Contentology

Contentology is a neologism I created in 2002 to describe a digital communication theory that calls for a more deeply integrated approach to content strategy. In my Contentology.com blog that I was writing back then, I defined it as “the science of content”:

Contentology blends disciplines such as information architecture, information design, usability engineering and “Webitorial” writing. Simply put, it’s a methodology for planning, developing and organizing information. 

Source: Contentology.com, June 6, 2002

Contentology is about these things: The meaning, the vessel for that meaning, the channel for that vessel, and the people who exchange the meaning using vessels and channels. It’s not just about words. Words are symbols that can have varying presentational qualities. They are imbued with subtle layers of meaning, but their meaning can also be manipulated.

It’s not just about visuals, either. Graphic designs are simply another vessel for carrying meaning, whether overt (as in a financial chart) or subliminal (something that provokes an emotion or a reaction, like a photo of a mother and her child, or an image of the World Trade Centre in New York).

And in a multimedia environment like the Web, it’s also not just about audio, video, animation, software downloads, chat, IM or any interactive features. They, too, are either vessels of meaning, or channels to carry that meaning. 

Remember the definition of the word “content” from its Latin roots of “contentum” and “continere” – that which contains meaning, not meaning itself. Content is, by definition, not just something you drop into a vessel, but both a vessel and the idea within it. In other words, you cannot separate pure meaning from its container…

Source: Contentology.com, June 2, 2002 (URL unavailable)

I wanted the idea of Contentology to be as open source as possible so people would start thinking and talking about it more, so in 2003, I submitted the term to the Internet definitions in NetLingo.com, which describes it as follows: 

Contentology integrates research, knowledge and skills from all fields that focus on analyzing, developing, and designing or structuring content. Areas of interest include electronic publishing, information design, user experience design, Web design, information technology, etc.
Source: NetLingo.com

I’ve been encouraged to see that in the last 17 years, the concept of Contentology has grown wings and that in the era of social media dominance of the web, people are finally talking about online content as something that is fluid, repurposeable and able to create a powerful dynamic depending on how it is being used. The 21st century is indeed becoming the Age of Content.

Rethinking Reincarnation

Is there an afterlife, or is there a life after life? Putting aside various religious beliefs about reincarnation, many scientists, physicians and laypersons have tried to take a scientific approach to the subject by studying people who claim to have remembrances of past lives. Many of these claims are made more credible by the person’s detailed memories of events, people and even languages that they could have never known under normal circumstances. Especially interesting are stories of young children who have remembrances of a past they could have never experienced in their current lives. 

In his book, Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation, psychiatrist Dr. Ian Stevenson offers a typical example: 

The case usually starts when a small child of two to four years of age begins talking to his parents or siblings of a life he led in another time and place. The child usually feels a considerable pull back toward the events of the life and he frequently importunes his parents to let him return to the community where he claims that he formerly lived. If the child makes enough particular statements about the previous life, the parents (usually reluctantly) begin inquiries about their accuracy. Often, indeed usually, such attempts at verification do not occur until several years after the child has begun to speak of the previous life. If some verification results, members of the two families visit each other and ask the child whether he recognizes places, objects, and people of his supposed previous existence.(Source: Wikipedia) 

Those who do not believe in reincarnation consider any reincarnation case studies to be the result of either a hoax, a misinterpretation, a coincidence or even a mental disorder. Some have suggested these many be cases of some form of psychic transference – information that has been transmitted psychically from one person to another – or postcognition, the opposite of precognition, where someone has psychic visions about something that occurred in the past, long before their own birth. 

One pseudo-scientific possibility is also worth considering when attempting to understand “reincarnation” case studies from a non-religious perspective, and that is “genetic memory.” While genetic memory is still on the fringe of modern science and has no reliable research to indicate it is a more than a hypothesis, even well-respected psychologists such as Carl Jung found the notion fascinating. Jung referred to it as the “collective unconscious.” 

