explains so much better than text as to why new media are in many ways vastly superior modes of production and communication, which begs the question: how is an education system based on 19th Century modes of thinking going to deal with this emerging reality? More importantly, how will society grapple with this interlinked, intertextual, networked form of exchange? To quote McLuhan:

The United States of 2020 will achieve a distinct psychological shift from a dependence on visual, uniform, homogeneous thinking, of a left-hemisphere variety, to a multi-faceted configurational mentality which we have attempted to define as audile-tactile, right-hemisphere thinking. In other words, instead of being captured by point-to-point linear attitudes,… most Americans will be able to tolerate many different thought systems at once, some based on antagonistic ethnic

(From Global Village– a book I HIGHLY recommend!)

The last phrase, “antagonistic ethnic heritages,” might seem a bit antiquated, but I believe McLuhan means that some cultures have different learned perceptual modes that are circular, and therefor may seem “backwards” to Westerners, but are in fact better capable of interfacing the multidimensional realm that new media are moving in. McLuhan has also stated that wars can be the result of clashing paradigms, not just of the opposing society, but as a means of controlling the internal society’s evolving dynamic. In other words, the war in Iraq could be as much about asserting a dominant mode of perception and control locally as it is about dominating a foreign territory.

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Patterns of the medium


What does “convergence” mean?

Web exclusive: ‘Technology and frustration’ by John Browning | Prospect Magazine February 2007 issue 131:

Technically, the internet treats all information flows alike, as digital data which can be edited, linked, searched, displayed or whatever. More important, it provides a common means of transmitting all of that information. While every previous new media from vaudeville through VHS had to develop its own transmission infrastructure, new new media can simply use the internet….

Today, the message is the medium. Or at least it should be, if our collective imagination is up to it. So what will the new new media be like? The short answer is that nobody knows, because it really is hard to think outside of the categories of existing media. That said, there are tentative, early signs of a blurring of boundaries: newspaper websites show video, the iPhone organises voicemail messages as a browsable list, “mashups” combine different types of information via the web—restaurant reviews plus maps, say. None of these could seriously be called revolutionary. But the “collide-oscope,” as McLuhan called it, has been shaken. Soon we’ll see what new patterns start to emerge.

Get a first life

First Life

While I agree with the sentiment of this Second LIfe parody (it makes a fine point about being engaged with your physical reality), I still think it’s a false dichotomy to say one world is real and the other is virtual. It’s all real, and what happens in computer space and non-electronic space influence and affect each other.

We misunderstand “virtual,” which doesn’t mean “false” or “unreal,” but rather is an externalized, networked interface that transcends normal geographic space. Moreover, “virtual” spaces remediate; that is, all newly created electronic media incorporate old media. Second LIfe, for example, uses a lot of old media conventions- such as camera angles, linear perspective and cinematic lighting- to make its world believable and navigable. In other words, users cannot be totally disoriented by something completely new and alien. There needs to be familiarity.

Ultimately if I were given a choice, I’d rather spend the day in a forest than on a computer, but I believe it is unwise to completely dismiss something just because it is electronically generated. What do you think?

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Media threat?

(Art by the amazing eBoy collective)

The article is called “Media Threat,” which is a terrible choice of words because everything the article is about concerns new media. Just because it’s interactive doesn’t mean it’s not media. And though interactive, social media my threaten old models, it doesn’t mean they are a threat per se. However, though I don’t quite agree with the singularity theory or necessarily with the Utopianism of the following article, I do think it’s an interesting, updated look into the whole Web 2.0 social media phenomena. If you don’t know what that last sentence means, please read on.

NY Free Press, Media Threat:

In 1993, computer scientist Vernor Vinge published an essay titled “The Coming Technological Singularity.” It detailed a time, in the relatively near future, when the exponential growth of computing power and disparate technologies would coalesce, leading to a single moment of sudden technological evolution that would fundamentally change the fabric of reality for humanity and usher in the “post-human” era. While famed scientist/inventor Ray Kurzweil predicts this singularity won’t occur until sometime in 2045, this week may very well go down in history as the moment when the Internet hit a “singularity moment” that accelerated the evolution of the Web in such rapid fashion as to move the space into heretofore unknown territory. Quietly, nearly unnoticed—as are many of history’s major events—two recent announcements that could dictate the very future of media slipped into the news stream amid the din of billion-dollar digital Internet deals and print media buyouts…

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MacArthur spotlight

I’m currently writing a chapter on Native America, education and digital learning for the MacArthur Foundation, who is publishing a seminal six book series on the subject next year. My chapter will be in the “Race and Ethnicity” volume. MacArthur is investing a lot of resources ($50 million!) into this project and is making a conscious effort to create a new field of study on the subject.

Part of their effort to draw attention to the project is their “Spotlight” blog, which highlights some of the ideas and insights of the authors. I posted to it today, and you can view it here. A short snip:

The Nunga (southern Australian aborigines) have a term for the mental software of the European colonizers: “Invader Dreaming.” I take this to be a compact description of a mentality, one that is of the “invaders,” but one that also “invades.”

And just as I view advertising as the dream life of corporations, I think its fair to say that digital media is a kind of dream world that requires critical inspection. Consequently, I’m interested in what sociologists refer to as “subjectivities,” ways of perceiving and being in the world and how they impact communities. As an educator and writer engaging different media forms in Native American classrooms, I want to extend this discussion to a broader understanding of communication systems as mental and spiritual environments, or as ”media ecologies.” As Neil Postman remarks, “When media make war against each other, it is a case of worldviews in collision.”

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The future of reading?

