Before becoming a full time UX practitioner, I have been a Front-End developer for a couple of years. When I discovered CSS in 2002, I embraced it with enthusiasm. The key concept was the separation between content and presentation, and that was revolutionary for a world (html development) used to distort tables for presentational purposes. The thing is not even conceivable today, but it took a while to get used to it and accordingly change approaches and practises.
Although at a first glance merely technical, it was the first manifestation of a properly digital metaphor breaking the link between layout and content, a link inherited from the print. What is happening now with the rise of complex interactive devices is something very similar, with the same tension towards the dissolution of once unified products. The responsive approach seems to be a reasonable evolution of the passage from table to css based layouts.
However, the stakes are significantly higher: everything we are (or were) used to, in terms of interaction and content consumption, is changing.
We need to be careful and bold at the same time.
It is very common to read and talk about what is happening now in the digital landscape in terms of ‘The rise of mobile’. The risk is to put too much focus on techniques updates or mobile/desktop dichotomies and miss the bigger picture of a complete transformation of our digital artefacts. It is the beginning of the end of the page as the only way for reading and consuming content (look at technology like SPAs, the Pinterest homepage or the location on an ebook).
I have recently been to a London content strategy meet-up, and I had the feeling that the content community is well aware of that. They are rapidly finding new techniques, tools and concepts for tackling the issue (look at the ‘Adaptive content strategy’ movement). The multi-channel nature and the uncertainty of the final output of the content is fuelling an amazing knowledge and consciousness among content practitioners. They have also been very courageous in getting rid of the safe boundaries of pages and documents and are moving to the unknown and slippery territory of adaptive content.