In his article titled “Ancestral” or “Genetic” Memory: Factory Installed Software (Source: Wisconsin Medical Society), Dr. Daniel Treffert, M.D. talks about cases of savants – people born with severe developmental difficulties who, without being taught,  can “instinctively” understand and apply rules of music, mathematics or art, to name a few examples. From where did this knowledge originate? We presume that knowledge of these disciplines must be taught and learned, yet even medical science acknowledges that savants are not charlatans nor the products of charlatans. 

Treffert quotes famed Canadian neurologist and researcher Dr. Wilder Penfield, who said “Animals particularly show evidence of what might be called racial memory.” In other words, Penfield acknowledged the existence of a form of memory that was not experiential. Certain complex animal behavior shows evidence of a form of “knowledge” that has been acquired not through experience but through an innate process that relates to their species. 

Taking the notion of ancestral or genetic memory one step further, what if it is humanly possible not only to tap into human knowledge transferred into our DNA from our biological ancestors, but to also access individual memories from our ancestors’ experiences? Could memories become encoded in DNA strands so that they can be passed on to our descendants? Treffert maintains that although some feel genetic memory in savants may just be the brain’s ability to access certain “templates of knowledge” common to all humanity, he has concluded that the knowledge of savants may have actually been inherited from their ancestors: “From my direct observations of prodigious savants, though, it seems to me they inherit actual knowledge itself, not just the templates or scaffolding or ‘rules’ on which they can so quickly build. Thus, for me, genetic memory is inherited knowledge.” 

Returning to cases of “reincarnation” where children or adults recall specific memories and details of lives they have never lived and, in many cases, places they have never been – we have to ask whether the assumption that this is a “past life regression” is implausible even if the details of the case are verified. Could the past lives these people are “remembering” be not their own lives but the lives of their ancestors? DNA databanks that have traced people’s racial ancestry have turned up surprising results—people with generations and generations of documented European ancestry, for example, have found that their DNA markers contain clear evidence of Asian or African ancestors. Thus, it may not be surprising if someone whose family has lived in America for generations has “memories” of another life in Asia, Africa or other continents. 

If genetic memory as inherited memory can be proven, imagine how human beings could begin to tap into the lives of their ancestors. We would not be pleased with everything we could “remember,” but it could offer the human race an opportunity to appreciate how deeply we are all linked through the memories and experiences of our ancestors, and how we have a kind of immortality in the individual memories and collective knowledge we will pass on to our own descendants.

 

 

The Font of Youth

How to Select a Language for Your Language

We all know that when we use all caps, OUR WORDS SHRIEK. And when we use a script-style font, or even just italics, there is a sense of intimacy, personality and even romance. Serif fonts say art and culture, while sans-serif fonts say business and technology. What fonts do you really like? Hate? Whole websites have been devoted to the hatred of Comic Sans, and a feature-length movie has been made about Helvetica

Content is never neutral as it is always being shaped by design, presentation, context, delivery and other factors. And from the early days of monks who drew lavishly illuminated text to bloggers who write their rants in lean Verdana, the art of typography has literally given us a wealth of languages for our language. 

No doubt fonts are a kind of meta-language. Our choice of fonts for personal correspondence, business writing or website copy tells people something about us. It influences how our content communicates, and it even makes a statement about time and place, the same way wearing skinny ties and stovepipe pants conjures up images of the 1980s.   

Some promising new fonts in the last few years include ITC American Typewriter Pro, ITC Franklin, Carter Sans and Bradley Type, and there’s a list of the top 100 best-selling fonts of all time, updated daily. Vintage fonts are a lot of fun for creating a kind of textual mise-en-scène as it tells a story the instant you see it. Have a look at these free vintage fonts ― Carnivalee Freakshow, Circus Ornate, Showboat and Parisian, to name a few.

The following table lists 12 notable fonts, along with the year they were introduced. Some originated as fonts for print and conventional advertising channels, while others in the ‘90s and later were intended for screen use on computers. BTW, Facebook uses a modified version of the Klavika font.

Think about how your choice of font style for your website or other digital media project may date you and your project. When these fonts were introduced they became popular, and even though most remain in the canon of default fonts found on most machines, they still hearken back to their original era.

chart of historical fonts and their design origins