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.

Designing for sustainability is a huge desire when considering ROI models for a project. As a client solution from an agency, digital media demands a mindset that seeks productions that persist through reuse: in short, digital should always be aggregating value. Digital should never have a half life. Digital is not for campaigns.

We’re living in a time where beta and ‘release early’ is a mantra, waiting for an audience to pick up on your communications is a requisite, and creating a ‘buzz’ about what you do is consider ham-fisted. Digital, being the youngest of offerings from communication agencies, is picking up bad habits from the elder modes of media, namely broadcast formats of print and TV.

It aways make me chuckle/snarl when a new website is marketed with other marketing. This is missing the point of being digital.

I want to discuss how digital is badly treated when consider an ‘execution’. Digital is business interface that needs caressing and attention – because as a medium, it’s going to change the fundamentals of how you maintain a service orient business (products are part of a service – in case you needed reminding).

Polemics of creative productions, driven by a business case (e.g. something has fucked up | market has changed | you’ve got a new invention you want to sell), clash horribly with expectations of virtue. This is true for all commissions, but for digital, the application of code requires fullfillment not appreciation. Working with a broad range of T-shaped creatives at Imagination, many who are very fuzzy, reveals a huge amount of possibilities and closures about how people should work together.

Now, every agency I’ve spoken with, regardless of their forward thinking team dynamics, billing philosophy or Raison d’être, all rely on people roles to coordinate, organise and deliver the client solutions as a job.

Account handlers, Planners, Creative Directors, Human Resources, Traffic, all have a similar practice where ever you go. Media law, recruitment law, pension schemes and personal assistants all rein in the affordance of the individuals freedom to perform. The context of production is the architecture of society not the business model of the agency owner/stakeholders/banker.

As digital storms through the traditional billings of broadcast media (TV, print and performance – well, anything that doesn’t base itself on audience dialogue), the agency’s role is to convert business requirements to something quite fabulous with a hook to sell, promote or defer the competition collapses around the moment when the teams realise that the story of the construct requires huge amount of faith, believability and patience of an audience.

Brand-as-a-narrative has served Market Communications for hundreds of years, today, we see/hear/look at platforms for the facilitation of conversation – the emperors new banter – with only a thread of brand DNA to hide the hook’s modesty.

Building us towards freeconomics, friend following and DRM free productions, is a belief that there is an audience that is intentionally rebelling against the Market Communications from your clients. The slogan “You don’t own your brand, the audience does” has been dragged through the blogosphere to the point where it realises that it’s being pushed by consultants eager to recount stable reads such as Naked Conversations, Cluetrain and Here Comes Everybody as billable insights. We’ve all done it, haven’t we?

Solutions to business problems, by sucking on the business cases, has been the stock process for devising, designing and executing since someone thought about thinking about solutions. Arguably, the mutha of all invention is bare necessities, and I say arguably, because the agency model, networked or a team of 2, will always be at odds with a guarantee of success. That’s why you must embrace failure.

Indexing with ROI for KPIs are all indicators of reasoning within myths. The belief that x will happen is y and z interact, belongs to the clinical abstraction of calculus, a language non-compatible with myth, but as said, within myth. (Planners – take note)

And here lays the problems with any notion of integration – that is – blending the channels of 360 marketing with that of transmedia narratives. The belief that participation is desirable is at odds with commuication being logical. You don’t ever get what you expect – comprismise is latent in every reception, awoken only by distraction. Choice has begun to chew at the hand that invited consumers to be free.

If we look at the success of software, where scalabity, features and transparency have lowered the access points to diverse interpretation of engagement, the learning curve of use has been inversed by the audience who, when confronted with personal affordances of simple applications (think twitter, friendfeed, yahoo pipes), the question mechanic that always appears is “What is this for?” not “When do I need this?”.

And the answer is always defered by the retort, “you get out of it what you put into it.”

I think I’ve written about roles in system design before, UML using the term Actor, to define the types of users within a system, human or not. What we are seeing today is technology being rolled out freely, inducing individual’s performances confiscating demographic averages whilst establishing Social Graphs (plural) upon reputation and attention not perception of desire.

This freedom of role undermines the need for defining what the experience of your client’s communication solution business solutions is. Rolling in branded utility motifs may save you from having to induce accents of need in presentations, but the role that an agency plays in the progressive design of effectiveness becomes reduced to translator of what the client thinks might happen within a market.

