Monday, February 23, 2009

Re-experiencing content, followup

I've had several interesting conversations about re-experiencing content since the last post.

One friend asked about the phenomenon of people getting stuck on a particular content and watching / reading it over and over again. While this is usually associated with younger children who can watch the same episode of Thomas the Tank Engine multiple times a day, it sometimes occurs with adults as well. I think these are cases of the person looking for comfort through familiarity. When life seems unpredictable it can be comforting to revisit a content that won't surprise us. For small children most of life is unpredictable. Try to imagine how weird the world must seem before you figure out object permanence! I know that when I'm sick I'll tend to dig out an old movie to watch. This might also be why we watch certain movies (It’s a Wonderful Life) every year at a special time.

I’d distinguish this from watching a movie a few times to hear or memorize more lines, or to experience it again with the ending already known. I’ll confess to having watched some Monty Python movies too many times so as to memorize the lines from a scene or two. Inexplicably this is sometimes viewed as an accomplishment. :-)

Another reader wrote me to say: "These are very interesting matters. I haven't thought about them in an organized way before. I can watch a movie a few times (not multiple times, unless there's a lot of time in between). I've always supposed that the reason I want to listen to music over and over again is that I cannot really retain music--I mean I can remember short songs etc, but I can't unroll a whole symphony in my head, just parts of it, although musicians can replay the whole thing in their heads. I think I don't have the capacity. On the other hand, words stick in my head like glue. I have hundreds, maybe thousands, of word things, in my head but not a whole symphony or sonata. I remember songs, but probably because of the words. Do you think the content thing may have something to do with one's capacity for enjoying a particular medium? Some people are visual, verbal, or whatever? Interesting things to ponder"

Another person said that for them music could be re-experienced many times because they were different each time they heard the song. When it was pointed out that they were also different when they re-read a book they said that experiencing a book or movie was more immersive than listening to a song...there was less room for them. Perhaps listening to music is more of a participative thing while books / movies are more like being an observer? I don't necessarily share this belief but I can understand it. After all, I can listen to my ipod while coding at the office but they tend to frown on people watching movies there!

I wonder how this relates the concepts of Popular vs. Long Tail content? One school of thought says that most people will be watching the same small set of popular contents (the new “House” or “Heros” or “Battlestar”). The other school of thought says that most people will be off in their own corner watching their favorite old episode of “I Love Lucy”, “Hogan Heros”, or “F Troop”. For those of us designing Video Servers the difference matters. I’ve never heard the issue of whether individuals re-watch a given content brought up in the Popular vs. Long Tail discussions. Perhaps it should be.

1 comment:

  1. I guess I'd have to say I'm more a popular content type person as I tend to find a series I like and watch the series. But if I've seen an episode I delete it. Why would I want to watch it again if I know what is going to happen? ;-b

    Seriously though I can read on certain topics multiple times. But likely I'm not going to read the same book again unless it is at a very different stage of my life. Certain topics draw my attention and I love to read all the different perspectives and angles on the topic. It helps me develop a richer understanding of the subject. And I suppose there is also a comfort factor - as you point out - in circling around one subject rather than dancing from topic to topic, never probing deeply.