Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Existential Order of the Internet

Real estate on the internet is primarily defined by its content. More so than for physical locations, which are bound to their proximity to other things and consequently more heavily influenced by their context, what matters most for websites is what they contain. Because the elements of the web are free-floating, and because the infrastructure exists to so easily facilitate it, human agents on the web break down into a few fundamental categories based on how they interact with content.


This is the most passive of the categories. Spend most of your time online watching Netflix on your iPad, browsing your Facebook feed or catching up on headlines? Then this is probably you.

The level of passivity each role exhibits diminishes as you ascend the pyramid. As for many material products, consumers tend to outnumber suppliers and producers on the internet too. Of course, how passive you are depends on the category of content we're talking about. But in the aggregate, you'll measure up differently compared to others, just as in the broader picture people can be closer to net producers or net consumers.


You can be an exclusive consumer, but except in the case of distributing content you've never even fleetingly examined, disseminators are consumers too. The crucial difference is that in addition to internalizing content themselves, they pass it along to others. You're a disseminator if you regularly share memes or repost your finds to Tumblr, Pinterest or a similar service.

Disseminators are similar to the Connectors and Mavens of The Tipping Point. More accurately, they don't just spam communities but have the sense to know what others will find appealing or, on occasion, viral. If no one reads your second-hand content, you're really just a consumer.


This hierarchy can really apply to any creative production. Originators are the inventors and designers that produce new archetypes in the struggle for prominence. In the context of this article, they are the bloggers, vloggers, more legit personages and online artists.

This is the apex of internet existence, one in which you no longer constitute a spectator but play an active part in the construction of the digital world. It's the end that ambitious fans of any trade - digital or otherwise - aspire to, myself included.

A fourth category

Although this isn't incorporated into my model, a fourth (and maybe fifth) category of Disrupters/Destroyers could be reserved for malicious hackers and for those edge cases when more typical users dismantle content.

Exclusively "X"

In practice most people belong to each category, but some more than others. However, as alluded to above, it is technically possible to belong exclusively to one category. Consumers most easily of all. The exclusive Originator is an anomaly and perhaps a mad genius - a hermit who has no uptake from the external world but can project his vision into it.

I don't think a hermit's approach makes for a very good originator though. In my opinion, it's usually familiarity with a wide range of topics and their recombination that make the most interesting content. Just as in Maslow's hierarchy of needs it's possible for a starving artist to engage in the pursuit of his or her passions to the exclusion of physical needs, but most people operate on more than one level and for good reason.

1 comment:

  1. interesting. another argument i read is that in the 21st century everyone should blog; it's the Technology Age's equivalent to the Stone Age's cultivating your own garden plot.