May 09, 2004

Translating Doc Searls and Ernie Miller

There is every chance that I'll totally screw this up, that I'm getting this wrong. But I just spent an hour talking to Ernie Miller, who started out by saying that Doc, who's been talking about the content metaphor, the commodification of knowledge and containers and why this doesn't work for him because it leads to business as shipping as a metaphor, is missing the point. In our conversation this morning, Doc said he'd like to see the shipping as business metaphor unpacked and rethought, to include a kind of humanity that the content metaphor doesn't now allow us.

But by the end of the call with Ernie, I realized that he and Doc are saying things that actually agree, but they are talking about them with words that they each mean differently. Doc is talking about shipping as a container to be shipped, with content inside, and wants the content to be regarded as a reflection of our humanity. It's a noun Doc is referring to there in the container. Though I don't think he is putting forth a replacement for what he sees as a very broken metaphor, that leads to the property metaphor when dealing with content, which props up the broken copyright system we now have.

Ernie is talking about content, regardless of its importance, so that as an indistinguishable item, it cannot be discriminated against, no matter how base a reflection of ourselves it is, and that the real issue is that in its indistinguishable state, distribution is what matters for speech and first amendment protection. And through the conduit of the speech metaphor, we get the humanity to speak whatever we are, and it's all protected, regardless of what it is. Even with commodification, there is a recognition of equality of speech across media types and expressions. Ernie is talking about the verb of shipping, where the act of shipping is distribution and to him that is most important.

To state it simply, it's shipping as a container (noun) which is a bad metaphor verses shipping as distribution (verb) which is a good metaphor. They are both using shipping but thinking of them in two different ways, where Doc is wanting to stop the use of the bad metaphor, but doesn't yet have a replacement, and Ernie is thinking about information existing only in it's transfer, where if you can't transfer it, it's meaningless. And it is in the transferal, via a network, and the act of shipping, that the word shipping gets meaning for him as a first amendment protected speech mechanism.

(Now, back to work!)

Posted by Mary Hodder at May 9, 2004 10:13 PM | TrackBack