– Today’s Next Big Something is so wrapped in hype it’s tough to see what’s really going on. And as the hype solidifies into conventional wisdom, almost anyone can recite the narrative. It goes like this: The online revolution is happening now. The revolution will facilitate interaction through the digital exchange of information. By exchanging information, we grow closer as a community. By exchanging information, we become free. Blah, blah, blah.
– But what if conventional wisdom is wrong? What if the crystal-ball narrative doesn’t turn out as planned? What if, a decade or so from now, we wake up to find that the digisphere has been overrun by swarms of inane mass marketeers – people who believe that “interacting” is something you do with a set-top box that provides only an endless stream of movies-on-demand, bargains overflowing from virtual shopping malls, and spiffy videogames?
– It has happened before.
– This isn’t the first time a new medium has come along, promising to radically transform the way we relate to one another. It isn’t even the first time a fellowship of amateur trailblazers has led the charge across the new media hinterland. Radio started out the same way. It was a truly interactive medium. It was user-dominated and user-controlled. But gradually, as the airwaves became popular, that precious interactivity was lost. We need to understand how that happened.
Ever since I’ve been doodling around on apps/tools like Notion1, Tinderbox2 and Roam3, I feel constrained when I look at the flow of text on a regular book.
Of course, it had to be that way in the beginning, because the printed word began with movable type, which had to be laid out in rows, and the page was composed of rows, and so words flowed top to bottom.
But (okay, speaking for myself here) I don’t think like that, and I don’t read like that either. If someone were to track my eye movement on the page of a book, it’s not dissimilar to that of a long-form article in the browser.
I don’t go left-to-right, top-to-bottom, I’m always darting around, going back and forth, summarizing as I go along, judging whether I want to proceed.
It would be interesting to see — while keeping the medium of paper — have a more random layout, perhaps with arrows linking blocks of text … maybe using colors and labels on links …. Just breaking down the wall of text that exists right now into tiny little pieces.