I have a new award : Worst-paragraph-of-the-day (WPD) on the internet. And my inaugeral WPD award goes to Jeff Jarvis, author of the perenially opaque Buzz Machine.
Today, in writing about the fate of books, Jarvis makes even Kevin Kelly sound lucid:
Part of what I’m trying to argue in my speculations about the fate of book is that context both defines and enriches content. Without that context, the content is poorer. The ability to link to and from content and its antecedents and successors in a chain of criticism, contribution, questioning, correction, argument, and remixing becomes part of the content itself. The timing of content matters, of course. What content does not say says a lot about it, as well. Who creates or consumes content also defines that content; chick lit is chick lit because it is written and read by chicks. And thanks to the ability of digital media to capture our content actions, the act of consumption is now an act of creation; our iPod playlists, our Amazon breadcrumbs, our Google clicks, our Flickr links, and our RSS aggregations are all collections of interaction with content that become content themselves.
This award winning paragraph from "Context is Content" sounds like its been translated backwards and forwards a few times from English to French. And that's the only complimentary thing I can say about it.
Jarvis tells us, incorrectly, that the creator of content "defines" that content. Writers, original writers that is, write outside context. That's what distinguishes their work. It is only in retrospect that genuinely creative writing can be "contextualized" by philistines like Jeff Jarvis.
Jarvis display's something less than Aristotelian logic in his observation that "chick lit is chick lit because it is written and read by chicks." Does this crude determinism mean I become a chick when I read (or write) chick lit?
"Context is Content" sounds as if it was written by John Cleese trying to be Hegel: "And thanks to the ability of digital media to capture our content actions, the act of consumption is now an act of creation."
But Jarvis leaves the best (ie: the worst) for last. He writes about "Amazon breadcrumbs.... collections of interaction with content that become content themselves. This unedifying image of breadcrumbs in the Amazon clinched it for me. Thus I'm truly thrilled to award our first WPD award to Jeff Jarvis for "Content is Context."
And the prize? It's the Elements of Style by Strunk and White -- a book outlining the principles of composition, grammar, word usage and writing style. The Elements of Style is classic content; in other words, it is timeless and, thus, entirely without context.