Episode 44 of The Informed Life podcast features a conversation with Alexis Lloyd. Alexis is VP of Product Design at Medium and co-founder of Ethical Futures Lab. Previously, she led design and innovation work at The New York Times, Axios, and Automattic. Alexis has been thinking about the future of media for a long time, and in this conversation, we focused on the evolving ways we consume and produce media.
I was keen to discuss the granularity of media with Alexis. Specifically, the more granular content is, the easier it can be re-mixed and re-configured. However, I there’s a point where content becomes so granular that it loses the ability to convey a coherent story. Alexis has written compellingly on this subject, so I wanted to hear what she thought about the ideal balance.
Among other things, she mentioned the key distinction between the process of creating content versus building upon it by extracting, annotating, etc.:
I wouldn’t say that content should be more granular in the way [content is] created. But I think that in the way it is to be extracted, annotated, remixed, and built upon, that the structure should afford more granularity than the original output.
Towards the end of our conversation, I asked Alexis about what excites her about the future of media. She framed her answer by recapping the history of the web, from its early free-form days, which afforded great flexibility but placed high barriers for creators, to the present state with its mass-market cookie-cutter platforms like Facebook that make it easy for anyone to publish at the cost of more personal expression. Perhaps we’re working towards a new balance point between these two extremes?
the thing I’m optimistic about is that we could be heading for a space where we start to build the best of both worlds, where we have a lot of the affordances the platforms have brought us in terms of ease of use, and in terms of the kind of network effects — although there obviously have been some not so positive network effects as well — but the ability to connect and the ability to easily create, while recapturing some of the kind of individuality, the creativity, context that we’ve lost somewhat in the last several years. And so, that’s where I’m hopeful. I don’t know that that’s the world that will come to be, but that’s my thread of what I hope for is that we can start to bring back some of the web that we lost while retaining the affordances of the newer technologies and platforms that we’ve been building on.
I greatly enjoyed my conversation with Alexis. As with so many other interviews for The Informed Life, I wish we’d had more time. I hope you find as much value in our discussion as I did.