Schrödinger’s Movie

April 24, 2008

Let’s play a game to demonstrate that the future of movies is dead.

First, pick you favourite movie.

I’ll wait… I know it’s a tricky question

OK, Good choice.

Imagine you have it on DVD, and you ripp it to your laptop as a 5 Gigabyte file.

Ok, What’s you second favourite Movie?

Ah! Crafty one.

Imagine you have it on DVD, and you ripp it to your laptop as a 5 Gigabyte file.

Right, third (and final) favourite movie choice.

Heh, ok.. I see what you did there.

Ok, you know the score, Imagine you have it on DVD, and you ripp it to your laptop as a 5 Gigabyte file.

You now have three movie files on your laptop, all 5Gb in size.

We wont mention this to the copyright authorities. It’s between you and me.

The thing is, you only need the one file for all three movies. The data for each movie has been conformed to the same size, it’s the sequence of the data that enables the viewing of the movie – through the player that understands the codec.

You see, any movie that has ever been made also exists within the single 5Gb file.

Still with me?

The data file is just noise, it’s how you tune out the movie you want is the trick.

But the fact that every movie that has ever been made is held within that data file also means that every film that will ever be made is within that file.

[Pause for thought - I know you're thinking at this point.]

Think of it like radio, you have to tune to the right sequence of the data to get the movie you want or the movie you can imagine you would like to see.

Now, for the technical reader, I know you’re snarling at this – yes – it’s a question of retrieval and we don’t have the technology nor the methodology to tackle this puzzle.

But it does indicate a finite number of movies that can be made. It’s a huge number – but it’s finite.

Look at it from an single image perspective.

If you have a jpg file, 800pixels x 600pixels, the limitation of the dimensions, that is, the number of pixels multiplied by the colour depth is the limitation of the format of the image.

As screen/image performance ‘increases’, the colour depth improves and thus more variation can occur, but there is a limit somewhere. 32bit colour depth is probably what you have your monitor set to. Hi Def Tv blows this away, but the visual plane of us creatures is limited to a spectrum. We can only see so deep.

But back to the movie puzzle.

Schrödinger set a thought puzzle back in 1935,

He proposed a scenario with a cat in a sealed box, where the cat’s life or death was dependent on the state of a subatomic particle. According to Schrödinger, the Copenhagen interpretation implies that the cat remains both alive and dead until the box is opened.

You can read the whole cat debacle on Wikipedia.

If you have a 5Gb of data, the movie you want is in there if you can perceive it.

Now, there’s an alternative view of this puzzle from proposed in 1987 by Hans Moravec and in 1988 by Bruno Marchal. Their experiment essentially involves looking at the Schrödinger’s cat experiment from the point of view of the cat. It’s called the Quantum Suicide.

Which makes me think what will power does a movie that has never been made have, to fight it’s way out of the 5Gb of noise, sitting on your desktop?

What ‘will power’ do characters and scenes of movies that, don’t exist, have?

This question shows how our minds project emotive responses towards fictions, how we project our own sensibilities onto formats of existence. Narratives act as vehicles for our own perceptions, but do they have a magnetism to the needs of conversation between ourselves?

It makes no sense to reference movies that don’t exist because they are not a shared point of understanding – we tend to use the past as a reference, not the future. But as the sum total of all possibilities of movies can be formulated if we understand how language informs communication, then reference points remove any notion of authored time – that is, what will be and what has has no hierarchy – that is, the past is no more informative than the future.

But I digress.

If every movie can exist within 1 file, have a look at Amazon, Blockbusters, netflix and youtube. That’s a lot of duplication, a lot of technology used to propel unit sales where instead we should be looking at the solution of movie automata – growing movies – so that we are freed up, to move on to something else.

If you’re in marketing, especially planning, and tuned into the digital storytelling scene (ahem), you’ll know about Faris’s Transmedia Planning essay. You’ll probably know that it comes from Henry Jenkins notions of Convergence Culture, and you might know that he took it from Nicholas Negroponte, Director of MIT, book called Being Digital, where he talks about Bit Streaming. Bitstreaming is where the point of production which becomes the point of consumption (basically – think about Lifestreaming, User Generated Content and Conversation On-line). Your doing is the act of consumption. To use is to learn.

BitSteaming is not Transmedia, something has got lost along the way here. We have to stop thinking in terms of making media; production and distributions are side effects of design, they are not a means to an end.

Design, as an act, infers solution. Design is much better at finding problems than having to abuse creativity to produced polished productions for consumption.

Brilliant things are the messes we are fixated upon. Headlines in the press attract attention, not for the morbid cultural events but for the persuit of reason. A mess is a loose space that we can occupy mentally. There is peace in the eye of the storm. Time stands still in this space.

There has been so much written about this area within marketing, and I think Marcus bagged the best review so far, but it all amounts to avoiding the subject that authorship does not matter. It matters not for an audience nor for the producer, authorship is a channel for communication. Communication, does not need a singular writer to produce media. Films may have a director, but there is almost a countless cast of assistants required to design, produce and distribute.

There’s is also the notion of copyright and licence. That was demonstrated in Where are the Joneses?

You may want to look at Roland Barthes ‘Death of an Author’ or Walter Benjamin’s ‘Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.’ Both have indicated the moral and virtues decline in the notions of authorship. It can be argued that authorship maintains our identity as humans. Crosbie and Doc Searles may debate that synthesis of human authorship is almost upon us. Though Andrea may not agree.

Digtal methodologies, as we have seen within all forms of publishing, does not honour the author as a predicate for future productions. From Markov chains to Bayesian search theory, pattern matching of semantics is beginining to be taken seriously as the direction of technology which will author our future. BookLamp is doing something interesting in this area (Thanks to Ben for the link). We will be experiencing the automaton of narrative far beyond the postmodernism of Baudrillard’s Simulations and Simulacra as seen in those Matrix Movies.

This is why Hollywood is dead wood, tinsletown will burn to the ground.

We’ll be left with an ever present of change, a shifting sifting of values that look more like noise than logic.

The Semantic hope of web3.0, where stuff talks to each other, means that we are the participating audience of a story that we all know even though it has not been written, and constantly trying to escape by retuning the aesthetics back to what makes us feel comfortable. It’s going to harder to be feel secure in the thought that you have a fate, destiny or an objective future when the principles of subjectivity are iterations of a systematic upgrade of general consensus – you belong to your peer’s perceptions.

Narrative may well collapse into pace determined by a rhythm of participation. The story and melody could be perceptive instead of prescriptive.

From storytelling to synthesis, we see performance and identity central to the act of engagement. The human centrality is the primary node within a creation plane, which is pure transaction – an act. It’s how you map the individual the execution of transaction that will make the semantic web, not the alignment of meanings within language. An act is a meaning – a word is a symbol. Signs are conduits between the two.

Life will become a pure dress rehersal because the movie will never be made. Maybe this is the constant betaness. Maybe this is how we should never to be afraid of making mistakes. This sense of ‘incomplete’ or ‘disconectivity’ makes us relate more to each other.

Our patience for this consistant change will be subject to invariants. Just as the notion of interestingness is based upon anomalies; configurations, standards and useful protocols that provide moments of clarity, will become the Greek island oasis that defines peace – and maybe peace of mind. While Advertising hates this, marketing loves this. Disruptions in perception are only useful when you want someone to believe that they are in control – isn’t that so tiger?

