Friday, October 14, 2011

pre-parenthesis post-parenthesis

Is digital/social/mobile culture - in a way - a return to an uncontained, non-linearity that was core to human societies in the ages before industrialization, mass production and, in particular, the invention, by Gutenberg, of the printing press?

The concept of a ‘Gutenberg Parenthesis’ – as formulated by Prof. L. O. Sauerberg of the University of Southern Denmark and propagated by Thomas Pettitt from the same university - is a way of identifying and understanding the roughly 500 year period we are emerging from…

‘…during which the mediation of texts through time and across space was dominated by powerful permutations of letters, print, pages and books. Our current transitional experience toward a post-print media world dominated by digital technology and the internet can be usefully juxtaposed with that of the period - Shakespeare's - when England was making the transition into the parenthesis from a world of scribal transmission and oral performance…’

In layperson terms, the natural flow of human communication, customs, legends and storytelling was interrupted by the advent of print and ‘containment’.

Pettitt describes the “imprisonment” of words during this Parenthesis.

‘They were pressed onto pages, stitched up, bound, with stories circumscribed by beginning, middle and end -- so unlike story telling and other kinds of cultural production in previous times, when oral traditions meant dynamically changing texts and performances.’

In essence, and in post-parenthesis times, we are looking forward and seeing something that looks more like the past than the present. An uncontained, fluid, secondary orality, but digitally-powered and supported by super-literacy.

Thomas Pettitt on the Gutenberg Parenthesis from Nieman Journalism Lab on Vimeo.

So what’s this got to do with advertising?

The notion of the advertising campaign that still prevails is straight out of the Parenthesis.

The assumption that an advertising campaign will have a beginning, middle and end.

The assumption that a campaign will be a complete thing, controlled and consistent in message and appearance across every media - static and unchanging – original, individual and autonomous.

Looking at it, the advertising campaign is Parenthical and pure containment.

The reality, of course is that in the emerging post-parenthical culture is the complete antithesis, and ergo the challenge for advertising.

How does it exist in the context of sampling, remixing and re-contextualising?

How does brand planning become adaptive and agile?

In a non-linear digital culture where the past and present exist in the same plane where the even the biggest most powerful brands still have to compete with everything else on the internet for attention?

Where more content is being uploaded to the web each day in 2011 than was produced in the entire history of the internet prior to 2004?

Where access (uncontained) to media is trumping ownership (contained)?

Uncontained footnote: I gotta tell you, I’m into week four of TV detox, (ie no terrestrial or cable/sattelite TV) and have not missed it one jot. We have the BBCiplayer international on the ipad and stuff I’ve downloaded off the net but that’s it. It’s pure intention economy TV.

In post-parenthasis context, I'm joining the dots between these two statements (30 years apart but in close harmony).

Arianna Huffington, of the Huffington Post, who declared recently:
'self-expression has become the new entertainment.'
Why spend hours every day passively consuming the creativity (or otherwise) of others?

Echoing Malcolm McLaren from much longer ago who states that:
'In a DIY Culture there are no commodities'.
The point of The Sex Pistols was not to sell records but to create 5,000 other bands.

Obviously, in it's inherent fluidity, post-parenthesis doesn't have a fixed point in time, different cultures and subcultures have moved out at different times. Advertising, as a concept, may be one of the next to pop out the other side of the blip?

Anyway, that's all for now. Thanks to Johnnie Moore who's been pointing me in this direction...

blog comments powered by Disqus