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Commentary & Analysis

The Machine is Us/ing US

By Noel Ward,

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: February 23, 2007

By Noel Ward, Executive Editor February 23, 2007 -- It begins with a white screen. "Text is linear" is scribbled in pencil, modified, erased and modified, again, and again. "Digital text is different" appears, maybe in Times Roman. Then that changes, is added to, expanded over and again, followed by a stream of images, flowing lines of HTML and XML, video clips, web pages, and blogs. There are flashes and snippets of ideas and concepts, and running through it all is the core message that the ways we use information have changed profoundly and forever. The data has come out of the bottle, is growing like a virus run amok, and the ways we will think, live, and communicate from now on are not remotely like anything we have ever experienced. This is all in a 4 minute 31 second video posted on YouTube by Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University. Print is neither mentioned nor seen. But you simply have to see this video, which as I write these words, has had 1,343,151 views: All of us who create and read ODJ are, one way or another, in the communications business. We often talk here about one-to-one marketing, variable data printing, cross-media campaigns and more. These are all driven by information, and the Web is increasingly at the core of the way data is created, stored, accessed, shared, used, repurposed, modified, and updated. A key understanding to take away from Wesch's video is that this is a time when the universe changes--a point after which nothing is really the same and we move forward with a new view of our place in the world. Other times the universe changed came with gunpowder, the printing press, the steam engine, the airplane, the telephone, the personal computer. What such key revelations all bring us to, as some of the last seconds of the clip show, is that it becomes time to rethink a host of things. I bring this up because despite the undeniable importance of the Web, print is still a relevant media. But for it to remain so, everyone who creates and produces it has to find the best ways to integrate print with a full range of Web-based tools and applications. PURLs, videos, blogs, social networking, and more can all be liked to print when the people creating and producing a printed document have the imagination to see that the printed page has life beyond its physical being. Many print industry leaders have been saying for some time that print providers who think only in terms of putting ink or toner on a page are not going to be with us very much longer. That's a fact. Everyone who is moving forward in this industry is finding ways to make the Web a part of their business. All are faced with numerous challenges and will readily admit that it is not a smooth ride. But they keep moving. Watch this video. And think more about the Web and what you can do to relate print to the Web for your business and that of your customers.



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