But I digress, again.

I’ve no idea on how to retrieve the finite collection of movies within the 5Gb of data, but I’ve started using Twine to collate the ideas and references that made me thinking of this problem called Schrödinger’s Movie . If you’re using Twine, do pop by and have a look, help out, or comment.

Either way – the song remains the same. Open up.

Update [27-04-08] There is now a really interesting thread on Yahoo!Groups about this post.

Open up
Now open up
You lied
You faked
You cheated
You changed the stakes
Magnet toss that pie in the sky
Unrehearsed let the bubbles burst
All in all a three-ring circus
Of unity with parody tragedy or comedy
Probably publicity

Open up
Make room for me
Now open up
Make room for me

Lose myself inside your schemes
Go for the money, honey
Not the screen
Be a movie star Blah, blah, blah
Go the whole hog
Be bigger than God

Burn, Hollywood, burn
Taking down Tinsel Town
Burn Hollywood, burn
Burn down into the ground
Burn, Hollywood, burn
Burn, Hollywood, burn

Take down Tinsel Town
Burn down to the ground
Down into the ground
Burn

P.s. Ask me sometime how I know Peter Andre is responsible for LeftField’s first 2 albums.

Talking about the Joneses

September 2, 2007

frankie.jpg

Back in June, when we launched “Where are the Joneses?” I was actually in Bradford presenting the project at Btween07 to an audience of broadcasters, producers, software developers and very few marketing folk.

Btween is an event showcasing and discussing innovation that sits between broadcasting and technology. The curious thing was the majority of conversations were based around the migration of ‘TV’ to the web and how production companies were to trying to find the business models.

I was presenting with Patrick Crowe of Xenophile Media; our theme was ‘Freedoms of Engagement’. Xenophile Media are famed for their cross platform TV shows mixing online and broadcast for clients such as Disney.

Amid technical problems they did manage to film Patrick and I in conversation about “Where are the Joneses?” and just last week they uploaded the 3 parts via YouTube (Part 1 is the tail end of my presentation and the first 2 episodes of the Joneses). The presentation deck I used is below the videos and I guess wont make any sense at all by itself, but you might like to see some points of reference to the thinking behind the Joneses project.

If you’re wondering about what Frankie is doing here – it’s something to do with comedy and the semantic web… (Thanks JP)

If you’re not sick of me talking about this project, Btween in collaboration with Channel 4 Talent asked me to do a podcast about the project. It was supposed to be released under CC-BY_SA (Like the last one), but I guess the paperwork went missing. Here it is…

http://www.channel4.com/4talent/feature.jsp?id=5707

Free Gift Wrapping Paper

August 5, 2007

gpl3_wrapping-paper.png

gplv3-127x511.png

Rob and Crosbie have been kicking off about the idea and use of Gift Economy in the comments section here – which has led to the idea of some lovely GPLv3 wrapping paper, which I’d love to hand over under a Creative Commons BY-SA licence – but then I realised it’s probably just easier to make some Creative Commons wrapping paper, which is tempting to licence under GPLv3, well, the source file. But you can get the logos yourself and a copy of Gimp and you’ll be done in 5minutes anyway.

cc-giftpaper2.png
If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, here’s a video of Richard Stallman explaining the GPLv3

And as I’m at it, here’s a classy sheet of GNU gift wrap.

Remember, free software is for life, not religious ceremonies, like Festivus .

gnu-girftwrap2.png

Bloody hell, there really is a company that makes Festivus Poles. Viva free culture!

Seriously – watch this. And again if you’ve no idea what I’m on about watch this video.

Here’s the best of Festivus. Enjoy

Where are the Joneses?

June 17, 2007

wherearethejoneses.png

Quietly on Thursday the first audience participation sitcom to use an open licence went live. It’s called “Where are the Joneses?

The synopsis is that Dawn (left) has found out that she is the child of sperm donor and she now has the list of the other 27 siblings who are scattered across Europe. After contacting her new found brother Ian (Right) they begin the search with Jonti, the director filming their journey.

The basis to the project is that it’s a marketing experiment for the Ford Motor Company. Together we have been developing the project for 6 months. Seeing this live is undoubtedly my proudest moment as it’s the form of communication that I left Channel 4 TV to pursue.

The experiment is to embrace the value of networks by using an architecture of audience participation to generate semantic broadcasting. As the actors and their roving production team of 3 explore Europe, they will be posting approx 5 minutes of video daily along with various tweets, image and text posts.

To do this several significant changes to the traditional method of media manufacturing had to occur. First, the use licence had to be correct so that any participation could be freely shared with collaborating communities – so we applied Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0. (For those who follow the Creative Commons project, I bet you’re a little surprised to find Ford being the first global brand to use the licence on a commercial media project. Personally, I’m delighted.)

Second, the project had to be built upon existing web(2.0) services so that we could take the project to an audience rather than drag people into the project. Youtube is being used for video delivery, Flickr for photos, WordPress for the Blog (where the comedy is ‘played out’) and wikidot (where the audience can collaborate with each other, the actors and their production team). Dapper, Yahoo!Pipes, Facebook, various Google Apps, Twitter etc etc are also used to manage data flow and generate material for the actors to work from. If you like, it’s a UGC authentic media comedy based upon RSS feeds generating free open media.

Such factors begins to blur the answer to ‘what is content?’ We invited BabyCow to work with us on this because of their ability to produce the highest quality comedy and evolve characters. Their team is headed up by Henry Normal (Steve Coogan’s writer and business partner) and Ali MacPhail (Who was the exec producer on productions such as Nighty Night and The Mighty Boosh). They have helped significantly in demonstrating that media can be produced for both entertainment and marketing, outside the normal broadcasting channels and platforms.

By working with a classic TV production company to create marketing that is based upon the audiences input is the opportunity to give the audience the entertainment they ask for. We are encouraging the audience to take part in the project in any way they wish to. Write scripts, design characters, recommend locations across Europe and if you want to, you can be in the production as a character – you may wish to become a Jones yourself. You can also take the media and ideas and use them for you own benifit.

I will post more about this remarkable project over the next few week as we watch it mutate. For now, I really want to praise my employer Imagination and the inhouse team for getting their head around this production, Rob Myers for the original conversation back in Nov 2005 and the continuous remarkable insights into new forms of media production, Loca Records for the music (licenced under BY-SA too) and of course Claire and Richard from Ford of Europe who championed The Joneses from day zero. In my book they are currently the most pioneering clients in marketing today.

I’ll leave you with the first episode of the project. (Don’t forget to subscribe to the RSS feed off the blog). I hope you enjoy the forthcoming 12 weeks of this project – lets see if it goes further than that.

Disney Parody explanation of Copyright Law and Fair Use

Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use

Fair Use has it’s uses if you can justify the use; but as demonstrated above in the two videos, does it really bring value to a new work in sampled form? Both videos are humorous, but hard to follow.

Instead synthesis, using the samples as the base material for the production, or better the characters, assets and storylines (bearing in mind Disney has enjoyed borrowing Jungle book from the public domain only to protected the story through it’s own ‘classic’ rendering.) can open the usability of the original production.

