As I prepare to take a few days off and unplug from the grid, I’m thinking about the past and the present. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
I mean, isn’t it interesting how our “best new” communications technologies keep flip flopping? Think about it. We started our electronic communications (we won’t go into the whole Pony Express thing) through the wire. Telegraph stations were set up all over the country. If you wanted to send a message, you went to your local Western Union station and sent a telegram. Newspapers around the world found the telegraph as the best way to extend their reach outside the local community, and gathered news this way.
And then came the telephone. If you wanted to talk with a friend, a neighbor, or a coworker, you called them via a “land-line.”
But then, we had the ability to send signals through the air. At first, this technology was considered as spooky as witchcraft…I mean, in order to send signals without a wire had to have something to do with Satan, right? But we learned about electromagnetic propagation and build a business system around the radio and television.
We even called living room radio “the wireless.” Today, we call all unteathered technologies “wireless.” But before we got here, we went back to the wire to get our television. Cable Television, or Community Antenna Television (CATV) was the rage, and we went back to the wire.
Ham and Citizen Band Radios allowed us to communicate two-way, and wirelessly. Ham radios allowed us to talk with people around the word, wirelessly. CB Radios allowed us to talk with each other in our local commutes, to 10-4 that big buddy, and go 10-8 and 10-10.
Today, we use wireless and wired technologies interchangeably. For example, I have a cable modem, yet receive satellite TV. I have a land-line at the house, and my mobile phone to take with me outside of the house. I have a wireless USB connection for my Skype phone, that unteather’s me from the computer.
Flip Flop. Mix match.
And we required licenses. If you wanted to talk with people around the world wirelessly, then you had to take a test and send in a fee. Ham Radio operators needed to learn Morse Code and get certified for their licenses. CB operators had to take a little test and pay a little fee for their licenses. I can still remember my citizen’s band license number: KPB-5312.
Today, there are no licenses to talk with people around the world. Today, there are no licenses required to “broadcast” your own “radio show” (podcast) or to your own “television show” (video podcast), which has in turn created a new way relationship between the content “producer” and the content “consumer.”
In the early part of the 20th century, we used to gather around the campfire, and tell each other stories. Then with film, radio, and television, we gatehred around devices (screens and radios) to let other people tell us stories. Today, however, we are creating our own stories and syndicating them around the world. We have flip-flopped our way back to being content producers again.
With Creative Commons licenses, we are mixing and matching the roles of the content producer and the content consumer.
The interesting part is that no matter what the change-du jour is, no matter whether we are flipping, or flopping, or mixing or matching, we have a similar flaw in our approach. We always seem to take the old way of communicating and translate it literally into the new medium, first. Then, after some experimentation, after some innovators try some wild and crazy idea that nobody in their right mind would ever dream about, we see the light.
For example, instead of writing in Morse Code, which taught us how to be brief in our communications, we exercise our creativity by telling our stories in 143 characters or less:-)
Just something to think about as I flip off the screen to flip through a book, while flopping onto a lounge chair, and mixing and matching a few adult beverages.