Monthly Archives: March 2012

My 73 cents

I love the treasure troves of thrift shops and used book stores.  I’ve been known to leave a consignment boutique with a J. McLaughlin tie, a Heineken tray, and the complete recordings of the Police – all in one swoop.  A week ago, I dropped into a used book store I had never visited, and thought I was going to leave empty-handed.  I scoured the shelves and only found trashy romance novels and books about climbing the rusty corporate ladder.  Then, I saw it: the treasure that was awaiting me.

It was an old, beat-up paperback copy of a book called The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, transplanted to my hands from the late 1960s.

I opened it and was sucked into a psychedelic experience of distorted photography, intentional blank pages, and text meant to be read in a mirror.  At the center of this “inventory of effects” was an annual about the evolving media environment.

So, I purchased it.  Given the store’s pricing structure of half-off the publishing price, I dropped all of 73 cents.

When I got home, I opened the book and read the first line:

The medium, or process, of our time—electric technology—is reshaping and restructuring patterns of social interdependence and every aspect of our personal life.”

A chill came over me.  It was as if I was reading a prophetic text, speaking to today’s emerging media and the byproducts of our social networks.

I read on:

“All media are extensions of some human faculty – psychic or physical.” 

This is true across history, and it begs a timeless question.  Should the media solely be regarded as the extension of the human who authored it?  Or is it an extension of our society as a whole, to be rewritten and reshaped on a communal level?

On one side of this two-way street, the content originator is awarded ownership.  The work is a protected asset of the psychic processes that imagined it.  It is a physical appendage that cannot be severed from the source that breathed it life.  Such is the current state of our regulatory climate, with laws governing intellectual and spatial property rights.   Entities such as the Internet Systems Consortium believe the legislation is spot-on.

The other side of this street is more of a cluttered intersection, with all parties thinking they have the right-away.  In this case, the electric technology itself is shaped and restructured by patterns of social interdependence (instead of the other way around). Some Internet contributors oppose legislation they believe would overprotect Internet property rights.  These individuals believe the societal collobaration offered by this model is necessary to ensure media continues to progress at the appropriate rates.

What do you think?  Are property laws, in respect to digital media, necessary to preserve the appropriate ownership of projects?  Or, would society as a whole benefit if the regulations were lifted?

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RTPL Featured band: The Shins

If you’ve seen the movie “GardenState,” you may recall Natalie Portman’s character telling Zach Braff’s character that listening to the Shins would change his life forever.  We think it will change yours as well.  It’s a great time to start this life-altering experience because the Shins will release a new album, “Port of Morrow,” March 20.

Why they make the list: Singer James Mercer.  It’s that’s simple.  Although he will be backed by a completely new lineup for the band’s fourth release, his hauntingly beautiful crooning will still be at the forefront.

Learn more about the Shins: The February edition of Spin Magazine featured an interview with Mercer, where he talks about the band and the upcoming release. He also sheds some light into why he disbanded the ensemble and sought entirely new personnel.  If you didn’t have the chance to pick up a copy of last month’s Spin, you’re in luck.  You can read the interview here, or access the full magazine through your iPad.

To read the article on your iPad, download the “Spin Play” app.  As with the Shins’ music, this app could easily change your life.  At the very least, it will change how you read.  It features a digital, interactive version of the magazine with exclusive videos, streaming playlists, and up-to-the minute news and reviews.

A closer look at Spin Play: As with Mercer transitioning from his old Shins lineup, Spin is embarking upon something entirely new.  They are evolving with the times and catering to their audience.  So, how will a brand with its roots in print journalism measure success in the world of mobile?  Luckily for them, it will not be too different from how they have measured their readership engagement levels for their hard-copy magazine editions:

  • Perceived Usefulness: Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch says the app will live or die by the musical taste of its editors, and how useful the readers find the song recommendations.  This has always been the mark of success for Spin, except now they’re having to hit it head-on.  If readers of the print magazine learned about a band such as the Shins, they would have to later purchase the songs to see if the writers were credible.  Now, the proof is a click away.
  • Navigability: It will be very important for the Spin staff to measure how easy it is for users to navigate the app.  A reader has to scroll through pages, swipe across news updates, and click to launch content.  Yet, they have always had to be mindful of this metric, gauging the ease with which users could navigate through their print layouts.
  • Access: The company will also want to measure the accessibility of their app.  How easy is it to find in the Apple App store, how fast is the download, is it crashing when users try to launch it, and are subscriptions delivered to devices efficiently?  Yet, the magazine has historically had to be mindful of access, monitoring print distribution to subscribers, ensuring well-stocked supplies at retailers, and producing timely monthly editions.

Spin is fortunate that they have already established an online presence through the magazine’s website.  Many of the factors they need to measure in the mobile realm can be drawn from existing studies used to measure the success of websites.  It will be increasingly important to adapt these practices to mobile.  The Shins are not the only ones planning a March release.  Apple is slated to reveal the new iPad 3 on Wednesday.  If you plan to have one of these gadgets, be sure to use it to check out “Spin Play” – and the Shins!

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