Disney pumps dollars into promoting its productions knowing ‘roughly’ the longtail business returns on every frame and tune of the production. It employs thousands of people who design, produce and market the production; an industry is built upon the manufacturing of a creative network of people communicating a singular vision of Disneyness.

Such orchestration is the fine tuning of a commercial network, held together by licencing. Licences here are acting like an API – clear defined parameters of retrieval and use. Fair Use is a hack of the legal API, the amount, context and re-usable-ness is never defined. It’s a gamble call – a dirty grab at a well defined API.

As much as the focus and lamenting over copyright continues, and Creative Commons tries to bridge a peace deal with cc-by-sa, I see it in media technologists barking over formats and content connectivity, especially here in a debate concerning Microformats and the Semantic Web.

For me this fundamentally not understanding that ‘media’ is made for different reasons though may look the same. Indeed, the message may be the same. From political media to entertainment media, both have ingrained messages that seek to seduce the audience into, at worst, empathising, at best, buying the T-shirt.

When the Medium is Not the Message is to look at the purpose of the production process – the methodology of manufacturing:-

Publishers look to produce media for paid consumption. Marketing looks to produce media for voluntary engagement.

Both systems are ‘protected’ by the deeds of copyright. User Generated Media Authentic Media has been taken advantage of by both sides of commercial media producers; from YouTube as the video publishing arm of Google (admittedly having the lowest barrier to entry in the world) to Verizon Action Hero Movie Maker. Yet protection offers little in the way of commercial sense. Protection offers only the API to commerce use through uninspiring obvious reuse, such as distribution on portable media within territory markets (e.g. BluRay version in Egypt)

damianhirst_forgodssake.jpgThere is no fairy tale ending to this methodology of manufacturing; there is no downstream use with copyright acting like an API. There is no end in a closed network. And there’s no end in an open network.

Thinking that an open network of free media use is the holy grail of an enriching cultural existence, this is not an end in itself. To consider this as a destination (just as TV does being a non dialogue (Image) based technology), is to think incorrectly of the ambitions of message based media.

Message based media needs manipulation, it needs the Chinese whispers, it needs to find conduits. But at what speed does it need? What time does it require? Copyright, as recommended by Disney is up to 70 years after the death of the author. Reducing or decreasing it has no effect on the nature of the commercial APIness.

From Twitter to the LongNow (and Russel’s Dawdlr project) time is being used to leverage usage. I wrote about the use of time before in regards to Flickr patents and Interestingness, but with an assumption that the network effect sustains ubiquity. The Longtail theory would purport it does. But consider the value of the statelessness and fragility of the networks. A network thrives on collapses, allowing connections to be created through the result of misdemeanour (a collapse for example). Could media get trapped, moated from an audience is network collapses became more prevalent, and how does this effect the value of the media.

Service denials and caching has put stop to much of this commercial panic; but don’t these inflate the value of the persistant media suppliers? Sustainability and stability afford good consumer experience but is it helping create a good ecology of creativity?

Conflict has been a concernable source of innovations and product development, normally at the cost of short term humanity. Death has been a constant source of activation for achievement. Life has been a constant source of battle for designing solutions that invent cultural connectivity.

As social networks define themselves as platforms the hum of a media operating system becomes louder. The social grid is not a wired solution as the software developers are keen to believe. Consider the network a bag of nerves; an emotional net that individuals define their transmission and reception rules. ‘The Individuals Guide to the Emotiverse’ [sic] is the opportunity to build Emotional Media Interfaces (Sorry, EMI). Using the faux fragility of the server architectures to cache responses, media production can be used as a facilitator of emotional engagement.

By the user being the key instigator, the rights model is open to decision by the audience, not so much the facilitator. The user, as centric, is the first object in the downstream model of engagement ecology. Messages from are attractive to manufactures who have the scope to devise methodologies suitable to the request. The API in this case is dynamic on the side of the service provider, thus maintaining the love for asymmetrical communications.

If you go down to the woods today,
You’re sure of a big surprise
If you go down to the woods today,
You’d better go in disguise.

For ev’ry bear that ever there was,
Will gather there for certain, because
Today’s the day the Teddy Bears have their picnic.

Ev’ry Teddy Bear who’s been good,
Is sure of a treat today.
There’s lots of marvellous things to eat,
And wonderful games to play

Beneath the trees where nobody sees,
They’ll hide and seek as long as they please
‘Cause that’s the way the Teddy Bears have their picnic

(The Teddy Bears Picnic 1907, John W. Bratton)

Fair Use communicates that copyright has justifications, and as the methodology of the vast majority of productions supports the millions who make stuff, it wont vanish without systematic changes to lives outside the capitalist economy that we use to pay for substance, stability and now sustainability. Copyright will be one of the last things to go, not the first in a networked era of media communications.

As Damian’s mother said to him: “For the love of God, what are you going to do next?”

“That’s when you stop laughing,” Hirst says. “You might have created something that people might die because of. I guess I felt like Oppenheimer or something. What have I done? Because it’s going to need high security all its life.”

[via]

myspace = ghetto
facebook = mall (shopping centre)
blogs = suburbia
facebook = bikesheds
digg = bus stop
google = neighbours fence
twitter = down the pub
linkedin = clubhouse
delicious = Garden allotment
secondlife = Anywhere, whilst drunk
WoW = Scifi Rugby
youtube = hairdressers
Bebo = village hall on a friday night
skype = telephone
AIM = water cooler

internet = salad bar

Really, where is disruption in our lives with online services? Where is the innovation? Where is the remarkable?

That’s the problem with pluralism and convergence. Exponential shifts are harder to see when network values modulate each other, defining each others identity.

As code and interaction increase each others ubiquity, you begin to develop perceptions of engagement; this maybe physical, mental or social.

As software negotiates with interaction, metaphor language assists in lowering access to entry. Inversely, how do social normals inform software development? This constant invariance, the basis to asymmetrical communications, is under the command of user experience and user interface ‘architects’. Both design by committee and design by author has been replaced by design by beta. But, the role of mediator (nee editor) holds the responsibility of social Velcro.

If we’re encouraged to rewire the web, we will fall prey to simulacra. Optimising for happiness is not a technology solution, nor is it editorial. Working with the flaws in communication, engagement and interaction makes life richer.

So consider changing some of your habits and watch how the software adapts.

Rethinking Mozilla

May 13, 2007

Open source successes have been down to appropriating existing models of development, refining the concept and then sharing the development. How many open source projects are paradigm shifts in their conception? Linux isn’t. Mozilla isn’t. Puredata isn’t.

Chris Messina from Citizen Agency has posted a wonderful monologue, which asks, why hasn’t Mozilla diversified to match the advancement in Microsoft and Adobes rich media tools.

It’s a good question. A really good question. And I’ve spent most of the weekend thinking about it. Here’s my thinking on this.

1. The mode of production for web browsers has to change. Hand coded interfaces, applications and middleware configurations are, to a degree, costly. Time to market is painful when there is so much innovation and adaption of web services. But, are we seriously thinking that the future of media production online will remain as HTML. Heck no. HTML has been useful getting the global audiences onto 56k dialups, migrating them to broadband flash and ajax applications. Community, media sharing, bookmarkable, re-editable pages are extremely handy, and we all know this is what Berners-Lee had in mind from the start, only to be scuppered by the dodgy commerce of web1.0.

