March 12, 2004

The Metaphor Isn't Hierarchy, It's Chaos

API President and Executive Director Andrew Davis gave this presentation yesterday afternoon.

He doesn't get it, though he is a great speaker in a way, polished, professional, at home in front of all these people. But he showed us slides that were so boring none of us at the blogging table watched, though I did look up to see the slide of hierarchy as part of his half hour presentation this afternoon.

And he doesn't see that it's obsolete, hierarchy. The internet is horizontal. Ditch the hierarchy. What if the metaphor is chaos, the chaos of all your users in the future, breathing the internet for dear life, it's air, experiencing media as wearable, livable, be-able, recombinable. What if my eyeglasses are my newsaggregator, designed by Armani, as Dan Gillmor heard at a conference recently. How do you sell that news? It's one possible path, and it's an extreme metaphor to contemplate, but the point is, the metaphor he's working from is old media. And it's stagnant. Get one that reflects what is happening, and one that is not just a reaction to one that no longer works, cause reactionary metaphors don't cut it.

I'm sure he's a lovely person, but he doesn't get that this is not about an incremental upgrade. This isn't the addition of sound to what was formerly the silent picture biz. This is 40 years earlier, where the second industrial revolution was hitting hand made crafts people and manufactures with interchangeable parts. This is a paradigm shift. This is everything you know, changing, upside down, bouleversement. I have this friend who is a senior VP at IBM, and at dinner last week, he talked about the folding into IBM of Price Waterhouse employees. He told this story of how people from Price Waterhouse are destroyed by the old way that company treated them. One guy he described, because of PW socialization, though he had to be away from home, from his wife and kids, to be on some annual audit, and while there, his wife died of cancer. And from my friend's point of view, this person cannon be folded into IBM. He is too damaged, and cannot deal in this new IBM culture. I was appalled, because I hate the idea that people would be shut down like that, discarded, especially when it's not their fault, because they were treated so badly for so long by PW, and I feel that IBM as purchaser of PW has a responsibility to help them, make them productive, rehabilitate them. But in light of this situation with media and the digital disintermediation, I look at the hierarchy presentation and wonder if the IBM example doesn't apply in one sense: that if old media cannot grasp what is happening, then maybe the can't be brought into the fold of the new paradigm. Maybe that's too harsh, but really, this presentation was so out of touch. I'm sorry to say it, because API invited me here to blog this, paid for me to come, but I cannot in good conscience not say anything about this. I know journalism is a religion, and the practitioners are hardcore, but your friend is openness and a willingness to go to the next step. Right now old media is working with homemade hammers and were talking air compressor nail guns.

Frankly, yesterday, we could have stuffed the whole day into the first two hours to get everyone up to speed, and then gotten on to the real deal which is, your metaphors only work in analog media, and you aren't in the analog biz anymore, so lets brainstorm what the new metaphors are, which lead to the new questions, which lead to new answers. Instead, we sat in the binary morass (as Howard Rheingold stated doesn't work) they still think it is: either traditional media or new, either edited or blog, either paper or online, either either either, argue argue argue, blah blah blogs. They're a crude tool anyway. Who cares. Let's get down to it chaotic, horizontal, citizen, not organized, not controllable media. That's what we should be forging ahead on.

Does it matter that I say this? No. Does it matter that big media doesn't have a clue? No. Because the reality is, this paradigm is here. Whether we like it or not. It's what is, and we can talk or not, get a clue or not. But it will keep rolling along. With or without us.

Posted by Mary Hodder at March 12, 2004 07:18 AM | TrackBack

Hi Mary... the link to the presentation seems to be broken (it redirects to the root site of the URL).

Posted by: joe at March 13, 2004 02:01 PM

thanks joe. fixed it.

Posted by: mary hodder at March 14, 2004 08:59 AM