Sunday, May 18, 2008

Non-Linear Thoughts

The debate over Nature and Nurture has long raged. Can you effectively override the natural tendencies in the way you nurture them? We have long heard phrases such as ‘You are what you eat.’ Lenin once said, ‘Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.’ Perhaps we should now add ‘You are what you read’ or ‘You are how you read’?

Does the fragmented and networked nature of content on the web change not just how we consume information but also how we process it? Do we now think non-linear and do the Internet and its non-linear presentation and consumption actually feed this change and if so what are the implications? Is it less of a case of familiarity with technology but more of familiarity with the way we actually ingest and process information that make the Internet and online world of reading and learning the seed change?

We have long promoted that ebook readers and the current conversion of 250 pages of text into 250 pages of digital content is transitional. The challenge is not just to adopt the technology but adapt it to do things differently, exploit its true potential, learn from the experience and move on to the next step change. Merely taking today’s content and converting it into digital content follows the logic that digital is merely just another format or manifestation and that it will be read the same way. This is the greatest challenge to many genre: travel, reference, religion, art and design, craft etc, who can do things differently in the digital world and must not be drawn into mere replication.

Today’s greatest success is Google. Is this new paradigm of search and discovery changing the way we think and consume information? Is it making us all more non-linear? How many times do we find ourselves jumping around a network, quickly evaluating, maybe dismissing maybe jumping off into different directions and maybe mining further, but always trying to join the dots?

So what becomes of the novel in the digital non-linear world? Well if it ain’t broke don’t fix it is one viewpoint and the other is to look closer at how content creation has changed in countries such as Japan and South Korea. What did we before the 250 page book?