Contentology is a neologism I created in 2002 to describe a digital communication theory that calls for a more deeply integrated approach to content strategy. In my Contentology.com blog that I was writing back then, I defined it as “the science of content”:
Contentology blends disciplines such as information architecture, information design, usability engineering and “Webitorial” writing. Simply put, it’s a methodology for planning, developing and organizing information.
Source: Contentology.com, June 6, 2002
Contentology is about these things: The meaning, the vessel for that meaning, the channel for that vessel, and the people who exchange the meaning using vessels and channels. It’s not just about words. Words are symbols that can have varying presentational qualities. They are imbued with subtle layers of meaning, but their meaning can also be manipulated.
It’s not just about visuals, either. Graphic designs are simply another vessel for carrying meaning, whether overt (as in a financial chart) or subliminal (something that provokes an emotion or a reaction, like a photo of a mother and her child, or an image of the World Trade Centre in New York).
And in a multimedia environment like the Web, it’s also not just about audio, video, animation, software downloads, chat, IM or any interactive features. They, too, are either vessels of meaning, or channels to carry that meaning.
Remember the definition of the word “content” from its Latin roots of “contentum” and “continere” – that which contains meaning, not meaning itself. Content is, by definition, not just something you drop into a vessel, but both a vessel and the idea within it. In other words, you cannot separate pure meaning from its container…
Source: Contentology.com, June 2, 2002 (URL unavailable)
I wanted the idea of Contentology to be as open source as possible so people would start thinking and talking about it more, so in 2003, I submitted the term to the Internet definitions in NetLingo.com, which describes it as follows:
Contentology integrates research, knowledge and skills from all fields that focus on analyzing, developing, and designing or structuring content. Areas of interest include electronic publishing, information design, user experience design, Web design, information technology, etc.
I’ve been encouraged to see that in the last 17 years, the concept of Contentology has grown wings and that in the era of social media dominance of the web, people are finally talking about online content as something that is fluid, repurposeable and able to create a powerful dynamic depending on how it is being used. The 21st century is indeed becoming the Age of Content.