In the field I work in, and you probably work in it as well if you are taking the time to read this, we deal with, make and produce "content".
Saying this term always makes me feel a tinge of sadness. Sadness that we use a term as generic and bland for work that requires such blood sweat and tears.
I've always wondered what a better term could be. Haven't found one yet...But thinking about it lead me to a series of thoughts about the reason we use this word.
First, if there is content, there must be a container. And by thinking about things within this duality, we enter into old philosophical distinctions and categories - inside and out, form and function, meaning and language etc...Usually in this type of discussion, and within the framework of our occidental culture, the content is more valuable than the container. It is the "real" thing, the stuff we want while we discard the packaging. Your thoughts might live forever, but your physical brain won't.
But does this line of thought apply to content creation in the sense of motion graphics, vfx, animation etc....? It certainly does in the sense that a 4k TV does not sell without some compelling content to fill it with.
In the world I work in, which is more geared towards experiential content creation, the container in fact defines the content, or should define the content much more than in "traditional" media production. In other words, if you are creating a character animation for an HD TV, and you are asked to deliver it for a 4k display, you just change your render settings and wait longer. However, if you are designing content for a projection mapped building or an LED wall, you will have completely different approaches to your content.
So we reach a point where, in contemporary media production, the container is slippery. It isn't always the usual rectangular flat surface. Conversely, we are also at a point where content production is slippery. We don't always know what will be produced by a generative process. I once worked on a project where we designed an instagram/google images/tumblr crawler, and had to find all kinds of ways of protecting ourselves against "bad" content.
Which brings us to another interesting idea floating around the concept of "content" today. What you hear a lot in meetings with brands and agencies is that people's lives become content for brands. So you and I take pictures on Instagram, and use a brand friendly hashtag, and there you go, we have provided free, completely usable content for corporations.
So do we call words, images and sounds "content" because they are now so much more than books, music and videos (films, documentaries, ...all the old categories)? Or do we call them "content" because the container is a much more important concept than it was before, meaning that "content" and "container" have a dynamic relationship, where some kind of synthesis occurs in the most successful projects and they somehow become, together, an experience?
To me the latter is the most satisfying and stimulating way of using this ugly word to define what I do.