New media is two words, not one
If you go on TED.com you’ll see Evan Williams, the guy who created Twitter, speaking about how he still isn’t sure what it’s going to end up being used for.
Sometimes the invention happens before there’s a need for it. Our minds work on a supply and demand basis. But technological innovation isn’t always like that.
There wasn’t any demand for Twitter. But he thought it was a great idea, and people like great ideas.
So he just thought he’d put it out there and see what people did with it.
The same was true of Akio Morita, founder of Sony.
In the 1970s, one of his engineers came up with a little tape-cassette player that gave fantastic sound.
But you couldn’t record on it, and it only played back over headphones.
Sony’s marketing department rejected it. They said there was no demand for such a thing.
Akio Morita overruled them, he said it provided such great sound, people would find a way to use it.
That became the Sony Walkman.
When Steve Jobs started Apple his vision was always to create a computer hardware company to rival IBM. He didn’t invent the personal computer.
Rank Xerox engineers did, at PARC. They invented the mouse, the scroll down menu, and WISYWIG (a screen where ‘What You See Is What You Get’). Everything you know today as the personal computer. But the board at Rank Xerox rejected it. The public weren’t asking for domestic computers, so why supply a demand that didn’t exist?
So Steve Jobs took everything Rank Xerox didn’t want and launched the 1984 MacIntosh.
He let the public tell him what they wanted to use a computer for.
When you make the invention you can’t always see what the world’s going to do with it. Marconi thought the purpose of wireless would be to bring Church services to people in remote areas.
He didn’t know it would be used for radio stations, because they didn’t exist then.
In the 1930s, the people who invented radar didn’t know they were inventing a means of detecting the unseen. They were trying to invent a Death Ray that could destroy enemy aircraft.
As a Death Ray the invention was a failure, because the ‘rays’ just kept bouncing back. And that became radar.
When something is first invented it’s just technology. Then it gets absorbed into people’s lives and changes what exists. It doesn’t replace it, it doesn’t mean the death of it, it changes it.
We add it to what we’ve got. Like everyone else, I go online at Amazon to buy books. But I don’t use Amazon to browse books. I use it to send books to friends, or order books I already know I want.
I don’t spend the lunch hour online at Amazon, browsing through their shelves like I do in Waterstones. I go to Amazon with an answer not a question.
The same with Ocado. My wife uses the website to deliver heavy, regular purchases. Bottled water, cleaning products, paper towels, bathroom tissue, cases of wine. But she doesn’t use it for food shopping.
She enjoys walking around Waitrose or the local deli. Seeing new things, smelling the aromas, maybe tasting something, getting ideas.
We can both get involved on a visceral level at the shops in a way we can’t onlne. So online is an addition to our lives, not an alternative.
You see ‘new media’ is two words. And although everyone falls in love with the first word, it’s just an adjective. The second word, the noun, is more important.It might be new, but it’s still media.
My son’s reading ’20,000 Leagues Under The Sea’ by Jules Verne on his iPhone every morning on the tube. He downloaded 20 classic books, including Kipling, Kafka, and Dickens, from iTunes for 60p.
So you see, you don’t have to junk everything existing just because something new happens. Great stuff still works.
That’s the difference between a good idea and a technique. If you’ve got a good idea it can go anywhere. But if it’s dependent on a particular media, and won’t work anywhere else. Then it’s not an idea it’s a technique. That hasn’t changed since cave painting.