A Few Thoughts on Fluid & Static Media
SPARKLING OR STILL?
When I was young and in lust with a seriously interesting structural designer, I sent a butler dressed in white gloves, tie and tails to his office for his birthday each year. The butler arrived with a standing ice bucket and two stems on a silver tray to serve him French champagne in a delicate Baccarat crystal stem (an original design molded from the breast of Marie Antoinette). The server wished him a happy birthday and quietly took his leave. I considered my friend a delightful sparkle in a case of still wine; an analogy I have never been able to top.
Compare those two forms in media; do we prefer still or sparkling (static or fluid) when plugging into the world? I think it depends on two things not determined by media buyers, things better determined by user environment and intent. Traditional print is not strong enough to hold back the inevitable domination of information delivery by electronic device.
Yes, it's lovely to touch a magnificent sheet of paper and not have to wait for downloads or link destinations, but static media cannot provide the depth and interaction of a fluid vehicle. True, you can run to the head with a magazine that does not require power or a network connection to deliver information. Your magazine won't provide live links to source material or offer links to more in-depth information available relating to the subject of interest either. Much like the arrival of television in a market dominated by radio, one will not replace the other; they will quietly co-exist. The importance of print will simply diminish.
Remember, though, the fluidity of electronic media can be detrimental in the wrong hands; it has no sense of place and nothing remains permanent which is very bad when a challenge emerges. Governments as well as commercial enterprise may change wording to suit their needs if misused language misconstrues offerings beyond original intent. This is okay for ease of correction, but it is not okay if you have expectations at delivery. A quick change here and there might make you question reality. Did I read that or dream that? Fluidity also isn't a good thing when the facts delivered are rules determining liability. If a contest develops, you have no proof unless you have a screen shot. Unlike orals, a written test provides static evidence that can safely be revisited without discreet, under-the-table revision. I wish I knew then what I know now.
With the shift in dominance comes a shift in power. The modality (Kindle, Mac, PC, Blackberry, printed book, newspaper) is simply a delivery method for material created by somebody just like you and me. Traditional print limited dispersal because a select few designated who was allowed to author. Online, authorship is open to everybody with access to a keyboard and it's up to the audience to decide what's rubbish. The drawback is, not everybody in the audience is capable of discernment; they believe everything they read or read only what they believe.
Print publications like Gourmet Magazine that have been around for years are disappearing because its market has moved online, mining a multitude of sources for the same information; information presented in a deeper, more fluid form and without the cost of a subscription. What does this mean to our industry? It means designers and artists will have more work and fewer restrictions in their access to the public; it means the big power shift will continue to affect the market and our ability to tap into it. We can finally determine our own depth or brevity, and whether we fall flat on our faces in private or public. Old-timey controls that worked in print no longer apply. The power groups who sit in their ivory towers determining who's hot and who's not are losing their audiences, forced to rely on things like vanity contests (with high dollar entry fees) to support both their dwindling incomes and creative content. As their ad revenues dwindle, their power to purchase content fades and their value in the marketplace is lost. Funny thing, not all of them have noticed the shift. Like typesetters in the late eighties, they cling to old attitudes that no longer apply in the "now" media that offers flexibility and fluidity.
"Now media" is new freedom for content producers and creatives everywhere, sort of a last frontier to produce without someone else controlling exposure or determining success. It isn't about who can afford to publish anymore; that big, irritating loss of control over content producers and profitable ad revenues; it's been taken away from the print bibles and we have real freedom now. Let's sit back and see what develops--more frontiers to explore and probably more adventures in wildly alien landscapes. Rock on.
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