Saturday, March 13, 2010

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish.... You're a Nazi...

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One of the things we have discussed in the Thursday morning class several times now is the concept of "every man" as a content producer.  Or woman, depending on your preference for gender correctness.  Maybe we'll be Switzerland and go with "every who". 

So Every Who in the past could not create and publish content themselves, at least not easily.  The system was geared towards a corporate focus, because at the time that was the most efficient and economical means of distribution.  Publishing a book, for example, would require a person to have contact numerous numerous different book stores and vendors, trying to convince them that their novel about the love life of Victor Borge is going to be the next "BIG THING."  It was simply easier to go to a publishing company who could leverage size to market and sell your product (and yes, art is a product, because it has to be produced to exist... which is why I am not really an artist, I have lots of great ideas and I just never get around to producing them).

Enter... the Internet!!!  Drum roll please, sounds of trumpets, angels floating by on incredibly obvious and visible wiring (I have a very low effects budget).  Ok, so initially there wasn't much change with this, either.  The only thing I can honestly say changed in the early years of the internet was an increase in people writing stories and posting them to the many newsgroups that flourished back then (a newsgroup was a list service maintained and created by another which you could subscribe to like email; you would then receive postings people made to the particular newsgroups you subscribed to in a program much like an email program; many of these still exist, just google for .alt newsgroups to see them).  Because most people still did not have even basic internet service, nothing really had changed.

Enter... the World Wide Web!!!!  Chorus singing Hallelujah in Chinese (I have to outsource some of this work, folks, it ain't cheap to get the Mormon Tabernacle Choir).  Now people and companies could create a "presence" on this new thing called "the web", part of the greater "internet".  That and a few sharks with lasers strapped to their fricking heads get you absolutely nothing. This of course then spawns the need for Webmasters and Web Page Designers, two jobs that still exist today, almost twenty years later, even though they are as necessary to most people's lives as stock brokers and hamster herders. 

What I'm driving at of course (with apologies to the hard working folks who manage and create the web) is that the online factor means nothing.  The only thing the internet has provided is a channel for distribution, a channel that is very technically demanding and too challenging for most people to work with directly.  So... what REALLY changed???? The Arpanet - which became the Internet - went live in 1969.  Why did it take 30 years for us to begin to reach a state where Every Who could create their own art, however excremental it may be?  Maybe I meant incremental....

Software.  The tools needed to CREATE that content in the first place.  Couple those creation tools with easy method of distribution tools (do it yourself web pages, blogs, twitter messaging, social networks, etc), and now you've got Every Who able to publish anything they want anytime they feel the urge.  Which leads to such grand things as Lol Cats, or this incredible... ummm... BRIGHT attempt to bring us into the Light of the Lord.  Just google for "Worst Websites" if you want to see more astounding examples of the individual tastes of the average Who down in Whoville.  But I digress.  The history of the personal computer is reflected in the history of our internet tools.  Make it easier, make it simpler, let everyone have access to it.  That was the mantra of OS development (after MS got on the GUI bandwagon thanks to Apple doing it first), and it has become the mantra of most software development.

Obviously it was the Internet that inspired some of these tools.  Some Who'ers saw how easy it could be for others to be heard, and made it so.  Geocities, Tripod and other services gave the average Who the chance to create their own web sites, just like the big guys, only uglier and with less panache.  Those tools evolved and inspired other tools, which begat other tools, which begat other tools, and now we have a huge and biblical mess.  Tower of Babel anyone?  Let's face it, it's so damned easy to get published now, it's doubtful anyone will ever hear you because of all the chatter that's already going on around you.  Every post is a discussion in the making, a symphony of reaction, usually leading to the inevitable "you're a nazi" reply (automatic grounds for losing any online debate, by the way).  We are engaged, disgusted, and polarized in astounding new ways now.

Then again, remember:  a person's a person no matter how small.  So go ahead and YELP... maybe you'll get more viewers then I do.  Anything higher then zero makes you a content generating god in comparison.

First I'll make a hog bog slog blog;
then I'll make a slog hog bog blog...
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