And still more thoughts on digital adaptation

Then there’s this from GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram.
Here’s the perspective that you aren’t selling news, you’re selling a relationship. This is true, but traditionally this is a relationship based on a contract: I pay you X, and you deliver me news that I can use/trust/enjoy/discuss/etc.
This is the social realm that always surrounds the news. Online, it precipitates as something measured and monetized as the “click.” That’s the issue. In the digital realm, the relationship is much more directly equated with revenue. Suddenly, you can see how much value is placed on the content, and this value is yoked much more tightly to the social. And this social realm now is filled with so much more content. Everyone has so many more news-provider pals. The news consumer is the belle of the ball.
It’s a much dicier proposition for content providers, especially if they are making this content available for free. Not necessarily doomed to fail. Just much dicier.

Thoughts on digital adaptation

From TechCrunch, more musings on the end of print and what newspapers must do to adapt to a world of digital news.
I’m mainly posting this for my own benefit, as a reference point. I think adaptation is a more difficult and complex process than starting fresh. But adaptation also is the nature of the web. What other choice do you have when confronted with something so fluid, chaotic and nomadic? What are the economics of the rhizome?

The magical world of runaway inflation

Hogwarts ain't cheap

Centives at one point calculated the cost of the first year of Hogwarts. Bottom line, it would cost about $42,752. Most of the real gems are in the comments section.
As it turns out, calculating this is far more difficult than one might think. And then there’s the whole issue of why anyone in the wizarding world would lack cash. Why did the Weasleys struggle financially? Couldn’t they just create more cash? Of course, that raises the specter of runaway inflation and the tragedy of the commons. You’d think they would’ve abandoned hard currency for some sort of magical points system.
I guess we have to assume that there’s some kind of magical non-magic to money in the wizarding world. That is, it cannot be manufactured or otherwise tampered with through magical means.
However, for all their magic, wizards and witches in this universe still seem as thoroughly enmeshed with their economic system as any of us. Their world, like ours, is a realm of rich and poor, celebrity and greed, avarice and repression. Shockingly, slavery still exists in the land of magic. Yet if money is somehow not a part of magic itself, by what mechanism does it infect this world? Money seems to diminish magic as nothing more than a technic. Magic is something practiced, yet wizards remain economic creatures.

Boston Courant’s digital ‘bah humbug’

Great article on Nieman Lab about the weekly newspaper Boston Courant, which is in expansion mode, but in print only. In fact, the paper won’t go online until there’s a business model that makes sense. This, despite the fact that 8 years ago the paper paid a Ukrainian developer $50,000 to create a site. To this day, it remains offline.
The article points out that this is a calculation that other small papers are making. Giving content away online looks more like a death knell than salvation for these papers.
I like how this paper’s owner dismisses digital media as “toys,” which means no one has figured out how to turn them into revenue engines.
Is he wrong?

Gizmodo’s muddle-born argument

This is an interesting post from Gizmodo, which I’m sure is in reaction to something that I should care about, but I don’t. What I do care about is the conflation of things that shouldn’t be conflated, and how this utterly unhinges what otherwise is a valid point. Here’s how things start out, in a bit of muddle:

Gizmodo is not objective. It never has been, I don’t think. And I hope it never will be. Because the point isn’t to be something as meaningless — and frankly, false — as objective. The point is to tell the truth.

Continue reading

Tarot of the News: What goes around comes around

Tarot card

The Wheel of Fortune

Early on in my study of all things media, I became fascinated with the concept of a tarot of the news. In fact, one of the first papers I wrote was a test run of a thesis proposal entitled “Tarot of the News: Readers, Querents and New Literacy.”
This tarot concept is a way of modeling the feedback loops that occur in digital news. It ended up being the seed for my thesis, which I am presently researching. Of course, the idea has broadened and expanded in many ways. But I still find myself fascinated with what happens in a tarot reading.
To my knowledge, there never has been a good study of the tarot from a media or philosophical perspective. It’s an area that begs for a thorough semiological, structuralist account. After all, a tarot reading is nothing more than the construction of a syntagmatic chain of meaning. What is different about it is that the signifiers themselves are not firmly anchored to their signifieds. “Cat” readily brings to mind a cat. But what does The Magician signify in a tarot reading?
In fact, the entire game of tarot is a fixing of meaning that requires a starting point of ambiguous polysemy. Good readers are skilled in the art of reading other people and using these cues to whittle down the inherent polysemy of the cards and create a meaningful “sentence” in the cards.
How does this apply to the news? It’s an analogy, and any analogy can be pushed too far. However, there are interesting similarities between the environment or ecology of the tarot reading process and the environment/ecology of news production. As always, representation is a problematic. For tarot, the question is does the reading reflect the querent’s life or destiny? For news, does the content accurately or adequately reflect something true about the world?

Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’ as artifact

From Retronaut, a great image of a 3.5″ floppy disk delivering “OK Computer” as an .exe file. It’s not entirely clear whether this is the album or a screensaver, or both. Regardless, “OK Computer” definitely seems more native to floppy disk than vinyl.

Other albums in this category:

  1. Kraftwerk’s “Computer World”
  2. Brian Eno’s “Nerve Net”
  3. Pretty much everything else Kraftwerk did.