Agencies are bookies if they are left to define client requirements without a framework of the social ecosystem that is defined by freedoms of engagement induced by open-use software. An agency that isn’t gambling on an outcome is playing safe to the point that they wont impregnate the audience with seeds of joy.

This is very different to thinking about how an agency has a ‘digital’ division – normally, they would ‘use’ the digital channel to get at the ‘difficult’ consumer – them the ones not watching the TV. Hmmm, brilliant.

Digital is not a channel, it’s the business interface that can be amended, grown, shrunk, adapted, designed to be adaptive and fundamentally, in the possession of the customer. Emotion is the only channel left in the world of 360 planning, digital is the gateway – either via production, distribution or design.

Twitter is wonderful for all kinds of social discourse, but under the hood, the genius is in the API model. Talk though Twitter any way you want – use a phone, a desktop client or the web.

Imagining buy anything you want through any form of transaction you want. Not just trade (“I’ll give you three horses for that cow.”) but trade through proxy – where currency is not of issue, but affordance of you’re gesture is valued because it’s reusable by the vendor.

Stay with me, there’s a money shot here, somewhere.

Compare Google, a wealth of functions backed up with some outlandish brute force technology, with the late ‘n’ great Jackson Pollock, a wealth of gestures with a brutal temper.

The value in discourse between an individual and a system is retrieval: recalling what options have been preferable may induce you to think along the lines of AI, or training a system, but what really is becoming, for an agency model, is stimulation of creativity for a client so that it’s a recursive feedback loop. This is in fact intercourse for reproductive, relational, and recreational needs.

Ok, let me come at this at another angle.

You know when you look at a image, that you find appealing, you can say, “It hangs together”. The aesthetics is being converted to a value only you appreciate. Ignoring all the talk from peers and critics, it’s your experience that underwrites the value of the image.

Converting that to currency, or better, to business, is where an agency can get to grips with media integration and client gratification.

The joy of a fine production, is unfortunately in the ego of the producer. An audience does not give a monkeys moment to the joy of the producer. If you ever read about Da Vinci’s Last Supper, you see that the artist will always have the last laugh at the cost of the commissioner and the audience. (Da Vinci knew the painting would collapse if he used Tempera.)

Agencies need to work for the audience, not the client.

There, I’ve said it.

This is not to be confused with how a TV broadcaster seems to pander to an audiences desire for programmes, in the process, shafting the advertising industry, forcing them in to 30sec spots/branded evenings / programmes or events.

An agency must develop relationship working processes with the non-client business market, by doing so, gratification comes from reflecting the ego of the audience whilst delivering work that is loved, respected and enjoyed – an agency that gives to an audience, receives attention from a client.

Now, this may start sounding like Agencies need to be rock/pop/hip-hop stars ‘n’ bands. It’s intentional. The problem is, bands are volatile (Spinal Tap). Agency’s tend to have a turn over of staff (The Fall). Client’s objectives change with the Chairman’s wife taste in soft furnishings…

But that’s all good. Because the audiences kind of interested in who is messing with the band’s soft furnishings or if there is a pillow fight kicking off somewhere.

Agencies, on the whole, are not public facing entities, they’re private clubs for clients ‘steaked’ out in cool venues in hip cities. Night clubs for the day time, refreshments and air conditioning on tap, possibly some designer furniture to ease the pain of spending money on myth making.

Now, before that thought of your agency becoming Radiohead (and buy – you want that I know), let’s have a think about your band members, who’s on drums, bass, lead, rhythm… woah! STOP.

Radiohead are a buch of guys who can play. Just play. They are T-Shaped and they are fuzzy. One prefers drums, the another bass. But they swap when they can sense an oppotunity to try something – so to invent. (Go back up and see the fuzzy link if you’re confused..)

Hands up who would like to see the Head of Client Services to the banner adverts tomorrow?

Hands up who wants to do the book keeping?

Hmm.. see. Tricky.

Multidisciplinary teams are visioned as agency roles – planner, account, designer, producer yadda yadda.. making these roles fuzzy (a designer who can do 3D, motion and loves paper stock) is one thing, but find me a designer who is willing to do / try / be interested in co-ordinating travel logistics and (actually – I’d book that person), I’ll be impressed. Find me 10 and I’ll set up a specialist agency tomorrow…

My point is, diversity of teams can help integration if there is a keeness to trade time with other roles, not faking it, but genuinely migrate skills and interests so that the organisation is well, more like an organism. It’s a way of learning. Like jamming in a band.

