Part 4: . . . and the Flash, iPad and mobile device saga continues

The WEB is Dead Wired article I mentioned in my prior post reminds readers of the distinction between the Internet and the WEB. An important distinction as we try to grasp our new media roles and the future of all. The Internet is best thought of as a delivery medium – it delivers the WEB and its “sites,” but also iTunes, Netflix, phone apps, Facebook, email, online games, etc. The WEB is your browser and HTML. The Internet is apps. The WEB is open. Apps delivered over the Internet are closed.

The “problem” (as seen by business) with the wide open WEB is that business has not been able to harness it and make money off of it. For a time, it was thought that ads were the answer. But as more and more people have accessed the WEB, ad revenue has actually gone down. Because there is no concentration of people anywhere to make advertising worthwhile. The users are diluted all over the WEB. TV was a great example of the value of a media to advertising: when a show was popular, advertisers could count on a concentrated and captive audience. No such model has existed in the wide open WEB. And in open and closed Internet locales, like Facebook, users have simply not been watching or clicking on those banner ads. Yes, give us control, and we are more difficult to manipulate!

I run a WEB and interactive media department at a private art college in Los Angeles. People frequently call me, and parents meet with me, to ask about the future of the WEB and Internet. Since I took this position two years ago I have stated: we teach students to create content; the Internet is simply a delivery medium for content. Like a TV broadcast station. People often look at me askew when I say that. “But don’t you teach them to code web pages and design user interfaces?” I tell them, “Yes, of course. But the important stuff we teach on my watch is how to conceptualize and develop compelling content, for that is where it is at.”

Chris Anderson’s share of the Wired article refers to the new WEB as being about “apps” not WEB sites. Michael Wolff then pops in with his case for “content” being the future. They are really talking about the same thing I think. And, hurrah!, now I can refer people to this article when they look at me askance talking about content as the pinnacle of interactive new media – however we have to code it to deliver it, and wherever we “broadcast” it from.

My primary interest in this whole topic, from the point of view of a creator, a new media author, and a supporter of a democratic internet as the ideal, lies in what Anderson refers to as the “inevitability of corporate control of all content” – he refers to it as “the cycle of capitalism.”

When Steve Jobs settled on ePub as the book format for his iPad and iBook Store, he took us back in time by about 20 interactive media years. EPub lets us make digital type books with some pictures in it. Advances will allow for some video. But we interactive writers and creators have been using Flash, other apps and other coding languages to create rich, interactive content that can include music, animation, video and all sorts of forms of interactivity for years. Now Jobs not only took us backwards as far as what we can do with interactive authoring and deliverables but he has also wrestled control of our content from content creators (that “hope” for the democratic Internet and content creation reality we all dreamed of). If we want our new media books to be sold in his store, we must format it in this primitive ePub form and give him complete control of our audience/buyers. If, on the other hand, we want to keep control, we can publish our books on our own WEB sites, and know who our audiences are via registration, RSS feed sign-ups, etc. We can do our own marketing to our own audiences, but even more important, we can dialogue directly with our audience. This dialogue could/will be one of the most important aspects of modern writing! How sad if Jobs and others wrestle away the potential for that dialogue from new media creators.

How sad if Anderson is correct and monopolistic control of our content is inevitable. If new media, the WEB, the Internet, do indeed go the way of the democratic promise of radio and TV and electricity and the phone – ultimately owned and controlled by a handful of corporate “interests” there to make money rather than enhance everyone’s lives and the potential of creating new artistic and communication visions. If the exciting promise of the “interactive” WEB/Internet for expanding the potential of creative processes is stifled by a group of guys who want to own everything.

Let’s not kid ourselves. When Jobs and others talk about how they want to keep the WEB/Internet “open,” they are using ad jargon, saying what we want to hear although it has no foundation in reality. Kind of like the dishwasher I bought: the noisiest one I ever owned, that had “Quiet” pasted all over the front of it in the store. Job’s current vision is a closed Internet. He and other corporate control types can’t own an Open Internet or WEB.

Will someone please send each of these CEOs a guitar and a few guitar lessons? Maybe if we could engage them in acts of creation rather than ownership, we could throw an antidote into this whole inevitable mess described by Anderson and Wolff.

More next week.

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