Media production is about to get a lot more agile, deploying more media than we can consume and it’s going to be closer to the broadcast media that you all love. Publishers know they don’t have to be clever interactions – like YouTube. It’s called the ‘Least Acceptable Media’ Syndrome (Nod to Steven Johnson for that one liner).

Are they going to want to faff around with pages that work well in browsers? No. They don’t want the browser and if you’re wanting a linear media fix, you dont need a browser. Look at Joost. A P2P system, with a Mozilla framework for crossplatform functionality and a video render slapped on top and bingo, you have the telebox on your laptop. I’m still disappointed with Joost, just as I am with 99.9% of broadcasting, but many many folk love that kind of thing. They are also the Joe 6 Pack Chris refers to.

2. The Mozilla production team are not business analysts; their passion is not in the review of media consumption; it’s in the disruption of software companies that make commercial browsers, befriending the web monkey and standing proud that they made an elegant solution to browse the web and give affordance to customisation.

Unfortunately, the customisation of the Firefox is at the hands of the wider community. Quality slips in favour of a quick hack of fun. Bad extensions slow the elegant Firefox. Fear of bloating the browser makes Microsofts job a lot easier. And if anything, Firefox has helped Microsoft make a better browser. I use both Firefox and Thunderbird. The latter is not by choice. In fact it sucks; the user experience is just not ‘fun’, the usability is a grunt, daily.

But with so much functionality, where is the innovation? Where is the paradigm shift in communications? Where is the emotional exchange that affords consumers to say, these are the tools I want to socialise and work?

Mozilla as a platform is an interesting idea. But it’s not going to happen. To be a platform that supports media production, right down to the level of scripts, filming, editing, encoding, deploying and taking into the consideration that the model of media production, is likely to evolve exponentially over the forthcoming decade to embrace digital broadcasting, then they don’t have either the development staff or the business roadmap to keep up with the paradymn shifts.

RSS will become that chosen supply chain for media distribution; unlikely that you’ll get your headlines and articles within it. Rather the feed will contain instructions, commands, fucntions even to instruct your thick client to generate the media you so wish. Yes, thick client. If you think about the benefits of real-time media production, its’ going happen locally, not on server or p2p network. The TV model is about to get an new lease of life, people the mass audience wont type URLs by choice. They wont fidget and play like the average Firefox user does. Media engagement requires the least distruptive interfaces. Like one button. Just one. Not options. Point and Click, get the Kodak moment.

If Mozilla wants to take the web to new levels of experience, they have to start talking to more than just web developers. Forget about browsing and emailing. How could we use asymmetrical communication devices that afford media production as the basis for commercial exploitation, leaving the user with One Click.

Chris highlights the ethos of choice, but herein is the folly of engagement; choice is an illusion of commercial culture. Free to choose is the basis of funneling the mind and the wallet. If choice is so important to the consumer, the answer is to optimise the benifits, not create more choice.

If Chris’ monologue was to prompt a call to action so that we can all begin to rework the rules of ubiquity, so be it. Joost should have been an open source project, but then again, the licence owners to the content would have never had touched it. If the Open Souce communities want to break the advertising model for something more richer, then projects like Mozilla have to work with the brands that need to communicate; help them innovate so that ‘prosumer’ engagement becomes natural.

If you want to get the openness of the web to it’s full glory then you have to talk to the auteur, the media makers, the designers who want to understand how their work, art, skill and passion can be shared so that they benefit. Dialogue needs to happen there, not preach to the surfing converted.

And how do you do that? Start to show them. Build the media industry tools and commercial processes that enable Mozilla to be relevant. Mozilla fixed a problem that mattered to a few and did it really really well. If Mozilla attracted the right minds, the economists, the media directors, the strategists, then you have a dialogue that can lead to a Production Suite that will make the media industry valuable again. And maybe, it just might make Google rethink it’s conduit strategy. Now that’ll be fun, wouldn’t it?

Chris’s video is here. Watch it. It’s long, but it’s good. Go on. And if you’re not reading this through Firefox, install it now.

I’ve been wanting to set up a community song lyric site for a few weeks now, in fact I started it during the Easter break. The site is running off wikidot (a superb wiki farm – modules galore, rss friendly and free to use) and is now in what only can be descriped as a ridiculously early alpha build. It works, but you might not understand what to do. You can register and write some lyrics and tag them, but I really need to write some more help texts. The basics are here and some banter about it is here.

I’m keeping a blog about the project here and the development RSS feed is here.

The idea behind this is that if we all write the songs under an open licence such as Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike, then musicians can use these songs without permission. This means that fans can write songs for their favourite singers and bands. The bands are free to work with the material.

It also means that songs that get published can’t shouldn’t charge for the songwriting, only the performance of the song. Songwriting makes up the highest portion of royalty charges for labels, but if your fan base is writing the songs the sales figures should go up.

So, I thought I’d get the site under your noses, so that you can watch the development from scratch. Yeah, someone might stream ahead and build a better version before I complete the style sheet. I don’t mind. In fact – I’d just like to see this form of economics in place.

Anyone fancy giving me a hand with this, drop me a line, or post something below in the comments section.

I thought I’d post about a system that I’ve been using and evolving, basically, to get some feedback from you lovely readers.

As business requests come thick and fast for online projects I’ve needed to formulate a way to match clients needs with users needs. Too many times I get the request that a client wants x, y and z to appear on their website and had to explain the people using the site (customers and potential customers) are the ones who should be asked what they need from the site. It’s the transferal of image based thinking of the old school marketing minds to the knowledge based economy of the nu wave tinterweb school of communications. (Nod to John Grant.)

It’ll be of value if you look at the Creation Plane too, as the number one rule is putting the user at the centre of the experience, not the project sponsor.

The next step, like any good planner will confess, is that the proposition needs a narrative. Under the terms of interactive media, narratives are non-linear, there for you can use the ‘beginning, middle and end’ scope of a movie. For interactive design, pathways are a better concept than narratives, as we want the user to find their way through the work, using the media as they see fit in order for them to achieve their goal. Remember, folks are coming to your website in their terms, not yours. Consumerscapes and demographics are all very well for editorial tone, but they are friggin’ useless when you have no idea what they want from editorial (The times I’ve ransacked Flickr for visual metaphors stands testament to this point.) And users want to engage; use your media, add to your media, participate in your media. Broadcast media fails here but interactive excels if you get it right.

If the user comes to your website to achieve a goal, and you don’t deliver, don’t expect a return visit. Websites are software, emotional data that must be useful, not just entertaining. Software is for repeatability not a single fleeting exchange.

So, we have, what I call, The 4 Humble Demands (of the Prosumer) . The Buddhists and medically inclined might twitch at this point. The title is ripped from Buddhas teachings: The Four Noble Truths (the eight fold pathways don’t factor here, in fact I think they are a bit of red herring in the teachings, but that’s another story).

The Four Noble Truths are:

1. Identify Suffering
2. Understand the cause of the suffering
3. Identifying the cure to the suffering
4. Applying the cure

Many western medical councils use the same 4 steps in diagnosis, prognosis, cure and treatment.