Now, client side employees already work like this, it’s how the business gains a richer understanding of it’s abilities = staff are encouraged to take a path through the company – it’s good way to retain value as an employer. Agency side, account handlers may move to planning, planners may move into design, sometimes. This is all good. But an audience will only see the benifit when the organisation begins to create with them in this manner. If you become diverse, you will become more open. If you don’t then you’ve misunderstood why you’re in a creative environment.

An audience wants to relate to people, not roles (Britney, Madonna, Vanilla Ice, George Bush) – people who demonstrate a love in being a part of something that evolves. Something substainable so that they can invest their time | attention | money into.

Just as you may read Campaign or Advertising Age, the movers and shakers that move from agency to agency – this is you investing time into your industry. You are building an industry out of attention, not work.

Gratification scales too, it’s a system that you can keep adding to; sometimes bit’s fall off, but it scales. Integration is something that requires no attention when it works – the desire for intergration is the warning call of systems failing to scale.

As advertising disintegrates into marketing which is in turn poisoned and/or digested by culture, we will see the job dissatisfaction of producing for what seems like an ungrateful audience evolve into the stasis of performance – a mode of practitioning that works neither from script nor from rehearsal, improv nor applause, but necessity of creation.

Whilst we live through this open-use software induced transition of production, look around at how your colleagues interact with each other, how the communication of daily agency life is centric to, and it really should be this order, else you’re nuts: the work, the client relationships, the team.

We’re facing a transition towards : the audience, the client relationship, the work.

What happened to loving the team? Who said they were keepers? Teams need to wander from shop to shop. The role of agency is to be part of the audience, not part of the client’s team. It’s access to the audience that you will be charging for, not the productions.

So you see, the team, the people around you, need to be polyworkers, not just for their sanity, but for the relationship with the audience to become rich and meaningful.

As client-side has more and more taken over the business of market insight, looking and crunching the numbers, reviewing ‘segmentation’, the role of agency is to perform to these numbers – but in the persuit of client love the agency model has begun to drift away from the audience – and the work in hand.

Does this help the role of ‘commercial’ communications? Does this help bring “Brand and Consumer Together?” Does this help the audience?

The work is relationships with an audience; making stuff for them is just the easy way to do this.

And so on to the punch line.

The business models of supply and demand are influenced by the same mechanisms the agency uses to convey, construct and cash in on.

Digitalness is meddling with the notion that product is the transactional inducer for profit.

Microsoft don’t make product, they assemble code. As does Google, as does Proctor and Gamble as does any corporation, SME and individual. As this becomes more and more loosely coupled, we’ll see the shibboleth materialise as a currency devoid of form. Data is without form. Data is open for connectivity.

We’ve watched the collapse of the publishing businesses with no great surprises other than the likes of Radiohead, Prince, Madonna and those guys teaming up with Bacardi, invent what is for sale. Exposure. Ambient Exposure. Voyeurism. It’s a game of two halves.

Rock stars acting like an agency for brands to connect with consumers.

They’re just doing their thing without the brand sponsor making minute by minute demands. Owning an artist is a frightening business – ask Sony BMG about George Michael – so brand sponsorship is handled, not with radioactive gloves, but an understanding that the messy business of making creativity is best left to those who love their art.

But the product is not important in any of this. Data supporting the business model, more precisely, the ingredients of data, are the valuable assets within this equation.

CRM is a toe curling concept – not that it is about harvesting email addresses (with permission) but that the concept of data is so poor. Of course a marketing department wants to know as much about you as possible, but CRM will always give a poor approximation – no one hands over habitual data without cringing. Even Nectar card holders.

But, ask the audience(s) if they would like free goods in exchange for their social graph data, and the game becomes interesting. At present you see Facebook, crunching your social graph data as you use it’s people management applications – sucking out all the little nuances about you life as it’s defined by context of your ‘friends’. Imagine a manufacturer doing this. Can you imagine a product developer migrating their business from product to data?

Any organisation, with trust, that has the richest data and uses it to create new, disposable, fragile markets will dominate the consumer/producer lifestyle. Choice within choice becomes infinitely possible when audience participation of product (the transaction receipt – not the economic shibboleth) is the conversation.

