Dispatches SXSW Interactive

Unthinkable idea #1: Media is the massage.

I’m here in Austin for SXSW in search of the tremors before they become trends, through the lens of interactive culture. I’m encountering unthinkable ideas. Last night, I met with the incomparable Guy Kawasaki. Ever the evangelist for Silicon Valley’s start-up culture, Guy shot straight about his new book and his role in creating the next wave of startups. One thing you need to know about Guy is that he’s funny. Its part of his charm. But its also a weapon he wields to fend off gloomy questions about the economy. Talking with him gives the impression that either the Valley isn’t feeling the pain that’s so visceral in say, New York or Detroit, or he’s a ninja optimist.

Guy’s new book, Reality Check is a reference guide for start-ups. He cobbled it from his blog. He described the process: Guy hired a 14 year old to print and sort 1,400 blog posts. Then came the processing, synthesizing, and categorizing to fuse disparate streams of consciousness that characterize blogging. So, book blogging happens in two processes: you blog, then you massage the content into a book.

This notion of blogging one’s way to a book is not new. Chris Anderson blogged his way to the Long Tail. Seth Godin has been blogging his books for some time now. Later at a party in the blogger’s lounge I was chatting with fellow bloggers about this and it struck me–the medium is the massage. if you’ll forgive my ripping off McLuhan’s prescient mantra: The medium is the message, I want you to consider that the next wave will be more about massaging, less about creating.

The idea is that as many more of us become content creators, the challenge in our lives and in our culture will be to massage the content. That has to do with privacy, mediated identities and moving content across platforms and formats so that people find audiences for their expressions.

Everyone here at SXSW seems focused on how to grow their audiences, one way or another. And what content creators seem eager for is making their ideas tangible. Not just to touch, meaning hand held, but in a sensory way. This striving toward the uber sensate is driven by the need to be made real–be seen–be heard. So I think we can expect more fusion between traditional culture and new media, concrete contexts and virtual space, and online communities and identities and branded experiences because people will welcome it to achieve a larger end of massaging their content to attract more peeps. Audience = community=context. This is on the way toward building a new culture. This is what it looks like right before a renaissance.