The Four Humble Demands draws attention to the participation of the audience to the service provider, that is, identifying the physiological stages in a user pathway to achieve their goal – whatever it may be. So, I call the four stages:

1. Inspiration
2. Aspiration
3. Insight
4. Acquisition

Let me explain.

Inspiration

You need to attract the user to your service, and once they have discovered you, how are you making yourself and your message attractive. The user needs to admit, “this is looking like this place can help me.” Which is all very well, but if you are addressing an infinite consumerscape, you need to help them refine their questions/quest so that you can help them achieve their goal. This is where Aspiration comes in.

Aspiration

You need to ask the user what they are looking for. Now, most websites have a navigation system that ‘guides’ the user in the right direction. An information architect will convert business requirements to navigation elements, may they be global, secondary or page local. Which is fine to a point. But what you should be thinking is what functions help the user ask the question. Search is fine, but retrieval is a better way to think about it. If you understand the semantic web, then you’ll understand why tag clouds are so brilliant. Because they get the user to the Insight phase fast. This is ‘editoral as navigation.’

Insight

Now, as much as I love Jaffe point about insight, I use the word to identify the stuff the user is after, that is editorial. This could be interactive, this could be text, images video, code. It’s the stuff they came to your site for. The better, more useful it is (and that includes being able to use it – and that means using an open licence.) If they can use it, they have achieved a goal. If your audience at this point has a lovely warm fuzzy feeling, a sensation of achievement, you’ve set yourself up for the payoff, that is Acquisition.

Acquisition

So your site visitor has got what they came for. It was quick, easy and fulfilling. Congrats to you pal. But before they go and all you have is some site stats of their visit (w00t!) and possibly some free marketing when they use an image of yours (which has been offered under an open licence), I’d guess you’ll either be a little smug (erm, myopic) or underwhelmed because you have’t sold them your best thingy. What you have to achieve is this transaction. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon.

At the very least you need to get the user to work with you in spreading the idea of your service. If they’re ones listening, then they are the ones who will spread the word. Social bookmarking, ‘send 2 a friend’, subscribe to updates. All these functions can be introduced at this point.

Either way – if you have helped them find what they are after, in their terms of engagement, then they are more likely to come back and purchase your ‘wonder product’.

Further, you can make the Acquisition phase become the driving force behind the project’s ecosystem. If your website users are in a mode of co-creation, or at least rating and promoting editorial, this can influence the navigational elements (remember, your editorial is their navigation). Work with your audience, understand their outputs and make them your inputs. Together, your media becomes more relevant to their network.

The Eightfold pathways, if you felt I’m being a little dismissive about Buddha’s elaboration of ‘treatment’ is aligned to functions of Acquisition. The various emotive frameworks of functions dont seem to fit his original manifesto, mainly because of the ‘righteousness’ of the declaration. I think dictating what righteousness is a little overbearing. In principle, yes, ‘be nice’, but I don’t want to be told what is nice and what isn’t. One man’s niceness is another man’s nagging.

So when you’re planning your interactive work, cross reference your content verticals (about us, what we do, who we do it for, why we do it yadda yadda) with these four stages. Then you’ll see where to drop in functions to pages and when not to. You’ll also see the range of functions you need across the site, thus optimising your production schedule.

If you haven’t read TIGS’ Transmedia planning, you might want to after this. The Four Humble Demands is not restrained to online digital communications. If you want to play nicely with the audience, you need them to feel they can take from you.

Happy to elaborate on any of the above, just let me know in the comments section below.

Last year I gave a short presentation on Creative Commons and Open Licencing. It was all a bit last minute so much of it was off the cuff. In the true spirit of the talk, I suggested to the organisers that the presentation that was filmed was made available under CC-BY-SA for other to share and rework.

4Talent asked Ben Cormak to use the material and below is his animation and sound track to my presentation. There’s been a little editing of my 30minute talk, but I think he’s got the message through of what I wanted to express. Best of all, the ecosystem of culture is at work here – reuse of media, refining the message, sharing the insights. Wonderful stuff.

Do check out Ben’s 4Music page (the original hosting of this video) and of course his MySpace page.

Taxing Sparks

November 27, 2006

“The value of the image depends upon the beauty of the spark obtained; it is, consequently, a function of the difference of potential between the two conductors.”

Adam’s been promoting creativity and surealism again, this time at an Internet People event. Roving digitali Jemima Kiss has the write up here. Adam (aka the ArkAngel) has left some further insights into his vision of the creative process in the comments section.

un-chien-andalou_montage.jpg

Adam continues: “The strength of an image or an idea is largely dependent on the potential between two disparate things that you bring together. The further apart they are, if you can make that creative spark leap between them, the stronger the thing you come up with.”

Which nobody can disagree with; it’s how the juxtaposition occurs that matters. The evening seemed to ask where the creativity resides in the UK, especially initiatives such as start ups, webby ones specifically AND if the US is ‘more fruitful’ than Europe. Sigh..

It seems that the desire to make money talk and the BS walk is still the moniker of media commerce. At a time where transactional business models that are based upon peer trust dominates the concept, design and manufacturing of software, there are still the confused to believe there is the need to pursue large cash rewards for being able to do what you want to do.

I wish I could remember where I heard “Profit follows meaning” as it’s the best advice for business pitches I’ve ever heard.

gate_brunel2.jpg

What’s missing from both the observations is the taxation. Copyright, taste ‘n’ decency, geographical restrictions/licences to transmit are relatively new concepts that neither the Surrealists not the forefathers of software commerce had to worry about when executing their projects; Bill Gates used the code that was available – Luis Buñuel shot the scenes he wanted to. Since their free run of ‘invention’ (and patients), the ability to free spark has become elusive; there are just too many legalities that prevent juxtapositions. Or is that too many are trying to clone the recipes of yesterdays successes. Online video services do seem to be suffering from this - and the consumer is less than enthused.

And there lies the debate: what does make sense at the intersection of communications, manufacturing and networks?

As you begin to try and answer this, the creative questions will give birth to commercial solutions.

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Back to Adam’s interest with surrealism: Buñuel’s cinema works Un Chien Andalou and L’Âge d’or (Yeah, both link to YouTube – beat them for a find!) both build meaning based upon beliefs that he held – not anyone else – just Buñuel (OK – Dalí had some input..) Regardless, it’s this type of determinism that brings the everyday into a new light and a light that the audience will bath in.

And they will because there is space in the works for them to occupy and make their own meaning. Once the audience gain their own understanding, they would have already entered into an exchange – it’s the strength of the work that retains the ability of the exchange. Both Gates and Buñuel knew this. The ability to execute their work is a tribute to the vision.

Today with the need to include the participation of the audience to ‘complete the work’, execution is a factor that needs to be designed in to the concept. The audience needs to be in position at the intersection of communications, manufacturing and networks. Something that perhaps we used to refer to as the Sweet Spot. Today, the audience have to be the spark, and we have to make that space for them to spark. Legal taxes such as ‘rights’ that prevent us making interesting work for the audience to occupy has to be questioned; equally, we have to ‘tax’ the brains enough for the spark to happen..

Here’s the brilliant Jaffre explaining it in an interesting way..

cheersv3-copy.jpg

The great thing about media software is the diversity of people who are involved with it. The downside of being involved with software (and media) is that social time tends to get sucked in by the office machines – so last night at the Old Queens Head was a vain attempt to catch up with mates who have never met each other before.