Digital is about grooming data – sifting, expanding, performing and refining, the relationships between things in abstractions that defy the premise of spoken/written languages. Invention is within the patterns of existing human activity, the market is the catalyst induced by the audiences request for bespoke productions.

It’s an investment in ego. The participants ego. The sponsor must be modest to be loved.

This leaves the (digital) agency in a curious position – are they to be production centric or performers – their attantion spent on creating or extracting value from audience engagement?

When publishing was backed by advertsing, strict controls were placed to prevent distribution of exclusivity. When the publisher model is replaced by a brand, the business of piracy is the finest way to spread the message.

Excitement must be fluid. Mess is Lore.

If anything, it confirms the notion of integration within the agency context as not a skill based concern, but as a audience based concern – how does an agency operate like a ‘new media’ platform?

Look at Mahalo as a model of this. Pure Splogging mind you, but beautifully riding the Google engines.

Look at the Human Genome Project. Every breath you take, we’ll be watching you.

Look at Top Up Travel Cards. It’s a loan system for the city plus you hand over your travel data – for free!

Agency, will be creative for the remit of a sponsor. Agency, will be loved by an audience. Agency, will be staffed by those who insist on the last word on creativity. Agency will be the gratification of disintegration.

Integration is the speed bump of social realism in the transition from producers to artists.

Ask a Rockstar. Or better, just play with them.

Update. Just spotted this article via Digg. [Link to original article]

When “Grand Theft Auto IV” launches April 29, it’s expected to gross a record-breaking $400 million worldwide in its first week. That’s good news for the game biz, but daunting for execs in other sectors of the media industry.

Last summer, “Pirates of the Caribbean 3″ broke all box office records, with a $404 million worldwide haul in its first six days, roughly the same amount expected for “GTA IV.”

Image Credits

Hot Coffee Mod for GrandTheftAuto: San Andreas

http://patrickw.gtagames.nl/

Video of the Mod in action

http://www.gtasanandreas.net/news/single.php?id=1469

Last November I was approached by the Open Rights Group about the business model of Where are the Joneses? that Imagination constructed for Ford of Europe. Lured by my use of the Creative Commons BY-SA licence – meaning that there were no commercial restrictions of the use of the media assets produced during the course of the project – ORG recognised that this was as break through for copyright, agencies, brands and media producers alike.

ORG superhero, Michael Holloway (above), who I met a year before at the ORG’s Drunken Brunch meeting of like minded open licence people (I recall meeting Dan Lockton there), interviewed me in November in preparation for a couple of talks I gave last week.

Michael, with Suw Charman-Anderson (in the red top), have been working with the interview to produce a case study for everyone to review and hopefully, use, as a framework for other commercial open media projects/companies/initiatives.

On Monday, Rob Myers (pictured above right), joined me to talk about the use of Creative Commons and it’s relationship to Intellectual Property. Rob and I have been friends since 1992, meeting at art college, and since have discussed how the economics of media production, the downstream of culture, as we learnt at college, is the building blocks for anything today and tomorrow.

The framework of the Joneses project – not the storyline, nor the commercial relationships with Ford of Europe, owes a lot to many many many conversations Rob and I have had over the past 16 years. It’s a very special model that could never have been worked out within the confines of a job, or a hobby, or as artists. The relationship between producers and the audience at large, the communities within communities that wrapped themselves around sections of the Joneses – both agency and public attention – was a mix of perverse curiosity of what this model was and anticipation to see the comedy, the editorial, failing.

The heritage of such a project also owes much to the work of XPT - and in particular, Tim Wright. XPT’s Online Caroline and Tim’s own Oldton project are very close to my heart as a technologist and as a creative. Those who lived with the projects when they we’re alive and kicking have extremely fond memories of the productions – an emotion far removed from serial broadcasting – because the audience made the memories between themselves.

But what inspired the use of Creative Commons as the turnkey solution for the Joneses (it could never have been done under normal copyright models) is that Free Culture is the basis to facilitating a conversation – it’s a giving host, not a prescribing guardian. For the ethos that I wanted Ford of Europe to understand and it’s relationship to its shifting understanding of marketing, the non-30sec-spot 360-channel matching-luggage-prescription that a large network agency uses to manage a global communications campaign erodes the relationship with the intended audience and the client. The care and attention that goes into grading, editing and placing adverts is very agency/brand focused – it’s self gratifying and loses the attention of amplifying an audience who wants to be considered important.

