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                                                                                photo courtesy of Benjamin Heine

In science a hybrid is created by mixing the characteristics of two different species in order to create one that is better or stronger. In web development a mashup is a web application hybrid that uses and combines data, presentation or functionality from potentially two or more sources to create new services (think Yelp with an embedded Google map). In the automobile industry, a hybrid vehicle uses/combines two or more distinct power sources (an electric motor with a gasoline engine) to propel a vehicle. 

Hybridity is a different perspective. It's undiscovered potential. It's creative opportunity. It's a noteworthy conversation right now because of the juggernaut called digital media, which has birthed  the acrobatic discourse between the online and offline world.

Each has their own set of rules, yet those rules often bleed into each other blurring their boundaries, making it difficult to determine where one stops and the other begins. In a hyper connected world/networked economy, traditional definitions are changing, existing constructs are being challenged and typical conversations are being re-calibrated. The incessantly evolving ideas of the blogosphere, social media, wikis, e-commerce and the cloud (to name just a few) are demanding a recontextualizing of the ideas of value, meaning, and culture.

This came into particularly sharp focus for me when I read a great post by Tom Chatfield on e-books (an acute example of the push and pull between online and offline). In his post an idea he shares:

One of the adages of digital media has long been that relationships matter more than mere purchases: between creators and consumers, but also within those communities of consumers who have an increasingly vocal impact on the creative process.

In this context, it’s always been one of the stranger current features of eBooks that digital and print formats are locked in such mortal combat, given not only that the same people buy both, but that the bulk of this buying is done by self-proclaimed book lovers who would relish the opportunity to connect texts’ physical and virtual incarnations. Whether it’s discounted physical copies for owners of digital books, digital editions bundled with physical purchases, or some other arrangement, pitting old against new is a poor reflection of what readers and writers alike actually want.

Often the digerati hail the death of all things non-digital (which is far from the truth) and then traditionalists fail to fully embrace the realities of web 2.0 (at their own peril). As Tom mentions above, there is value in looking at hybrid models designed with the intention of incorporating both worlds into one experience that actually becomes better for audiences and communities.

Ladies and gents, hybridity isn't just about taking advantage of a market trend or not missing an opportunity for a quick buck, its about understanding that this is where the world is heading (and in many ways is already here) and the emerging of a new language . It's not a blip on the radar screen but a shift in the way we think about, understand and engage the world.

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