From left to right we have Paul Thornton Jones of Channel 5 TV Interactive, Christian Alhert of Open Business and Creative Commons and Paul Argent Founding Partner of Milo who make lovely educational Flash media for Channel4 and the BBC. Petros (the other Founding Partner of Milo) and the beautiful Elena, also of Milo left before we got the camera out.

I’m supposed to write up what we talked about: It was along the lines of the demise of the broadcasting era, what happens to a brand when everyone can access content without the need of a mediator; what’s the role of media producers in a world of open source software; what else was there to mash up in a web2.o kinda way; is everyone using netvibes?; who’s reading blog rss feeds via their phone (erm…just Petros on that one – but I like the idea – I never thought about before – simple brilliance from a technologist – perfect); living in Forest Hill after a decade in Shorditch (Argy is now a squire); Free Wifi on Upper Street – Paul thinks he can get it from his flat..

We all spend most of our working days dealing with media technology ideas – but the opportunity to bring together marketing, commercial TV, education mentors and an open licence specialist together for a beer is perhaps a more fruitful way of thrashing out the future than the occasional conference or social networking night. Honest talk, no pretence and a desire to find a way to make great work.

I think we all left with a better empathy about the industries we participate in than any real insight on what’s around the corner. Sometimes it’s better to have a feeling about the future than a vision – it helps to take the next step somewhere, rather than work out where we should be going.

Cheers fellas!

spindrum.gifA few years ago I was mangaing a Nesta Project called Muzantiks. During this time I booked a developer who was just out of his MA course at Middlesex, the unfortunately name DIM (Design for Interactive Multimedia). Thor had been working with Enrike developing interactive musical instruments and were about to go their own ways back to their native countries. I suggested they formed themselves as a artists group and carry on with the projects- and so ixi-software was born.

Since then they lectured, toured, performed around the world, demonstrating the possibilities of screen based interaction for music.

Originally, the applications were sampled based tools;’ now they produce interfaces for high powered Open Source audio engines such as MAXMSP, PureData and Supercollider, so incorporating a vast array of synthesis and sampling. The interfaces they design and produce are perhaps best described as non linear composition tools (as seen here with SpinDrum), lending themselves to live performances more than studio based tools. The genius of them, aside from the design of the GUI’s that step away from traditional modes of address when producing music, is that their applications are loosely coupled with the audio engine through a protocol called OSC. Open Sound Control is a way to transfer information, rather much like MIDI, but with the ability to transmit abstracts not literal information. Less about telling a system to play D#, rather play harmonies around D#…

Thor has been talking a lot about affordance recently; Affordance is how something is identified as useful in a certain situation, sometimes outside the expected or designed use of the object. He’s now released a paper as part of his Phd and is a fantastic accumulation of thinking and doing in the realm of interactive media. The paper, titled Affordances and Constraints in Screen-Based Musical Instruments, is available here. Here’s a quick insight on the nature of the paper:-

“As opposed to acoustic instruments, the screen-based digital instruments are not of physical material so all mappings from a GUI element to the sound can be arbitrarily designed. This arbitrariness is even more apparent as there is hardly a tradition for creating such instruments. The metaphors we use in ixi software are new in a musical context and deliberately have no musical reference. (such as depicting keyboards, strings, notes, etc) The decision to exclude metaphors from the world of music comes from the aim to get away from the cultural constraints that are connected to the historical instruments or their parts.”

Faris from Naked Communications has also been talking about Affordance his blog - in relationship to marketing consumer propositions.

I think there is something very potent here that has yet to be factored into the communications industry. Messages are usual so refined so that there is no ambiguity and thus very little affordance. Imagine producing messages that allow a vast array of communications thus extending the value of the work. Brands, when polyphonic, allow such affordance.

Video is the hot subject of internet commerce, yet still it’s a linear model of communications. The use of tagging does open up it’s use and ability to shift context and this model is exemplified in the Chris Andersons book: The LongTail.

As media producers comprehend there is no singular destination for their work: the pda, the laptop, the television, the ipod are all nodes in the communication framework – and so by making not only the portability of the communication part of the production affordance, but also the meaning of the communication to be as affording as possible too.

One way the media industries are looking to expand the affordance of their productions and that is to extract meaning from video streams. This is a buggy workaround to a problem that is best solved through design of the media and not through trying to hack media objects to acquire their affordance. Here’s a short video interview with Suranga Chandratillake of Blinkx. Blinkx as he says in the video was set up to solve the in video search problem, and interestingly he acknowledge this is not a technical solution, but a creative one.

Context advertising thrives on the ‘refindability’ of media – thus the value of the media is squared to the retrieval-ness. If the retrieval-ness was actually driven by downstream usability, that is, the ability to incorporate the communication with other media to expand the value of both communications, the audiences ability to construct relevant narratives latches their desire to engage in dialogue with the publisher.

This is affordance via licence – if media objects have an open licencing or reuse, the value of the message persists.

This brings the attention back to the HCI; the way the audience interacts with media objects such as audio and video. Much of the success of the relentless bombardment of web2.0 applications is based around doing something very simply which in turn give buckets of affordance when you mix these services. I’m referring to web API’s, where by the extraction of data from various sources can be ‘mixed’ to produce new meaning and use of the various data sources. Dapper and SalesForce are examples at either end of the enterprise spectrum. Here’s a trilogy of video clips featuring Jeff Hunter of Electronic Arts talking about their use of SalesForce’s services. Considering, it’s been said to me, that Electronic Arts put the EA in sweatshop (ahem), this is one company that a) understands interactive media b) expects a lot of affordance from the user experience. c) understands talent affords the company it’s ability to develop better products.

[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3]

In terms of the use within the communications businesses, lets turn the model around; think less about what you want to say, but what you dont want to say. This is about building in restrictions of the use of the media – some form of protection about who the media cant be missused, missuntersood. This is aligned to the thinking about the role of Digital Rights Management (DRM). This annoys the heck out of most people who want portablity and freedom to use media.

ipod-strip_resize-copy.jpgSo, how do the web2.0 services deal with this affordance. Well, there is the XML-RPC protocol. This enables one service to access meaning from another service without accessing private data. It’s a gateway, not an open door. Rob has done a lovely little write up on this recently.

Consider iTunes|iPod combo – it’s a gateway to the Longtail of music, but it’s not the source of expression as their campaigns may lead you to believe. The itunes|ipod service, indeed the Apple business model is to attach you to their gateway, not for you to be a value added network to their network. By all means promote their services (the ubiqitous white headphones being key), but don’t interfere with the source of expression, namely, sharing their clients copyrighted material. Remain an individual and rock on…
[iPod — Silhouette (Love Train theme by Wolfmother)]

As we see with SalesForce, the concept of the mashable web is about to saturate the enterprise media platforms, under the heading of Service-Oriented Business Applications (SOBAs). Jason Bloomberg, who was to present at this, describes the role of the enterprise mashup as:-

“For a mashup to be an enterprise mashup in that it addresses a particular business problem, tight coupling between provider and consumer software would be a serious concern. Most of today’s mashups, however, care little about loose coupling. Mashups that meet business needs, therefore, will require SOA, and the SOA infrastructure necessary to guarantee loose coupling. Without that loose coupling, mashups are little more than toys from the enterprise perspective. “

So lets think about Service Oriented Media Applications – software solutions that generate media propositions, that afford the user experience to be expressive. If you’re thinking this is User Generated Content, then you’re not imagining hard enough. A SOMA should inherently have a licence to create, and any such creations should be reused, reworked and help other users to experiment and be expressive. A brand that develops SOMA’s, becomes the ‘source of expression’, not the framework of expression – and if you manage the source of a SOMA, you’ll have a loyal user base which starts a whole range of traceable dialogues. These dialogues are markets and the brand becomes a maker of instruments not melodies.
Affordance implies a freedom to experiment, to find expression where none was expected. Where services and communication defer the audience to participate in expression, we can expect to lose their attention – and that’s something you cant afford.