It’s why Imagination was a great place to make WRTJ, we are small and nimble yet large enough to speak our mind about invention instead of waffling on about innovation. Case in example is Ford of Britian’s follow up to the Joneses by Mindshare and Ogilvy – Bite. Big ready made audience from Yahoo and Channel 4, low emotional resonance.

The same applies to Kate Modern, a show used to drop in product placement, focused on young impressionable Bebo minds. And possibly a smart move to enable a lumbering AOL to regain some value. I’ll leave this for another post about my anti-hero Carl Icahn.

An audience without participation, nor the right to control the editorial, is being treated like a herd. Such mentality is why the commissioning model of media results in the pursuit of conversation.

ORG are not a marketing focused organisation in so far as their interest does not cover the interest that brands or advertising are efficient, measurable or actually gain a sale. With the Joneses, ORG, a government backed organisation, has become acutely aware of the damage advertising has on culture – advertising agencies produce more copyright material into the world than any other producer – as a rage to conquer all human attention, especially if we are hitting the peak, a social concern of not just urban/social spam comes into consideration, as we saw in Brazil, but also of the moral consequences of making a world full of unreusable communications, unreusable under legal frameworks that benefit neither audience nor client nor even agency.

Suw is currently pulling together the report and will shortly be available for everyone to review here. I’ll post when it’s ready.

For me the Joneses has been lingering around for months but I’ve enjoyed watching the amount of commentary about the project. There is much behind the scenes about how it was managed and the micro conversations between users that I was privileged to participate in.

I will compete a longer essay about the project when time becomes available. In the meanwhile, it’s lovely to spend time doing Questions and Answers about the project – especially to new audiences such as the one ORG arranged.

Again, many thanks to Suw and Michael (and Becky Hogge) for acknowledging the project.

Do check out the ORG wiki, especially the other case studies presented alongside the WRTJ – namely Tom Reynolds: Blood, Sweat and Tea and John Buckman: Magnatune.

Photo credits to Marc Hankins, who released the session photos under CC-BY-SA.

Steal This Film too

January 10, 2008

stflogo.png

An old sparing partner of mine has released the next installment of Steal This Film.

Jamie (aka Vague Blur) has spent the last year, along with the public donations, producing a surprisingly good documentary about piracy. It offers some tales and insights into the intrinsic need for sharing/copying in a networked world. Unfortunately, it’s very anti-media industries and thus it falls down on being a balanced understanding on the impact of piracy for the future of production.

This approach to debate on how we all use duplication and derivatives in communication prevents a resolution for artists and brands developing a workable relationship; the constant baiting against the entertainment industry alludes to a belief that they are no longer needed, referring to the London Grime scene as an exemplar in production. Grime is a true grass roots movement, but like every home producer knows, you still need professional production values to make the craft shine. There’s a big difference between ‘home recordings’ where you’re ripping a DVD for sharing via bittorrent and ‘home recording’ where you’re making something from existing culture, something with a new construct, architecture, aesthetic or utilitarian purpose.

Jamie’s posted some thoughts about the transitions of the economic model that piracy brings, notable how donations/pre payment are a potential source of revenue for P2P productions. Like Radio Heads ‘Rainbows’, these experiments in marketing are not the same as building a value base for an audience, if the audience have no say in the production. This is where I wish Jamie would spend more activity on – building an dialogue between participants on the project in public. They still have a wiki, but it’s not been used, instead they’ve opted for a ‘broadcast’ model website to tell people what they are doing. As I demonstrated in the Joneses, it’s the audiences engagement that makes the business model work for brands to finance what the audience really want. Regardless of audience size, you need to know if you are delivering the value that is expected. Download metrics, page impressions are broadcasts grasp at Accountable Transactions. Where is the feedback mechanism for Steal This Film? The donation amount? I suppose anything is better than nothing, but the displacement of what should be happening versus what is happening is unaccounted for. Perhaps that’s the message of the movie.

But Steal this Film 2 is a great production, it’s very watchable compared to the previous version. Here it is in 5 parts on youtube. Visit www.stealthisfilm.com for the downloadable versions and the opportunity to donate towards the next production “THE OIL OF THE 21ST CENTURY”.

Nice work Jamie. Looking forward to the next installment.

A Cup of Bricks

January 4, 2008

If you haven’t watch ‘2 girls and a cup’, then don’t.

If you have, you know you wish you hadn’t.

