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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Digital Fractionation :Analog Assets Into Digital Derivatives

Sean Mcgrath, CTO of Propylon has written an excellent article about building digital fractionation tower. Excerpts with edits and comments added:

The concept of a book and the concept of a music album are having difficulty transitioning to the world of digital content. The content is fine of course - it is the containers (books/albums) that are proving problematic. Consumers who read words online tend not to do book-sized chunks. Consumers who listen to digital music seem to prefer to do it track by track. Books explode into web pages (rough analogs of paper-based chapters). These are increasingly both cited and consumed individually. Music albums explode into individual tracks. These are increasingly consumed individually (the famous 'one track you like on the entire album.').
This re-emergence of the track and the chapter tell us that the pre-digital concepts of book and album had more to do with the logistics of physical content than they had with the form of that content. In a world limited by the weight, size and "bind-ability" of paper, a book dictates its own size range. In a world limited by the fidelity, size and time capacity of a vinyl disc, an album dictates its own time range.In the digital world, these ranges no longer apply. The shipping cost of high volumes of content gets smaller and smaller. 1 track, a thousand tracks - it doesn't matter. 350 pages or 3,500 pages - it doesn't matter. pre-digital-age information artifacts - from books and albums - are in the process of being fed in at the bottom of a great big digital form of fractionation tower . At various levels up the tower, stuff is being siphoned off to create new innovative products. Products that bear little or no resemblance to the raw materials fed into the bottom of the tower. A very insightful article outlining the transformation of analog assets into the digital world.

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