The Foundations of Context

Context is basically content’s habitat — whether that be paper and ink, pixels on a screen / monitor, bits in the ether, whatever.

The technological basis of content cannot be overlooked. Media is not merely a channel, it is also the technology itself.

In my previous post, I pointed out that the most basic notion of context that most of us have grown up with is actually bogus: Fact vs. fiction … neither exist in reality.

So what does exist?

For the past several centuries, the answer was, for the most part: Paper. Within the past several decades: A whole lot more. Today (and tomorrow, and for the forseeable future): The Internet. I don’t know of a good way of measuring content (Hal Varian has historically measured it by simply counting bits — but as I used to say: it might not be very reasonable to consider a megapixel-sized photo of a black room to be a million times as informative as one big fat zero), but I do feel quite confident that most of it will at least be duplicated online (even if it doesn’t live there exclusively or “in the first place”).

Most people recognize that the habitat of the Internet is networked computers. Yet only a few people recognize that the habitat of the Internet is also alpha-numeric characters (plus the “hyphen” symbol) — and a couple of these people might include the founders of Google (since the original name of the company is equivalent to the number of combinations of such characters which are possible in each top-level domain). Hardly anyone recognizes that the habitat of the Internet includes the governments / legal systems that are responsible for regulating the technology.

If we want to understand online media, we need to understand how the sausage is made, including the languages used and regulations (and similar standards) which govern it.