There’s a whole series of video responses to that video and they show something really good. Media lubricates conversation; it produces a shared moment. We love to spectate another persons response to the unpalatable because a truth reveals itself in the moment of realisation. And these are rare moments.

We used have the water cooler moment when TV was great. Now there is Facebook trying to make every moment a water cooler moment. But it doesn’t. The noise to value ratio is far far too low to retain attention. And why didn’t the applications retain interest? Because they lack depth of affordance due to the paltry information that all users supply about themselves. FB came out of closed beta status far too early to ensure longevity.

Media, episodes, any motion graphics need not be series based now that TV has lost a temporal audience. Timeshifting has broken the habit of watching without intent. Media producers have lost the confidence to make a point; instead aesthetics (post production) is the cliff hanger than destroys the reason for a narrative.

Allegory fell out of art when the minimalists explored formalism; audiences, mass audiences, still stare at Carl Andres ‘Equivalent VIII‘ with horror, in so much that they fail to realise that meaning is something that has been so tightly spun as a moral.

Equally, audiences appreciation of mastery, comes of concern to any media producer. From film to software, what has come of the mastery of manufacturing?

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I watched American Gangster the other evening – a production of the highest values as one would expect from Ridley Scott, but the story? Based upon the ‘true strory’ of Frank Lucas, we follow 2 narratives obviously needing to collide. The tale of the honest, but domestically troubled detective and the tale of Lucas, his rise in wealth, capture and ultimately grass on every bent copper in the NYC drugs divisions.

Both come out heroes and the moral vanishes into a plume of heroin smoke.

The first weekend’s box office takings were around $46m. Lucas was reported making $1m a day from ‘Blue Magic’ back in 1970. The profits from moral-less activities go undetected when the lure of aesthetics is promised but without the gloss an audience demand meaning.

Why is this so?

I think it’s because we don’t know the ‘form of truth’, because the values of truth are always migrating away from experience. No one can handle the truth because we want the truth to belong to a notion of ‘Other‘, located across the way in a greener field.

Religion has used the notion of truth to gain a following; centering belief structures within folk allegories. Unfortunately, this power has been duplicated in mass communications. Truth and Sex are equivalents when stripped of any aesthetics – and so our psychological drugs need dressing to bring acceptability to our morals.

Like ‘Blue Magic’, we rate purity higher than a hybrid cocktail. Just like in the movie, Lucas bitches about one of his dealers cutting his ‘pure’ brand with impurities, comparing it to Trademark infringement. You can catch part of the scene at the end of Jay-Z’s inspired track..

You may have spotted the Hirst spin painting behind da man. It’s of no surprise – Hirst’s life’s work celebrates this connection between man’s beliefs and ultimate reality. His aestheticisation of aesthetics, making the palatable digestible; when parodied, it becomes a numbing truth.

I still cant find the answer to why the gloss of aesthetics is so needed; why do we as creatures of such diverse communications require stimulants? As creatures of activity, they make even less sense. Perhaps we cant consume, use or value without pedagogical fears. What could be worse than that?

Frail Nets

January 3, 2008

The problems with social networks is that it’s full of young people – and young people don’t die frequently – not like old people.

You see, networks are only strong when they rely on the ability to collapse between nodes. The Internet works this way – it’s always looking to optimise when failure in the system occurs. That’s what ARPANET required. The public internet took this resilience as a good thing. It’s good for uptime, but not good, for human meaning.

Frail Nets are the key to sustainability. Look at the human species – we continue to exist and evolve (slowly) because of the lifespan that the DNA has clocked us for. Evolution, and thus, social relations would be impossible if we all lived for 200 years – our societal habits would not require the cramming of knowledge – time would appear differently – frequency would be lower for communication needs.

I was pulled into a non-work conversation about establishing a Social Network for retired executives – you know, money and time rich, lonely, and devoid of the powers when they had an office. The plan was more a subscription service than a free social network (I pointed out this flaw, especially after being asked to invest in the idea – with cash, mind you!) but I didn’t receive a great piece of insight.


(Click for a bigger version of this great FB parody)

When you retired, say 55, you lose your daily contact with people – colleagues, dining friends, commuters etc. This is psychologically breaking, especially if you have maintained DEO status for many years.

What someone of this this stature, and probably, anyone of this age, retired, needs is a minimum of 16 ‘friends’. These people should be your regular contact with the world at large, your source of deep personal emotion – people you can confide in.

