The structure and the content are incomplete without the behavior of the consumer, and the behavior of the consumer is the objective of the content. They find completion in each other.
#3218 Created 01/05/2013 Updated 01/16/2019
We deal with content on (at least) two separate layers.
(...not bad as it goes, but the conclusion will effectively kill all life within the blast radius).
The first layer of content is the obvious layer, the common one in which specific pieces of content, like a song or a news story, with specific sets of comprehensible information in some form, such as words or melodies, are consumed and, possibly, comprehended by an individual.
The other layer of content is the collective layer, where we consider all of media content as a single concept, a single datum, a separate entity or phenomena to be comprehended and pondered in the abstract, abstracted from the structures which produce the content, and also from the structures created by the consumption of the content.
The first layer is our comfort zone. We are raised as fingerlings in the content ocean, swimming our whole lives through a rapid current of text and pictures and movies and sounds and conversations and billboards and street signs and tiny little screens and keyboards for our thumbs.
We understand the piecemeal of content; we read the story, we swallow the lie, we beat the steering wheel with the catchy radio rhythm. And, in this sense, we are swept up and carried along by content, bobbing on an ocean of media bits and factoids and stories and images and movies and narratives and explanations.
One might object to this type of characterization, stressing that particular stories or particular narratives have a more central or important or comprehensible substance, or that individual experiences with media have greater or lesser significance or meaning. No argument with that.
Rather, consider the sweep of media as an effect of structure, without particular reference to particular pieces of content or particular reactions or interpretations of individual media consumers. The details of content are only relevant in the moment of individual consumption.
It is important to be free from the grip of content, for the particular of detail is a distraction from the larger questions of how consumers are caught in the interplay of content and structure, and how the roles of consumers in commerce are shifting.
It is difficult to get "content eaters" to step away from the table for a few moments. The very thought of regarding content without regard to the 'content of the content' is a difficult one to explain, especially to literate sorts, like journalists and professors. You have to step away from the process far enough that you can see it as a process, instead of a series of products (products like email messages, web pages, tweets, stop signs, Facebook updates, newspapers, product labels, breaking news stories, videos of cute kittens, snarky comments about Snookie, etc.)
Think of it as the difference between being in a major metropolitan city, standing on a street-corner right in the middle of down-town, or viewing the city from the top of a distant hill, or from an orbiting spaceship. The street view is all content -- noise, motion, message, presence, companions, neighbors, strangers, excitement, danger, opportunity, etc. But the orbital view is all structure -- position, orientation, layout, juxtaposition, situation, scope, and adjacencies.
One is the internal view of content -- the reader's or the viewer's view, if you will. The other is the external view of content, the view of content from outside the context of content.
It is an important view, for content must be considered simultaneously with the structure that produces the content, its negative twin, as the content and the structure are one entity, united in form, one not existing without the other.
When we wish to evaluate the concept of content, therefore, we must do so in the presence of the evaluation of the structure that produces the content, and in the evaluation of the consumer behavior that is resultant from the exposure of content through the structure.
The content of media does not stand in isolation.
This is necessary because the purpose of content is to affect human behavior. Without speaking to the motives of authors or publishers, it is sufficient to say that all content is created with human purpose, that very little content comes into being without some envisioning of how it will be consumed, and without some purpose to that creation as expressed as a possible effect on or in the consumer. Text is written with the thought that it will be read; videos are recorded with the thought that they will be viewed.
The structure that produces content, and the content that is produced, presume the specific behavior of consumers: That which is explicit in advertising content (the exhortation to consume) in the presence of the content and within the context of the structure.
In other words, the consumer behavior is assumed, as if it is a given, prior to distribution.
Hope springs eternal. The structure and the content are incomplete without the behavior of the consumer, and the behavior of the consumer is the objective of the content. They find completion in each other.