On choosing the publishing medium

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Addendum on choosing the publishing medium

The types of media we have created all have different limitations. Initially, these limitations were mainly technical in nature, but artificial restraints have increasingly shaped them in recent years. The CD, vinyl record, video cassette, etc., all have limits in storage capacity. Compared to these, today’s flash drives seem to have infinite capacity. Nowadays, I can store thousands of CDs worth of music in a fraction of the size of a CD. In the past, you had to be careful when you pressed the shutter button on your camera, not only because developing film was an active process, but primarily because you couldn’t fit too many photos on the film rolls. Today, you can shoot 20,000 professional-quality images without changing the SD card. And you can use the card again and again.

If I want to publish something, I have possibilities today that you could only dream of in the past. I can bring letters, moving and static images, and sound into the world without needing expensive technology or rare financial resources for the publications. Almost everyone reading these lines has some keyboard, microphone, and video camera in their possession. The hurdle is incredibly low.

Interestingly, many publishing networks have artificial restrictions. Twitter reminds us of the time when we were limited to 160 characters in our mobile phone messages. A limitation that forced users to get creative in inventing abbreviations.

The days of SMS texting are over. I think most people are happy about that. SMS was good as long as it was expensive. 20 cents per 160 characters kept you from writing excessively.

High costs also always provided a hurdle to producing junk. If every photo I take has a price, I won’t take 3,000 pictures. However: quantity can also make quality. With digital photography, I can try out and experiment a lot more. Meaning I can practice better.

With the arrival of instant messaging, SMS became obsolete. It still exists, but it’s barely used anymore.

Twitter has, however, become so popular precisely because it is limited to 140 / 280 characters. In practice, people often try to circumvent this restriction by using the comment function or pictures rather than text. In the beginning, Twitter only allowed text. Now it has come to enable images and short videos.

Instagram is a similarly restricted platform. While I can write up to 2,200 characters, each post must contain at least one image or video. When Instagram started, you could only post a single picture. Later, it became possible to post videos (in the beginning, max. 10s long) and to put several images in one post. Now videos can be up to one minute long in a regular post, and, in addition, there is the video-only sub-platform IGTV which allows for 10 min/ 60 min length.

Instagram has another limitation: it is designed for phones, not for the computer browser. You can now also use it on the computer, but only to a limited extent. It’s a lot less fun. For some reason, the Instagram decision-makers want you to use their network on your smartphone.

But, as I said, these limitations are seemingly the assets of these networks. Facebook, for example, has a lot more possibilities and functions but is now becoming slow and old-fashioned. Is the all-in-one-network — the, as we say in German, egg-laying wool-milk-pig — less attractive? Do we prefer the individual animals?

More recent networks such as TikTok also rely heavily on restriction.

The question is: To what extent do the limitations of the types of media change the culture? The CD, for example, is limited to 74 minutes. Music albums are conceptualized based on this limit.

The medium of publication, not only the production technique, determines the product. I don’t like to use Instagram for publishing because I tend to write texts that are longer than 2,200 characters. The 60s limit on videos also doesn’t usually work for me. I have tried using these restrictions as an exercise, adapting to them as a challenge. Ultimately, however, this publication network does not suit my way of creating content. Because my texts usually don’t need a picture, and it seems unnecessary to me to search for an image that somehow has something to do with the text.

Because of this, my website, in combination with YouTube, is the best way for me to publish most of the time. On my website, I can integrate text, images, and sound the way I want.

YouTube is a good way to deal with the vast amounts of data that my more than 1500 uploaded videos present.

I don’t want the publishing platform to dictate how my creations should be.

Joseph Bartz