But at this age, natural death, looms. Your 16 will not be here forever, thus you get a rotation, a refresh of your 16, making the network stronger, richer, more meaningful. For humans, Networks need invigoration. Likethe current play of Facebook – it’s interest is begining to dry up because it’s possibilities are becoming exhausted – to poke or not to poke is a dumb ass question because poking meant nothing in the first place.

Yochai Benkler’s Wealth of Networks is a hefty read, an introduction to Network Values, and is free to download here. But the book is a much easier thing to handle – the page count is enormous. (He should have done it on a wiki. He has!) But as far as I can find – I’ve not read the whole thing – he doesn’t mention the strength of Network failure, nor the curse of Network Fatigue – the staleness that occurs when the network has no needs.

VC money is dependant on locking in users, at least, retaining them with editorial – may this been peer appreciation or media files – but regardless, the funding model – namely – an exit strategy from critical mass and acquistion from a needy/threatened business (Google/Microsoft/Yahoo!) – corrupts the Networks modal intent – that is – failure is good for the system.

Failing Faster is a good motif for agile productions, but an agile network produces huge amounts of value as different people use the system for different reasons, and thus old uses die, new uses are born. That’s why protocols are interesting. HTTP and TCP/IP are good examples – they are passing new formats of data collections because developers are creating, evolving new needs from the affordance of the design.

Humans are, basically, data packets, on social networks – producing vectors of relationship, and inturn, momentarily becoming themselves On-Line nodes. This means that an identity is constructed, which we believe to be representational of out On-Land identities. The fact that Facebook hates fictional characterson their Platforms is based upon non-inertial nodes that collapse the data exchanges that stablise their network.

But lets take this another way. Let’s look at old age as a form of data encryption. Time encodes our feelings, thoughts and knowledge by folding in influences. The theory that you are not the same molecular person you were when you were a 5 year old is chilling to most people. Over a 20 year period, most, if not all, of your molecules have been replaced with new ones. You are being cooked by time.

This syncronisty between us all is damaging to social networks, there becomes very little in the point of difference at a human level. Our thoughts and interests may give shades of difference, but there is no real value between avatars. But, it is this micro variation that is of value to technologists, because this smallness can be measured, valued and predicted, creating a baseline of prediction, which can be bet against.

Mark Wallinger, winner of the 2007 Turner Prize, tackled Nationality, Regality and Identity in the mid 90’s using the theme of horse racing. His interest in the populations interest in thorough breds drives home the uneasiness of our own self’s ability not to fundamentally change, just wither.

Whilst the value of social nets are speculated in the arena of web2.0, the techno-regal-proprietors are looking at which individual will be the next horse into the Knacker’s yard. Technologists look for the point of failure on everything they do; with social nets, the user is the weakest link.

Wallinger’s work, Sleeper, submitted for the Turner Prize persists with the themes, but curiously, close to the problem with have with social networks, namely, the evolution of identity through storytelling.

A film of a performance in which, over a period of 10 nights, he dressed in a bear suit and wandered aimlessly around an art gallery in Berlin, startling unsuspecting passers-by.

The video of him talking about it is here.

And here’s Bowie in 2003 aged 57 talking to Parkinson (with Posh Spice and Clive Anderson) about the years galloping away with him.

Compare Rock n Roll to Social Networks. You’ll begin to ask what is staged and what is the stage.

And here’s young Bowie trying to get a social group together. If only he had Facebook back then…

Social Networks requires, no, demands, the participants have to be actors in the widest sense. It’s the basis to software modeling. I think this is the basis for the next generation of media production – social networks will become the foundation of storytelling – not with peoples lives, but with the roles that people wish to experience. Age will be a huge informer to the roles, and thus, our human timescales become in-sync with how we model the (software) tools we need to remain connected, entertained and perform within our lives.

You have to perform to live. Now tell me about User Generated Content.

Twitter launched Twitter Blocks this week. And it’s sponsored by Motorola. And I think this is great.

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Twitter is a platform of massive potential because it’s unfolding in ways that makes no sense. TwitterVision is a spectacle, but it’s not a daily use. Blocks is the same. But over time both will become morphed, tweaked, revised and invigorated with the contemporary users.

And that’s the power of the platform. Think about the mobile phone – we presume it’s a natural evolution of the landline. It isn’t. It’s a very different media channel. The video phone, or Skype, is the natural evolution of the landline. Mobile is also confused by it’s portability and ability to geo-locate the user. That’s true, but the demand is under whelming. The mobile phone is an interruptive technology with the baggage of the land line culture. It’s a less of a ideal of a phone, more an ‘ideal’ of selling airtime. Then SMS arrived and then the brick came alive.