Paying for your media may seem like a very non-new-media past time but payment is not always a cash transaction. The financial gain of online ‘content’ has previously been through the exchange of time, namely eyeballs-for-adverts. Social network based sites have begun to transform this tit-for-tat hindrance for something far more subtle – that is tracing, your social habits in exchange for access and conversation with your peers.

ICQ, MSN and the beloved AIM systems have always enabled this (with or without advertising) – but the inherent value of your profile page is being aggregated as indexing fodder. Google and Yahoo! love these pages – they can identify the meaning of social groupings which have a rich value to advertisers needs. Think of them as meta-earsdropping dressed as liminal questionnaires.

With free to access video luring the traffic to online communities – the concept of user payment is going to become far more of a social identity concern than credit card fraud. Who you talk to, listen to and comment upon are going to start stacking up your social baggage if your communications are through a hosted service or public ISP.

Since Scoble and Israel’s Naked Conversations, the media industry has been under inspection by investor and consumers alike. The social expose of the ‘Blogosphere’ has lead not to a richer media environment but a climate of peer relevancy and verification, rather, “You are who you know.”

As the content and media publishers continue to discuss with their lawyers on ways to control the flow of media-as-datadesignall.jpg whilst grabbing the hands of their audience through social networks to form a walled garden is the failure to notice that this audience are actually the scaffolding to their core services to advertisers – a support they desperately need whilst publishers convert from the commissioning model to scafolding their own professional and prosumer audiences media requirements. These requirements will be bared by the revealing of users passions and dislikes cross referenced with thier consumption and production of data. Fundamentally – this is your identity as it’s communicated as data. It is not the identity that we (narcissistically) present. Equally as they maintain a grasp on your profile page, you should consider your identity sold. MySpace offers no way to export or delete the data attached to your profile. Neither does many, ahem, ‘social’ networking systems.

The Hero Samy is a great example of how this can be faked. By code. By anyone.

Dick Hardt make a fantastic presentation at Etech earlier this year. His video presentation (now on youtube, see below) begins to explore the verification of webservices of a users identity thus avoiding a lock-in with any one ‘authorised’ identifier, such as bank.

Back to Scroble, who bitch slaps the Linkedin recently – just as they announce their Service Provider Reccomendation system. I’m a fan of Linkedin as it’s a simple centralised way to keep track of people you meet during ‘work’. It’s a network purely for business contacts. Yes – it has it short failings – there are no APIs, I cant get my contacts and the relationships out of the system easily and migrate them to another system. This mapping data is Linkedin’s property – they borrow your identity to satify the service they offer to users. This short-falling has been picked up by Marc Cantor with People Aggregator, but waiting for a mass migration of users to an Open Social Network is massively optimistic. pete-and-jordan.jpgOpenness as an incentive in it’s own right is not enough. Users need ‘value conversation’ for their time. And this has been served by text, image and video services from Media Owners and publishers since 1996. But the freedom to re-purpose ‘datamedia’, to revision the permutations of the ideas of communities is framed by notions that originality persists. This vanity forces mockery and legal entanglements for no other purpose than to feed litigation proceedings. But as with Peter Andres and Katie Prices latest media offering, even pastiche as authentic media has may have merits. [mp3] [video]
This need not be the most obvious proposition to deliver to niche groups/communities. Take for example Spencer Tunick’s art works (see above). Why do many many people strip off, lay down and participate in his photographs?

Because they want to. Because they want to be involved with a phenomenon. Because they understand that rare oppotunities in life that afford a personal meaning to their time. It’s something personal and public they can discuss and share. It’s something that just increased their personal value.thou-shall-not.jpg

But identity, arguably a social construct not a personal one, is a narrative. Culture is the by-product of the lives that interweave the construct of communities. The narratives are not always intentional, yet the are fabricated by human distraction. When simulated, narratives pertain to a myth construct, yet much of our bearings within culture are devised by stories that are evolved from one generation to another. StoryTron is a software system that is being prepared for launch shortly – it’s a system for generating interactive narratives. Pending the success of this system, we could be seeing ‘natural’ and ‘synthetic’ narrative structures entering into out social network structures. For individuals, the ability to interweave personal and synthetic narratives, rather much like the duality of participants of Second Life, opens up virtues of liminal expereinces – the ability to coexist within several communities simultaneously whether conscious of this or not.
The impact this has on the media publishing industry is worth a wry smile. How do you trace these lives and narratives for conversion into media for tradable time? How do you convey a complexity of an individuals identity when parts of their fictional, virtual or augmented lives collapse without concern? How is value to be applied to unqualifiable, flux narratives?

The audience has for as long as recording has been possible lent their lives to publishers so that others can share in their 15-mins.jpgtime. Now, we seen this loan being called in with the rise User Generated Media, the fall of Copyright respect and the rise homogeneous formatted based production such as ‘WifeSwap‘ and ‘Get me out of here, I’m a ..‘. It’s as if the heart has been removed from the production community; content is merely the blood that flows through a man made aorta.

The implications point to the audience getting their ‘pound of flesh’ from the services that offered conversion of their narrative to media. An API for my identity to be translated to a dataset for tradable time. An individuals story in formats that are devised by the audience of 1. Blogging demonstrated this, but it’s not everyones bag. How do monitize everyones narrative? And when you have, where is the rarity? Is it in anonyminity?

This is a far cry from pound of flesh the publishing industry is trying to acquire through the expected income through copyrighted material.

For the past 20 years we have seen the tabloid media relish in constructing individuals identities, if only to seize the power to control and destroy that persona for ratings. This junk bond media documented by Piers Morgan in the TV show ‘The Importance of Being Famous‘ details the thrill in being able to manifest identity for the sake of the readers lust for thebank1.gif least objectionable fish’n’chip wrapping.

Fabrication of narratives has always been a social requirement for peer acceptance; taxation of these through niche skills/techniques such as ‘Editorial’ is resulting in rejection of singular publishing authorities. An audiences choice of ‘info-tainment’ is about to get a lot more complex to manufacture as sources and syndicators realise that they are part of the consumers mix. Roll in the prosumer model and publishing is faced with having to be a high street bank – where users can deposit and retrieve their media contributions. Consider the identity mortgage schemes…if you want to reinvent, add a new dimension to your narrative, the Banka de Disney will be more than happy to lease you narrative constructs. And if you don’t keep up your narratives payments, well you could always try and remortgage your morals rights..

