After struggling through the live blogging of today’s iPhone 4.0 announcement from Apple, I couldn’t help but think about baseball. It’s Spring, the season has just started and I’ve already listened to most of a game on the radio. The first radio broadcast of a baseball game was in 1921:
In those days many radio stations often did not have the budgets or technology to broadcast games live from the park. Instead, stations would recreate the games in studio. A telegraph operator would transmit the information back to the studio from the ball park where broadcasters and engineers would recreate game action from the ticker tape. Crowd noise, the crack of the bat, the umpire on the field and other sounds of the game were all manufactured in the studio as the game was being played live elsewhere.
Live blogging seems like public telegraph messages plus photography. The latency is still there— as is the re-creation of the event. Somehow I think those radio listeners in 1921 had a better sense of what was happening in the ball game than we do today watching our web browsers auto-refresh with the latest tidbit. While we grow closer in time, the fidelity of the broadcast is much lower.
In the virtual world, proximity in time is a value determinant. An informational product is generally more valuable the closer purchaser can place themselves to the moment of its expression, a limitation in time. Many kinds of information degrade rapidly with either time or reproduction. Relevance fades as the territory they map changes. Noise is introduced and bandwidth lost with passage away from the point where the information is first produced.
Thus, listening to a Grateful Dead tape is hardly the same experience as attending a Grateful Dead concert. The closer one can get to the headwaters of an informational stream, the better one’s chances of finding an accurate picture of reality in it. In an era of easy reproduction, the informational abstractions of popular experiences will propagate out from their source moments to reach anyone who’s interested. But it’s easy enough to restrict the real experience of the desirable event, whether knock-out punch or guitar lick, to those willing to pay for being there.
If you can’t be there, I guess a live blog is a reasonable kind of substitute. But the use of text and still photography as a medium to capture and broadcast a live event in real time has the feel of something you’d read about in a history book. The past is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.