Saturday, April 07, 2007

Cross country for cross-media (12)

In one the last presentations at CMID07, I felt uneasy. Mikael Wiberg, associate professor at the CMID research Group of the Department of Informatics at University of Umea, sprang a surprise at me. He started to comment on the axiom of media as separated form and content and work towards integrated media.

Mikael writes in his lecture Midgets: Exploring the Design Space for Truly Liquid Media: In the early 90’s the slogan Information wants to be free” was a popular, and important phrase that described and guided much of the development of the Internet infrastructure. Similarly the phrase “The medium is the message” has made a great impact on how we think about media as a design material, i.e. we have had a tradition of looking at media as content separated from its form and we have thus made a distinction between media objects as content and media players as form. Thus an alternative interpretation of the famous slogan “The media is the message” might be that media is only about content, whereas it s form is left out to a dedicated media player which typically only supports a limited number of formats, or forms. Today, we can see this problem growing fast due to the development of new media formats and adoption of new media standards, and as a result of this people end up with media converters of various kinds for dealing with the current gap between media objects and media containers, e.g. media players.

He proposes to look towards integrated media. He compares the concept of integrated media to the sign in the language theory: a sign is composed of 1) a signifier (significant) – the form which the sign takes; and 2) the signified (signifié) – the concept which its represent. Analogue to this concept he presents a similar two-part model of integrated media. In this two-part model of a media object no separation exists between form and content; instead form and content are fully integrated in the same container, i.e. the media object. The interface, or “the bar” is thus between a certain media content and its corresponding media form.

He continues to argue that we now have technology to move away from traditionally separated media towards new digital and integrated media. By doing so a next step in the development can be taken: the fluid or liquid character of new media can be explored. He envisions that in the nearby future we can assume that media will move freely across different technological platforms, across different media formats and across different networks. Media will appear more as liquids than as solids. So liquid media are a next point of departure for exploring the design space of media.

Based on the conceptual exploration of integrated media objects and the liquid concept and based on research in focus groups, he has formulated a vision of “midget” design, i.e. a design of small, lightweight, interactive and integrated media objects that can live across heterogeneous media platforms. A midget is similar to the small widgets that integrate information (content) and form (executable application), that offer small programs. Likewise midgets could be thought of as small self-contained, remixable and executable media object, that can move freely across heterogeneous interaction landscapes.

Mikael can imagine several activities arising around midgets such as social sharing of midgets, co-viewing of midgets, midget mixing, and midget post-productions. Following this idea he sees a new media ecology arising that adopts a new life cycle model of media. While the traditional media cycle has consisted of a flow from media production, editing, and distribution to media consumption, with free moving midgets we can start to imagine a cycle of media creation, sharing, re-production, re-mixing, re-distribution, together with new forms of social interaction arising around these activities. As such these midgets would incorporate the liquid or elastic aspects of digital media.

This presentation is worthwhile to chew on, at least for me. I thought in the eighties that the separation of content and form was the best thing possible to move in digital media. In this way we could move texts and photographic images from print to CD-ROMs and online. But it is worthwhile to start thinking about the consequences of liquid media.

Blog Posting Number: 717

Tags: cross-media, liquid media, widgets, midgets, , ,

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