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Publishing as a social medium

I’m at our Tools of Change for Publishing conference in New York this morning, listening to Doug Rushkoff saying “The internet is not interactive media. It’s interpersonal media,” and explaining why the 50s went from a pack of gum with a baseball card to a pack of baseball cards with a stick of gum. “Baseball cards were a more social medium.” He explains the history of publishing as the history of social media. “When we bought a record, we didn’t just want a connection with the singer singing the song, but we also wanted an excuse to invite our friends over to listen to it. We want that first edition of a James Joyce book because he might have touched it…. We’re looking for an excuse to be with each other…. Publishers have to give their customers an excuse to interact. If they aren’t doing that [online], it’s just another form of marketing.”

This was also a theme in the first talk of the morning, from Steven Abram, who said “Facebook is the new threat to publishers, not Google.”

Getting back to the talk. But if you want to follow the conference, there’s looking to be good coverage on O’Reilly’s new Tools of Change blog (toc.oreilly.com). So far, we have the following coverage from the conference:

As well as some earlier posts:

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  • I mark the end of the interpersonal era with the invention of the Sony Walkman. Since that watershed event, it’s been permissible to “tune in, turn off, and drop out” by allowing one to isolate himself while surrounded by thousands of people, along with the ability to ignore anything that’s going on around them.
    On the flip side, another bane of society — the cell phone — lets users be connected to anyone not in their immediate presence, often while managing to annoy those who ARE there by subjecting them to the callers’ conversations.

  • Chad Capellman

    Taking the baseball card analogy 50-years forward, I noticed this in a Boston.com story on 23-year-old Red Sox pitcher Clay Bucholz: “It used to be a young ballplayer longed for his own baseball card. Now, validation comes when he takes out his PlayStation 3 and there’s a lifelike digital facsimile of him, bearing his name, ready to come to life at the touch of a joystick.”

    And for the majority of PlayStation and other users, thanks to the ability to play with others around the world, I’d like to counter that for every device that might help to separate us, there is one that can help bring more people together, albeit on different terms than we have been accustomed to in the past.