Sunday, September 18, 2005

Doc Searls Weblog added to list: Getting It - how tech transforms communication

As a newbie to ongoing discussions on communication and technology, I feel it important to note other blogs as I add them to my list of links at the right side of this blog. Today, I'm adding Doc Searls to the list, and adding his Sept. 16 blog entry:

Beyond delivery

It's interesting to think about the container transport concepts behind "getting" as a synonym for understanding. When you "get" what somebody says, you're saying a sum of knowledge has been delivered to you, in a form you can use. "I gather..." makes a similar assumption, through the same deep unconscious metaphor: knowledge is a substance, a commodity: something you can harvest and ship.

Terry Heaton's The Matter of "Getting It" is what brought this thought train to mind (again leveraging the commodity model). Terry works in television, and spends a lot of time, thought and effort at bringing clues to the folks that most of us still watch, every day, whether they get those clues or not. Three core paragraphs:

Former FCC Chairman, Michael Powell, had his own terminology for the change. "Application separation," he said, "is the most important paradigm shift in the history of communications, and it will change things forever." The essential nut of his statement is that one no longer needs to own the infrastructure in order to publish, distribute or broadcast content. This is turning the media world upside-down, and most of the traditional media response, I'm sorry, falls under the category of "they just don't get it."

It's turning the media world upside-down, because smart people now have their hands on the tools that used to be exclusively ours. They're innovating ways to communicate using those tools, and people are responding. Cumulatively, observers call these innovations Media 2.0. This is the new wine of media, and the initial response from traditional businesses has been to try and pour it into the old wineskins of Media 1.0.

This is no small thing. In the old, mass-marketing world, it was essential that all roads flow FROM the media entity, whereas the new model demands the opposite. The road now flows TO the media entity. Local television seems the least capable of understanding this, for our brands are attached to transmitters that beam down on everybody. The only way we know how to make money is to attach ads to the roads that flow away from us and our brands.

Terry goes on to give a lot of good advice. Meanwhile, however, I think we have a deeper problem, and that's with the concept of knowledge as a solid substance.

Think how much of what we talk about here is provisional. It's not thought out all the way. Often (usually?) it can't be delived as a finished product because it isn't finished, and won't be for a long time.

Much of what we do is pass along interesting information about subjects we won't be done talking about for a long time. Like fixing New Orleans, for example. No ideology maps perfectly to it. Blaming contributes little to it. Yet it has to be done. And we'll make a lot of mistakes along the way. We won't learn from those mistakes if we understand them only as good or bad news, or reports on who screwed up what.

TV is kind of the same way.


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