A Digital Education

June 5, 2013 by Thad McIlroy

The 20th anniversary issue of Wired magazine is a digital education, perhaps the best one I know. Self-congratulatory anniversary issues tend to be flaccid stuff, but this one is chock-a-block full of goodies, many by they-were-there journalists. I enjoyed the issue first as a trip down memory lane. Wired magazine, particularly in its first few years, deeply influenced my understanding and appreciation of the digital culture in which I was then immersed. When Conde Nast bought Wired they settled it down in ways that didn’t settle well with me, although unquestionably it continued to provide some of the best journalism afforded to the high-tech industry.

1993-2003What I find especially remarkable about the 20th anniversary issue is that it manages to be a textbook of the digital transformation of media and of life in the last two decades. The topics should be controversial, but instead I find them mostly obvious. And very important. As an occasional teacher of the next generation of publishers I wouldn’t hesitate to put this topic list up against the curriculum of any of my colleagues.

Here’s the challenge to the publishing class of 2013: In a few sentences, explain what each of these concepts, technologies or individuals mean on the digital landscape today. (To simplify things in a reasonable fashion I’ve added the company name most connected with individual names).

Here we go:

Angry Birds

Apps

Arab Spring

Ballmer, Steve (Microsoft)

Banner ad

Beta

Big data

Blogger

Busque, Leah (TaskRabbit)

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Chen, Steve (YouTube)

Chesky, Brian (Airbnb)

Code

Comics

Convergence

Cook, Tim (Apple)

Crowdsourcing

DARPA

Denton, Nick (Gawker)

Design

Dorsey, Jack (Twitter)

Dreams

Electric car

Emoji

Epitaphs

Etsy

Facebook

Failure

Faking it

Ferdowsi, Arash (Dropbox)

Flickr

Friendster

Gates, Bill (Microsoft)

Geek

GIFs

Gmail

Goatse

Hacker

Hartz, Julia (Eventbrite)

Hartz, Kevin (Eventbrite)

Haughey, Matt (Metafilter)

Higgs boson

Hoffman, Reid (LinkedIn)

Houston, Drew (Dropbox)

HTTP

Hurley, Chad (YouTube)

Hypertext

Instagram

IPO

Jargon

Jobs, Steve (Apple)

Khan, Salman (Khan Academy)

Kickstarter

Kottke, Jason (kottke.org)

Kozmo

Laws

Levchin, Max (PayPal)

Maker movement

Martin, Erik (Reddit)

Mayer, Marissa (Google and Yahoo!)

Memes

Microsoft

Musk, Elon (PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla Motors)

Napster

Neurodiversity

Nintendo

Ohanian, Alexis (reddit)

The Onion

Online dating

Porn

Printing

QR code

Reddit

Sandberg, Sheryl (Facebook)

Science

Screen names

Share economy

Sharp, Evan (Pinterest)

Silbermann, Ben (Pinterest)

Silicon Valley

Silk Road

Snark

Sony

Stoppelman, Jeremy (Yelp)

Storage

Stuxnet

Systrom, Kevin (Instagram)

TED talks

Trolling

Turing, Alan (Turing machine)

Tweet

University

UX (user experience)

Viral

Virtual communities

Wikileaks

WIRED 01.01

xkcd

Yelp

Zeus

Zuckerberg, Mark (Facebook)

I wanted the list to be long. Exhausting even. I can tell you that while I failed to recognize several of the individual names, I missed less than 10% of the terms/concepts (and by adding the company affiliations to the names, my score improved.)

How about you?

If you can’t score a 51% on this test, are you certain that you’re qualified to work in publishing in the 21st century?

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