Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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Hacking a Medium

Even before my McLuhan post a few days ago I had been thinking a lot about the idea of hacking a written medium: Essentially using it in different and news ways that it might not have been originally intended.

In the link to my recent Boards Magazine article I mentioned, “Also, I started the article with this, ‘If you don’t feel like reading this article here are the talking points.’ Which made me laugh, but also it was kind of my way to hack a printed article. (As a side note, I’ve been noticing that when I write I use a lot more parentheses than ever before, especially in print. I kind of think this is in place of hyperlinks.)” Essentially it was an attempt (not necessarily a good one) to apply the dynamics of one medium to another (just as I mentioned using parentheses a lot more lately, which seem like the closest thing writing has to a hyperlink).

Anyway, the comments to the McLuhan post made me think more about it (if you haven’t read them, I highly recommend it, as Adam, Charles and Barbara’s comments are all deserving of a post on their own). The first paragraph of Adam’s comment actually sent me reeling. (And on how many other sites do comments come in paragraphs? You guys are all so awesome.)

I’ve long maintained that communication online is ‘talking’ not writing. As you’ve explained, It’s the real-timeness coupled with multimedia-ness that makes it accoustic in nature. Some may think that typed words means writing, but if you were to have a conversation of tapped dots and dashes (morse), or gestured shapes and motions (sign language) you would summarize that experience as having just ‘talked’ to someone not ‘written’ to someone (though you have indeed just ‘written’ information onto a medium even if it were only air). The real-timeness, the wideness of bandwidth to stimulate multiple senses, that’s what makes it talking regardless of the tool being used.

Which got me thinking about what other ways I could mess around with the medium. For awhile I’ve been toying with the idea of doing email back and forth entries (of which I hope to have the first, I conversation with Johnny Vulkan, up soonish). In addition I’ve been thinking about questions and answers. But that seemed too straightforward, so I just thought I’d generally ask you all, what’s on your mind? What have you been thinking about? What should we talk about?

No idea if this will work. Also, if you’d like slightly more tough brief (as we learned from Brian Eno, limitations are helpful), I’m going out to Montana in a few weeks to talk to a class about technology, media and the internet. What should I talk about? I figure I’ll go back through the archives to get a sense of what I’ve been thinking about, but I also thought it was worthwhile to open up the question.

So yeah, that’s about it. Not a ton of rhyme or reason here, so feel free to talk about whatever you’d like in the comments.

March 27, 2009