Recently I lost my grandmother. We thought she had lived to be 100, but found out she was really 103, an incredible achievement. When she was 1, Henry Ford celebrated the sale of the 10,000th automobile. She was still a young girl when World War I was happening. She was a young woman during World War II. She lived through the depression, the post-war era, the women's liberation movement, civil rights and so much more. Yet when we first brought a microwave into her home she ran and hid, convinced that she would be killed by the radiation waves. Her life was filled by inventions that changed her world.
Nana lived an epic life, and that has spoiled me. Now every time someone creates a catch phrase or tries to define something as being a new era, I stop and think to myself, "Would Nana have been impressed?" Recently a new catch phrase has been popping up and I found myself asking the question, "Would Nana be impressed... with what has been coined post-industrial publishing?"
I don't think so.
It's not that she wouldn't be impressed with the reinvention of publishing itself; it is more about the description we are using. After all, post-industrial publishing is not a phrase that adequately captures the monumental shift that is taking place. Think about it, or better yet, experience CES, to get a true understanding of what I mean.
The 2013 CES is built around an entire world struggling to resolve what happens at the intersection of content and technology. It's not a rebirth at the end of an era, it's an era unto itself, like none of us have seen before. For the first time in history, the consumer electronics industry is creating new technologies for the purpose of making content the hero. CES innovations showcase easier, better and more exciting ways to read, communicate, write and distribute. This isn't "post-industrial publishing," this is the dawn of "beyond category" publishing.
"Beyond category" is about limitless technological enablement. Smartphones, tablets and even interactive TV are now driven by content and technology, not the inverse. Andrew Sullivan's work is a great example. Andrew built a great reputation at the Daily Beast and has now decided to start his own blog. By the time he gets the blog up and running, rest assured he will start another one. Technology didn't drive him to do this -- content and living beyond the category compelled him to reach farther. The New Yorker is another example. A classic publication has expanded to create new content and new stars. There's no reason that theater critic Hilton Als, or music critic Sasha Frere-Jones, can't do what Andrew Sullivan did. We end up with countless brands, countless writers, unimagined platforms, and a riot of content. Technology enables content. And now, time has shifted and an epic event has occurred: Content has taken over technology.
The "beyond category" publishing opportunity I see is all about meeting the reader on his or her journey from an idea or an interest into a destination. The content fuels the idea, the technology enables the dream and then the content picks back up to fulfill the promise.
This year there is a whole area at CES that's dedicated to something new, called MommyTech. A whole party is dedicated to fashion tech. And this signals a change. What we used to call demographic groups or cohorts is exploding into more defined individuality led by content and enabled by a device. It's an era that takes us beyond the boundaries that both print and technology have seen in the past and allows us to go beyond any category. This year at CES expect to see anyone, anytime, being empowered to create something new.
So, kudos to Andrew Sullivan and everyone else at this intersection who have bridled the use of various technologies in order to command self-expression. This year at CES, there's nothing post-industrial about it. And yes, even Nana would be impressed.
This blog is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post on the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2013), the behemoth consumer-electronics trade show held annually in Las Vegas. To read other pieces in the series, click here. What are your thoughts on CES? We invite you to submit pieces of 500-850 words -- for possible publication in The Huffington Post -- to firstname.lastname@example.org.