Let me start with the possibly too cute observation that the words “content” meaning “to appease the desires of” and “content” meaning “the topics or matter treated in a written work”… are spelled the same. Back to that in a moment.
In a New York Times article last week, Seth Schiesel goes on at some length about the new Xbox 360 and what a great device it is. “The graphics are incredibly detailed, life-like and vivid, far beyond anything conceivable in the current generation of game consoles.” Later he praises the thing’s promise, stating that it is “the first product to truly deliver on the concept of an easy-to-use home video hub.”
Then the bad news: The games that have been developed for Xbox 360, so far, are kind of, hmm, dull. With the exception of one car racing game, Schiesel was not rocked by the software.
Now put this alongside similar complaints about other super cool entertainment and communication devices. Cell phone merchants are all over us about getting video delivery on our cell phones. But the preeminent TV commercial for cell phone video delivery shows users watching a Shakira music video and variously imitating her sexual dance moves. It feels like a futuristic promise, but it doesn’t really strike you as something you have to get up early tomorrow and sign up for.
Another scene. I’m sitting around with some of my TV writing buddies and there’s a funny conversation about high definition TV. One person points out that if you tape or “film” a show in hi def, there’s a risk because the format is so clear and defined it makes fake backdrops of city skylines and neighborhood houses look really, really fake. Then there’s the problem of having every wrinkle, zit and bad make-up job revealed with breath taking detail. In other words, it’s bad news for Cher.
Then there’s one of my favorite quandaries about tech toys: That while we can now talk to anybody at anytime on any number of devices, and send pictures to back up whatever it is we’re prattling on about… most of that information is, hmm, dull. Not that special. “Nice picture of your dog. But it is a picture of a dog. And I wasn’t that spellbound by the phone calls we’ve been having about your mutt.”
This isn’t to dismiss the way information technology has transformed 21st century business. Although in here somewhere I might point out that one of the problems during the Katrina disaster was that even emergency services cell phone communications were wiped-out by the power of nature. Wind and rain trump technology. Not a new story, but one worth thinking about.
It’s possible that we’ve reached a point, much sooner than anyone suspected, at which our new delivery systems have far outstripped our ability to deliver. If you think of your TV set and movie theaters as old school delivery systems, you know what’s happening to those industries. People are not going to the movies like they used to, and TV is back to trying 3-D glasses as a way of boosting audience numbers. A recent NBC showing of “Medium” employing 3-D specs tucked into TV Guide magazines failed to deliver an impressive bump in ratings.
Meanwhile, a family member persuaded me to finally read The DaVinci Code.. The book is a page-turner, with some chapters less than one page long. But the story weaves history, Byzantine religious sects and secrets, and an almost laughably complicated murder scene into a driven narrative. In other words, there’s some content. It’s my suspicion that the book’s success might hinge on the possibility that all this stuff, these ideas, are giving people something to think about. And so while they’re reading it, they’re content.
This Week’s “Know Your News” Quiz
1) A toxic spill in China highlighted
(a) China covers-up ecological
(b) dead fish know something we
(c) Bush might get a job there.
2) New laws allowing all-night
drinking in England
(a) make it a great place to drive.
(b) capitulate to a brewer’s lobby.
(c) enhance family life.
3) Ariel Sharon’s new political party
will be called
(c) Same Old Same Old.
1) (a) “Three headed frogs are
2) (b) “How ’bout a 40 ounce
nightcap…?”3) (a) “Give “Peace” a chance…”