Originality is Overrated

“The Web browser itself is about to croak. And good riddance. In its place … broader and deeper new interfaces for electronic media are being born. […] While the traditional forms – broadcast, print – show few signs of vanishing, the Net is being invaded by new media species.”

As far as the Internet goes, you will never hear anyone refer to it as “unoriginal” or call it a “copycat” of other medias. Sit down and think about it. What does the Internet do that has not already been done by another medium? Television and news programs: available on the Internet – you even get the commercials! Magazines and eBooks: available on the Internet. Shopping and browsing: available on the Internet.

You may have noticed a trend here. You may have thought to yourself, “Yes, the Internet does these things, but the Internet is more interactive.” This is true. It is also true that the Internet would not be what it is or successful without improving upon its predecessors. The Internet does nothing that has not already been done; it does, however, do everything better and focuses on the user.

Let’s explore the aforementioned examples. When it comes to television programs, people generally are unable to watch all the programs they want at the designated time. There are several alternatives including recording the program onto a VHS [ghetto], recording the program onto a DVR [practical], or watch the show online [easiest]. There are pros and cons to each – the most obvious being the recent extinction of VHS tapes, players, and recorders – but it really comes down to preference. The same goes for news programs.

Nowadays, its commonplace to find hash tags (#) scattered across the bottom of screens so the viewers can tweet about and tag the program on the social networking site Twitter. The television brings the Internet into their programs, but really only acknowledges the ability of the Internet to further establish their presence in pop culture. Viewing these programs on the Internet, however, allows the user to view other items pertaining to the program. So, if I watch Gossip Girl on the official CW website, I can play the GG-themed games, read fictional articles about the characters, or shop for clothes and accessories similar to theirs as well as purchase previous seasons on DVD.  On a third party website such as Hulu, I can watch the same show, view photos, and read news articles (nonfiction) about the show, actors and producers.

Magazines and eBooks have become increasingly popular, while increasing the popularity of the print versions of themselves. The advertisements and articles in the print version of the magazine refer the reader to the official website where there is additional media or perhaps a promotional contest the reader could not enter by simply staring at the magazine regardless of the brainpower emitted. If the reader attempts to, however, read the magazine online rather than purchase a copy of the print version, he/she will be shown an article, but not the one in the magazine.

Vanity Fair urges you to subscribe to the magazine before, during and after the attempted reading of a cover story. In fact, I once tried to forward an article I was writing on to a professor rather than copying it because of its insane length, but when I clicked on the link to the article it was something completely different. The same author wrote it, but it was not an excerpt from the article, but a small write-up that focused on a subject hardly mentioned in the print article. Clearly, you cannot have it all for free. There has to be some incentive to buy the paper/hard copy, otherwise the printing and publishing world would have died long ago.

The point I’m trying to make is the Internet is just ” _____ [choose your medium], but better.” It is more geared to the user because it isn’t held back by traditional limitations. In a sense, it is the virtual reality of all mediums. It caters itself to the user and allows the user to choose his/her path.

Works Cited:

Quote is from Remediation by Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin with MIT press, page 221.

The quote was originally from the article “Kill Your Browser” in the March, 1997 number of Wired, written by Kevin Kelly, Gary Wolf, and the other editors.


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