:: Today in 1814 // recycled “Content” ::


Old and New “Content”. This Typewriter Shot is called content, as are the snippets of Napoleonic history below, on the next page. They’re both recycled, and both French. I created the image of my Dad’s old French typewriter with a, then current, 5 1/4in floppy disk wrapping the platen in the early 80s as a comment on technology, as well as a fun play on shapes, textures and color. It was extremely valuable to my brand at the time. Most viewers never saw the 5 1/4in floppy. When they didn’t, it let me know how much attention they did or didn’t put into the act of viewing / really seeing. At the time, my portfolio was in 8X10 transparency format and I always presented my work in person, so I got an immediate read on how potential clients related to my Art. I used it as a litmus paper test when showing my portfolio. The Typewriter Shot brought in more work than I’d ever dreamed possible. It was relevant, and valuable, at the time and is now just a fun old shot. What’s relevant and what’s not when most folks don’t take much time to stop and look, much less think, or remember? For those of us who do, today is an historic day if we take the time to recollect. We’re at a pivotal moment in our nation’s evolution and we can learn a lot by reviewing which leaders throughout history have been able to change events for the common good, how they enabled change and how much it cost them at the time. It’s a short list. So I’ve recycled some content to share. Both my image and Napoleon’s philosophy are now well indexed content, but where Napoleon’s tactics are timeless , relevant and therefore extremely valuable, The Typewriter Shot holds perhaps only nostalgic value.

Content, Jargon and buzzwords

They so muddy the waters in marketing, advertising, corporate communications, design and PR it’s dizzying and does a disservice to those trying desperately to either communicate or find answers and ultimately, to become educated. How many of us have sat through tedious meetings where nothing is actually said through all the marketing jargon?

The word Content has always sent chills up my spine, and for good reason. Agggh, Content Marketing etc., help! My passion and job has always been to create that content in some form or other, often out of nothing, out of thin air. I usually post fun, free iPhone images on social media sites, or links to my own domain (so FB can’t legally steal my own intellectual property / content. Note that my work is legally referred to as content in the Terms of Use on all social media sites). I especially like images that can be interpreted many ways so while being meaningless decoration, and vapid, to some they might be profound while enlightening to another. It’s fun (hence the subtle Typewriter Shot‘s high value to me).

In the days of Quark Express there was “Get Picture” and then you’d be linked to images, illustrations, graphics hence the word content. It bugged me back then, I “worried about the implications” (thanks Men At Work / Colin Hay). Today it’s the same but on steroids with “Place” (command / control D) and especially hundreds of millions of dollars worth of code and algorithms madly linking and connecting content from everywhere to everything else, and reselling, branding, misrepresenting and all the while gaining value because of the linked content. No wonder the social media and search giants are clamoring to have the IP (Intellectual Property) and Copyright laws changed in their favor. Most of the stuff I read on social media sites is recycled from somewhere else or “shared”, and therefore a huge waste of time. It’s valueless to me. It’s refreshing when I stumble upon a new thought or image that provokes more than an immediate “Like” and then onto the next post. I look forward to the sidetrack into untested waters and then a healthy challenge to my own perspective, which opens new ways of perceiving and ultimately enjoying life. Most often I have to do the dot connecting to create the value, for myself, when all that content is seemingly unrelated. It’s not like just finding a link in somebody’s data base, most likely put there for marketing purposes, it’s real discovery with that Ah Ha moment when I learn and truly make connections that last.

Remember, content doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There’s a border or frame around it, and most often logos, headlines / tag lines and essays, all of which the eye / mind must process, and does subconsciously. I spent a good deal of my education and later my professional life considering what’s outside of the frame, what’s being said or revealed, before ever starting to create something, from scratch, inside the frame. I always found it interesting that fast moving cultures, accustomed to busy day to day routines and crammed physical or visual space, came up with design systems and principals which emphasized simplicity and respected emptiness or negative space. Think Bauhaus or especially Japanese design. Whether or not the content created within the frame is valuable or not is totally subjective and varies from viewer to viewer.

Content which is relevant, especially in today’s political climate.

200 years ago today, April 11th 1814, Napoleon Bonaparte abdicated his throne as Emperor of France.

Nothing lasts forever, power is a fickle illusion at best, for those who seek it. Those of us who come after are left to debate what really happened, and was all the fuss worthwhile. That analysis takes time so most folks just pass today, in this time of “clicking out”.

Even though Napoleon Bonaparte fought in the French Revolution (1789), became Emperor of France and ruled much of Europe by 1810, becoming one of the greatest military leaders in history, on April 11th he abdicated the throne for the first time. Then, in the Treaty of Fontainebleau, he was banished to the island of Elba. Of course he escaped his exile and that led to Waterloo and a final exile to Saint Helena where he later died.

He was brilliant, a great administrator, power hungry and insecure. Even though I find him fascinating, we have a choice of how we want to remember him. What can we learn? Even though he was an emperor / dictator, he also set massive social and political changes into play and so ended the feudal system. That’s huge. He oversaw a complete overhaul of the French legal system, massive education reforms, voting rights reforms, religious reforms and large public works projects. The young American republic was just getting off the ground and spreading radical ideas! Funny how the two cultures were so intimately connected but diverged in other ways. Here’s a quote, by Napoleon, from 1807 ::

“Of all our institutions public education is the most important. Everything depends on it, the present and the future. It is essential that the morals and political ideas of the generation which is now growing up should no longer be dependent upon the news of the day or the circumstances of the moment. …”. A lot of the Napoleonic institutions are still in play.

So today is ripe with the potential for recycled and re synthesized content / history. I’m not sure what’s going to work here in America, so we can once again live in a free society and a true democratic republic. I do know that a strong leader with courage and more than simply a mastery of the art of compromise is needed to affect real change. Napoleon had the ability to galvanize a nation and change history. I’m not sure that’s possible in this land of content consumption. Timing is everything. In my mind, this is real and powerful content with lasting, relevant value!

And tomorrow, April 12th, 1861 The American Civil War began with the Confederate blasting of Fort Sumter. One could spend a lifetime creating metaphors and linking to that content.