Could this be the future of reading? ZAP Reader takes your text and flashes it quickly so you don’t need to move your eyes. This is a little like the idea I had when I was a kid to take a “book pill” to save the time it takes to read. I don’t know if I can get used to reading like this, but I could be conditioned to, just like Alex de Large in A Clockwork Orange. My one complaint about this utility is that it takes your text and processes at the ZAP Reader site. I’d like to see it as a standalone that generates the text right in your Web page like an embedded object (such as the YouTube video in this post). But, hey, I think it’s cool. But like eating ice cream too fast, it kinda pinches my brain too.

The rise of inforgs in the infosphere jungle

Interesting essay on the future of our information world. Here are some highlights:
TidBITS: Peering into the Future of the Infosphere:

Using these concepts, my basic claim can now be formulated thus: digital information and communication technologies are radically reshaping the very nature of the infosphere, and therein lies the source of some of the most profound transformations and challenging problems that we shall experience in the near future, at least as far as technology is concerned. In the rest of this article, I mean to clarify and substantiate this simple claim by highlighting three fundamental trends in the reshaping of the infosphere and some of their significant implications. Continue reading


Digital-DestinyI had a chance to see Center for Digital Democracy‘s Jeff Chester at the ACME Summit and I think he is way ahead of the curve in understanding what is really happening with the convergence between new digital media technology and mega-media corporations. His talk was chilling and got me to reconsider my participation in MySpace.

So before everyone gets all rah-rah about GoogleTube, read the following article of his in The Nation. It basically summarized his main talking points.

The Google YouTube Tango:

“Under the radar of all but the most savvy Internet users, powerful commercial forces are rapidly creating a digital media system for the United States that threatens to undermine our ability to create a civil and just society. The takeover of YouTube by Google announced October 9 and the 2005 buyout by Rupert Murdoch of MySpace are not just about mega-deals for new media. They are the leading edge of a powerful interactive system that is being designed to serve the interests of some of the wealthiest corporations on the planet.”

Underwhelmed by It All – Los Angeles Times

A great LA Times article that challenges assumptions about the youth and media consumption:

Underwhelmed by It All – Los Angeles Times:

With their vast arsenals of electronic gear, they are the most entertained generation ever. Yet the YouTubing, MySpacing, multi-tasking teens and young adults widely seen as Hollywood’s most wanted audience are feeling — can it be? — a bit bored with it all.

A new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll, the first in a series of annual entertainment surveys, finds that a large majority of the 12- to 24-year-olds surveyed are bored with their entertainment choices some or most of the time, and a substantial minority think that even in a kajillion-channel universe, they don’t have nearly enough options. “I feel bored like all the time, ’cause there is like nothing to do,” said Shannon Carlson, 13, of Warren, Ohio, a respondent who has an array of gadgets, equipment and entertainment options at her disposal but can’t ward off ennui.

Brave New Media

The Nation has a great special issue out on media. This was my favorite article:

Brave New Media:

A new media era is here. The head of NBC says he is selling to sponsors “on the air, online and on-the-go.” “Cross platform” is the term of the day. For progressives and independents, the old hurdles of distribution–erected by the powerful media conglomerates–are giving way to new opportunities. We don’t need a billion dollars to buy a network. We don’t need hundreds of millions to take over this or that media entity. We have at our disposal a rapidly proliferating array of tools available at low cost to get our messages out–from the Internet to iPods to cellphones and whatever comes next.

What’s Your Favorite Future?

Adage’s Jonah Bloom has an interesting column in which he discusses David Verklin’s lecture circuit. Though I think futurism is kind of dumb (I’m more into “nowism”), I like the question he asks: What is your favorite future? Read on:

Advertising Age – Learning to Love Change: What’s Your Favorite Future?:

As a journalist, my favorite future is one in which mainstream video-news media’s audiences and ad revenue decline to such an extent that they’re forced to either give up pretending to do news, or at least do it differently. In this future, the big-time purveyors of video news — spurred by an entirely searchable video-news environment and an emerging generation of citizen video journalists — would ditch their current mix of barely filtered propaganda, fabricated celebrity twaddle and cod-science scaremongering in favor of holding the increasingly powerful political and business elite to account.

By then, the best former print operations would be delivering their content in any form consumers demand it — video included — and would have learned enough from their readers’ digital habits to have turned their ponderous, predictable papers into easily navigable, compelling, reader-responsive vehicles. Those that didn’t would have died. In short, journalism, almost counted out of the fight, would have picked itself up off the canvas and made a remarkable comeback.

More News Outlets, Fewer Stories: New Media ‘Paradox’

Implicit in the following LA Times story is a lament from the industry (yet more evidence that all media do is report on themselves) that the era of an informed citizenry is a thing of the past because there will be no infrastructure for information gathering. Corporate media love to think of themselves as the saviors of civilization, but I challenge the assumptions that a) information makes us better citizens, and b) information makes us more knowledgeable.

Media are in the business of self-defining their own reality and defining the “public.” They want us to buy into their self-importance. Of course they will be pissed that people stop reading the spun-out nonsense that fills space between ads. It takes me exactly five minutes to read a newspaper, and another five minutes to grieve for the loss of tree pulp that created it.

PS One of the fringe benefits of a declining print press:

Six Jobs That Won’t Exist In 2016, such as advertising creatives.

More News Outlets, Fewer Stories: New Media ‘Paradox’ – Los Angeles Times:

“A ‘new paradox of journalism’ has emerged in which the number of news outlets continues to grow, yet the number of stories covered and the depth of many reports is decreasing, according to an annual review of the news business being released today by a watchdog group.”