Ok – this is an exaggeration, but the role of the media publishing industries, if they are to see longevity, will have to maneuver to community development via individuals – and this means enabling them to achieve what they cant do alone. And achievement is all about having a good yarn to spin. With enough inertia behind your tales, you could always consider the personality bond market.
pacino.jpgSo, how can publishing remain a result of fabrication when the participation of social networks are in themselves creating the media that produces the myths, morals and fortitude that entertain and educate?

It seems like the deal of consumption is not being replaced with participation – traditional rights holders in media do not want to relinquished the easy financial interest of the audiences time. As with Shylock, their faith has to change. An audience will maintain the respect for the media if the bond is one of use, not values. A communities value system is not a tradable commodity – it is the reason why the community exists.

channel4_taxi_ident.jpgAfter almost 4 years at the UK’s best broadcaster Channel 4, I’ve moved on to join Imagination, the brand experience specialists. I’ve highlighted here what I did there – but in short – I managed a host of new media projects based upon video distribution and online communities. The web is now awash with video systems with YouTube leading the traffic flow. YouTube was starting up when I was planning FourDocs, and I knew then that it was game over for broadcasters in this area. Why? Well, it the way the law is stacked. Broadcasters like Channel4, ITV and Five dont own any content and worse the OFCOM regulations for broadcasting restrict the lifeblood out of freedom of speech. It’s a draconian system that doesn’t take into consideration the global, non-geographical nature of the internet – and as the web is the formidable network for all communication distributions, adhering to terrestrial concepts of broadcasting enables online entities to lure a global audience. These in turn lures the advertisers away from the decline broadcaster audience.

Further, the 2003 Communication Act, hands over all copyright control of the media you see on the telebox to the production companies. Thus, the industry starts to examine the role of a broadcaster by asking “Where is the value added?” Meanwhile, the Communications Act, though designed to help all producers, has seen the insanely large growth for Super Inde production Industry, namely All3Media, Endemol and RDF. These guys can operate internationally, whereas C4 cant. You can begin to see the problem…

The recent McTaggart Lecture by Charles Allen, after the acceptance from ITV the industry is in sustainability trouble indicates that there is wide spread disbelief that strong branded broadcasters cant hold onto the audience or advertisers even with CCR deals in place. In fact they cant retain has the knock on effect that there is no opportunity for growth – this being the foremost driver for investment for online commerce. Again, the advertising industry flock to the new growth areas to learn and greet the early adopting audiences.

So the embrace of User Generated Content Authentic Media by Channel 4 was a great opportunity for growth. I remember printing of the first releases of Creative Commons licences and leaving them on Commisioners and Editors desks complete with articles about how the business models of open licences opened up a plethora of commercial and creative opportunities that were not available under OFCOM’s rulings. Adam Gee was the first to pick up on this (as the true maverick he is) and we launched the VJ support site Pix ‘n’ Mix and Webit, an education site for kids, using Creative Commons licenced material – material that came from external producers headed up by Dominique Lee and more importantly, TV archives that had been acquired by the ClipBank team. A world first of a broadcaster using Open Licence media – and sadly over looked by the industry.

Fourdocs, which ran alongside the launch More4 was heralded as the Channels foray into Authentic Media. Again, Creative Commons licencing was used, though, much to my frustration, the Non Commercial clause was slapped on the licence. The frustration comes from not being able to explain convince the Executive Producers that: -

1) Channel4 was a commercial entity and using/showing/distributing media under this licence is incorrect as the brand profits from audience retention. This has never been proved in court, though the Adam Curry vs. Weekend case is worth knowing/remembering.

2) A significant reason for people sharing their media is that others can reuse the media, thus spreading the original authors work further. No one really profits from showing video online, it is and will only ever be a leader to sell further services.

Much talk of copyright infringement was had during this project – the backend of the service is a comprehensive system to ensure that copyright is not breached when media hits the site. Remember, the EUCD law is irrelevant if you are a broadcaster as OFCOM will get you first.

My swan song for the firm was 4Laughs, which went live yesterday. I’ve been gone a month and haven’t work on the project for 3. Much of the planning was work of myself and the most excellent Comedy Producer, Russell Barnes. Again, it’s supposed to be an Authentic Media service, and again there is no ability for users to share and develop productions via the site. The legal stuff is really funny. Bold disclaimers that the Channel will use submitted material as it wants to though other users can not. FourDocs used ‘marketing purposes’ as the channels legal reuse fig leaf..

My time at the Channel was a fascinating time, and to honest a privilege. Seeing the workings of a broadcaster from the inside really is living in the belly of the media beast. I remember my father asking me 10 years ago after I left art collage what I was going to do, I said “Something to do with technology and publishing.” I started this blog cautiously whilst at the channel, firstly anonymously as I understood that the voice of Channel4 was impeccably controlled and often didn’t reflect the reality of the business, and thus I found myself not being comfortably blogging about my interests and musings about media, open business processes, licences or marketing. I also knew that hardly anyone there read nor wrote a blog, but all the same, creating ripples just wasn’t worth the effort; I’ve read and watched the ongoing faffing that Robert, Tom, Ben have been through and going through that with the Channel would be unproductive.

Within the organisation I was outspoken about the nature of the online media – I know that that may have raised an eyebrow or two. It came from a sense of responsibility, social (as a consumer of Channel 4 and a managing producer). When you see the global media industries trying to adapt to consumer patterns, actively learning and enthusiastically engaged with new opportunities, whilst yourself is being forced to produce something of a chocolate teapot, you cant not ask what on earth is going on. I’m not a lawyer, but I spent a lot of time reading up on licencing concepts, admittedly inspired by good friend Rob Myers. If you are going to produce good media based products for online communities, understand the rules of engagement comes with this baggage. Ignore the framework and it’s weakness and you’ll find yourself with a huge waste of time to account for.

So all this amounts again asking what is to come of UK broadcasting. No growth, audience and advertisers migration to enabling communities, no ownership of media and spiralling media use licence costs. No advertising income = no programmes. I cant see ITV nor Five being part of the SKY portfolio, as SKY has that audience already. Channel4 has the form of a nice niche brand within Murdoch’s empire. I still think the channel has the brand radiance to engage audiences, to work with them to create what the audience really want..

As Charles Allen pointed out, this is a time for radical thinking. I think he’s wrong. It’s a time for radical listening.
Much of what I’ll now feel comfortable about writing here will be what I’ve been talking about over a coffee with colleagues and friends for the past couple of years: -

“The media object is a catalyst not a destination. Communities are wrapping themselves around communication nodes and in turn are the producers of media. With the support of professional services we will begin to see how language works, and when we do, the need for context advertising, least objectionable TV and search will vanish.”

So as that employment notch is coded into the Linkedin profile, I rejoice in working for Imagination - which seems to be mix of airport departure lounge, technology (software & hardware) media production studios and creative planning. I’m managing the interactive media content in the Samsung Experience Store in New York, whilst being based in London. Alongside that, working on the online strategies, actively exploring open source solutions in commercial environment (think Enterprise Mashups) with the backing of possibly the most interesting IT Director I have ever met..

So I’m running with a job title of Transmission Tactician. It seems to fit the planning and management of communications and projects, for the clients and team…and kills the dreaded uninspiring ‘Project Manager’ title I’ve had for too many years. At last I’ve found the crossroads of media technology, creative planning, online services and open mindedness. Every direction looks good from here.

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