Form and Content

It’s been a while since a video entitled “Web 2.0 .. The Machine is Us/ing Us” circled around the web. For those of us who live in Web 2.0, who think constantly in its context, the video was nothing new, but simply provided a neat, bundled package summarizing a number of its tenets, potentials, and quandaries.

The core idea presented in the video is that of form and content. Mike Wesch, the author of the video, argues that with the advent of XHTML and RSS/ATOM, effective separation of form and content has been achieved, and information sharing has become not only easier, but a core principle of the Web, vis-à-vis Web 2.0. This is currently arguable, as the quality of code dictates the level of separation afforded in each individual instance. HTML5 is fascinating in that it provides more native mechanisms for determining these separations without sacrificing expression of form.

The point at which this conversation becomes interesting is that at which we turn the argument upon itself: what is the medium of the video? One of Wesch’s more tangential (and thus questionable) assertions is that the separation of form and content has directly led to the influx of the user-generated web. What is inarguable, however, is that without the user-generated web, his video could not have possibly existed in the plane it currently does. It is thus appropriate that a video about the web is in fact a video on the web.

Likewise, Philip Thurtle, in his book The Emergence of Genetic Rationality, focuses on, among many other topics, the necessity of effective information collection, collation, and communication in the rise of certain forms of social consciousness, among them genetic rationality. In fact, in the introduction of the book, he comments on the organization and information principles followed by the book – this bit of meta draws attention to the book as the medium, as the ultimate culmination of a certain process of information processing which is perhaps the most final and arduous of them all.

On the other hand, the media in general filters out instead most commonly over the mediums of print, the web, and television. The most interesting point here is in fact the medium itself – each communicates in an entirely separate way, organizing and shaping both form and content with radically deviant methods. When ground down to these separate considerations of form and content, the concept of the television as a medium seems to become the most bipolar, and the print medium the least. When we consider the effect of the content alone, it seems that given the wealth of content on the Web, to survive in the medium means that content is of absolutely key importance.

These deviations are things to consider when considering other concepts relating to media.

0 Responses to “Form and Content”


  1. 1 clifford

    decoupling form from content is wesch’s way of explaining, at least in part, the phenomenon of web 2.0. how else might web 2.0 be explained? how would you explain it?

    Marshall McLuhan is famous for stating the “medium is the message,” suggesting that content is somehow less important than the medium—or that the medium is the more interesting of the two. I wonder how he would explain web 2.0?

    Marshall McLuhan (1964) Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

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