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August 1, 2006

News & Opinion: Get Back In the Box - All The Connections

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 3:38 PM – Filed under: Innovation & Creativity

This is post number two in a series on Doug Rushkoff's Get Back In The Box.

The next important theme is his chapter titled The Networked Reality. Here he makes a variety of points on how the media and the net are changing people's view of the world. I know that is a bold, overused statement, but consider these three anecdotes.

Shows like The Simpsons arose to challenge the traditional story format and present a new structure more compatible with a screenager's sensibility. Each Simpsons episode might have a traditional narrative arc, but only unsophisticated actually care whether Homer survives a nuclear accident or keeps his job. The more media-savvy viewer, for whom the show is written, is involved in very different narrative. The Simpsons isn't a single story as much as a series of media satires. Each scene is a send-up of a media or cultural institution. One scene satirizes an Alfred Hitchcock film, the next one a presidential campaign ad; and the next one cleverly mocks the ethos underlying Disneyland. The reward for the viewer is not the great release at the end of the heroic arc, but the joy of making connections between the scenes they are watching and the things being critiqued. It's not a postponement of joy, waiting for the hero's great reversal; it's an instantaneous sense of recognition, a way to make sense of the increasingly complex landscape, and a series "aha" moments that comprise the viewing satisfaction for the screenager.

Rushkoff goes on to say shows like Mystery Science Theatre and South Park also fit this genre.

The second anecdote takes you to the gaming realm.

So, gamers move through the same three stages as our society: from passive recipients of the rules to individuals worthy of breaking them to author capable of rewriting them. They deconstruct the content of the game, demystify its interface, and then turn the game into a do-it-yourself creative expression. In their path toward innovation, they're not getting out of the box at all, but burrowing deeper inside. Learning the game as well as--or in some cases, better than--the people who developed the game in the first place...[I]t's about finding ways to get behind or, better, in front of this wave of authorial self-determinist energy.

This leads perfectly into the third piece.

Participants in today's renaissance, empowered by the proliferation of networked authoring tools, no longer define themselves by their perspectives, but by their contributions. That's why it's so futile, say to think we can fulfill people's deepest needs by reengineering a brand or corporate identity that is more compatible with one new value or another. It's not about reflecting their perspectives; it's about giving them the chance to reflect and express it, themselves.

These are all important themes.

  • A networked form of storytelling challenges the viewer at every point. Add Scrubs to the list.
  • Individuals are participating every more deeply in their experience whether is it DOOM or the Make Magazine crowd.
  • People want products and services that reflect them. And they are going to be the ones creating them. Think Jones Soda as a starter.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.