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Written on May 5, 2009, and categorized as Flip side.
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Came across this article by Steve Gillmor, one of the web 2.0 A-listers I should really know more about. It’s full of arcane assertions about internet usage of the most sophisticated kind that are a million miles away from being understood by, let alone representative of, the vast majority of web users.

There’s an anti-snob vigilante part of me which tends to steer well clear of this kind of writing. I find reading it as pointless as attending a houseparty held by particle physics professors. Substitute web intellectuals for particle physicists, or any exaltedly abstruse occupation or recondite hobby, from poetry to science to sport to pigeon-fancying. I have nothing against these people except that they generally inhabit an esoteric world where they remain intelligible only to their peers.

Of course, not every specialist is like this. Steven Hawking managed to popularise black holes and big bangs so that even though most people have the vaguest idea of what they theoretically are, at least the words are in their vocabulary, attached to some connected concepts. Usually, the bulk of the analysis is forgotten, or never comprehended, and while truths can also be misunderstood, the conclusions grasped sans detail are nonetheless broadly accurate.

The same can be applied to a football match. So, the game lasted 90 or so minutes, in this case 93 due to time added on. There was a red card, and half the supporters gloated while half of them cursed. They all left the stadium and went to similar pubs and drank identical beer. The TV pundits analysed the match in detail, the post-match interviewees gave the same comments to press, television and radio. Does it matter which level you were on, the humble scarf-wearer, the millionaire player, or the media? One side lost and the other won. At the end of the day, it was all football.

I have been thinking long and hard about podcasting. I have been podcasting since 2004. I achieved prominence of a sort by being associated with podcasting. I just completed my fiftieth hour of the (ahem) award-winning Pod of Funk. I still maintain many active social connections with podcasters, who I count among my friends. But, to me, the scene has fragmented beyond recognition and in some respects, it is dead on its feet.

Podcasting is media delivered via RSS, the power of the blog hitched up to rich media, aka audio and video. This is why I became interested in Gillmor’s web physics. Forgive me, bear with me, and I’ll explain.

Gillmor says that RSS is dead and paints a picture of changed habits. He says similar things to me, albeit in a completely different style and from a very different perspective, but I don’t think he has seen where the changes he describes are leading. He is partly right except that he ignores the fact that many people use RSS and subscribe to feeds without without knowing or noticing. They drive without having a clue how the engine works which doesn’t make them stupid drivers . He’s also right in that he points to the activities which have replaced RSS-driven content as being “real time” :

The race for realtime is already won. Like the long shot in the Kentucky Derby, realtime has swept past the field as though the rest were sleep-walking. Realtime is the time for artists, for interpreting the stream and sending deeply nuanced signals with humor, music, respect for the dialogue but none for the chattering of the false debates of the cable networks.

Excuse the language, but I wrote here that the live space had replaced asynchronicity. Real time broadcast was once the preserve of the stations and the channels – the live space is the next barrier to fall.

As this happens, a slew of sophisticated cultural forms and practises will morph unrecognisably and disappear, and thankfully, along with them, standards we once held dear will go for good. The replacement forms will probably be hated by intellectuals, and even the cleverest corporations will have a problem nicking them for profit.

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One Comment

  1. Posted 21 August, 2010 at 4:06 am | Permalink

    Strange article. A Lot of blah blah and no substance. Kind of like Podcasting.

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