And this is why Twitter is brilliant. It may have some of the IRC mentality, but the resistance of it’s messaging peers (Pownce and Jaiku) to incorporate their features demonstrates the value is in the affordance that anyone but the crew behind Twitter require. Development at Twitter is about scaling – just like the telecom industry. It’s polar to Apple and the fetishistic iPhone (which is really an ultra portable Mac with a lease to AT&T – which seems to becoming to an end – which Apple don’t need to worry about – in fact it’s in their favour – and they know it.)

There has been some good thinking about how to diversify the affordance of a Tweet. Chris Messina has been trying to the the #channel or #group thinking up and running. I’m not convinced, but there is something in the thinking that the strings of texts we send to Twitter do contain more than we say. It’s the Object Oriented thinking within media (video, audio, images, text) that I’ve been privately obsessing about for the past couple of years. If anything, the tweets need to be compressed more, not littered with signposts.

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So Twitter Blocks. Being able to visualise (and inspire better visualisation) of the fabric of the one liners is something you can only do by being close to the Twitter developers and Motorola have bought their way in. Using one of the best engineering teams to work on the visualisation, Stamen, and pushed out the project within a month. Now that’s shifting code, getting it out there and watch the playing, comments and ad revenue arrive without months of planning, metrics, management or committees.

I’d like to think there is something inherent in Blocks that is of interest to Motorola, if anything, Connecting People seems like a Nokia type of project. Maybe they we’re offered the idea first. But what excites me is brands willing to pay for play – engaging their staff and their thinking with existing platforms that people use. Twitter is open for any commercial operation to play with – and with all the conversations about dialogue you see via marketing blogs, press and conferences, it’s not hard to think that it wont be long before we see Brand Interfacing of Social Media (BISMs). This is not about portals, maybe it’s closer to branded utility, but what it really could mean is funding of social services that civic administrators cant grasp.

This isn’t any great revelation. Think Tesco and Computers for Schools. I think it was Richard Huntington on a podcast with Paul Coleman (Or Russell Davies) that the discussion turned towards, “Tesco’s should sort out the quality of their ready meals before they worried about the local schools IT department”, but with Twitter, the focus of concern hasn’t been shifted by the introduction of brand funded development on top of a public platform.

And should I object that Motorola is profiting from my Tweets? Well, Blocks wont make me switch to Motorola from my current supplier. Nor will I check out any of their phones because of this effort. But what does stick is that they within my vision, they are playing with the same tools as me, and they are not getting in the way – in fact they are helping me see connections in my postings (albeit minor) that I wouldn’t have spotted before. Should I concern myself about ‘permission marketing’? Nope, I went to them, they didn’t knock on my door – BUT, the lead through from Twitter’s pages doesn’t show the sponsor until the reveal – that is the Blocks interface page.

The ROI model is bound to be the click-through to the sponsors website. The advert is managed by DoubleClick, so the metrics are running alongside other client banner placements. These measurables are massive red herrings compared to the fact that the Sponsors name becomes associated to something that frequents my life.

I’ve been asked a lot (I mean A LOT) about the ROI on “Where are the Joneses?” so it’s no wonder that I find Blocks seductive as a commercially sponsored ‘art’ project that’s built on ‘social’ services. I’d like to know who indicated the project (Twitter, Motorola or Stamen) because there is kudos up for grabs, because that’s where the ROI model would be borne from. Who is getting the most attention from Blocks? Probably Stamen, just like BabyCow have from the “Where are the Joneses?” – which is how it should be.

Producers that make the stuff that we enjoy need the kudos’ because without them, the ideas would never leap from the page. And if Brands want the best talent, it’s not just the payola, but the kudos that attracts and retains quality producers.

But, there is something really missing from Blocks and that is the source code. Tom Carden, a developer on the Blocks is a developer with OpenGL and Processing knowledge. Blocks would have been stunning if Processing rather than Flash had been chosen; with the source code released and the data calls exposed, you would have seen a community of hacks build upon this work – richening it and so, taking Twitter into new ideas. If Motorola are sitting on the code for no reason, then that’s a shame…

The Twitter Wiki seems to be low on contribution to spawning out the platform. