Monday, September 08, 2008

Starting over

I've been around the term reboot since, dunno, 30 years ago? (He said, using uptalk intonation.) It's, like, a computer thing, right? On the conservative extreme (language, not politics) among the people I work with (editors), booting is already a bit casual; the proper term is bootstrapping.

Or was. It's safe to say that more people know to boot than know to bootstrap in the context of computers, and I've never heard anyone even suggest to rebootstrap. Although I might try that, see what kind of reaction I get.

It seems that to reboot has been wending its way into territory beyond computer science. This came to me forcefully today when I heard Teri Gross talking about the director J. J. Adams:

Next year Abrams's new "Star Trek" movie will be released, with the hope that it will reboot that franchise the way "The Dark Knight" rebooted Batman.
Repeating reboots, cool. This is an interesting usage to me; it's clear enough what it means, since it has the same semantics as in computer land, namely to restart. Turns out that this usage is established in the comic-book industry, where writers find themselves faced with a ticklish problem, namely how to wipe the slate clean on an established story line. As the highly authoritative Wikipedia explains nicely:

A reboot gives the chance for new fans to experience the core story by reintroducing it in smaller and easier-to-understand installments and/or by refocusing the story on its most important elements and abandoning many subplots and an overgrowth of minor details. Reboots may also serve changing audience expectations as to storytelling style, genre evolution, and sophistication of material.

I went a-searching for more examples of reboot being used outside computers. Huh, once you pay attention, you see it everywhere, imagine.

There's a book of essays named Rebooting America. (A bonus there is a tantalizing link to something called smartocracy -- ain't that neat? -- but the link doesn't seem to go anywhere.)

There's a TV show I've never heard of (that covers most of them, actually) named ReBoot. By computer dudes, it looks like.

reboot now: a conference about technological change: "A convergence to celebrate the emergence of new paradigms,where you can become a catalyst for change by the unlearning of old patterns… ."Another nice find: the Latest News section starts off with "Dear Fellow Rebootians," heh.

Reboot Music: "A music label founded by technology and entertainment industry veterans to reinvent the business of music. Utilizing an innovative approach, Reboot Music embraces new consumer behaviors and new technologies to create a company without boundaries." Gotcha.

A blog piece: Reboot Your Workflow This Fall.

A piece in Wired magazine: "The Critics Need a Reboot. The Internet Hasn't Led Us Into a New Dark Age."

Reboot Stereophonic is a music company that ... well, I don't quite get it, but it has something to do with old recordings.

Life Reboot, a blog-y thing that's about people who are restarting their careers.

The meaning of "restarting" travels easily through these usages. My general impression, tho it's just that, is that this, what, more metaphoric? even more metaphoric? use of reboot is being driven by people who come out of the computer industry or its various cousins (e.g., "new media"). The exception might actually be comics, but then, there's quite a bit of overlap between comic fandom and computer folks, so maybe it's a natural migration of the term from the later to the former.

Anyway, if you hear your grandma talking about rebooting her garden or something, by all means, let me know. I'm curious just how far this term is going to go.

No comments: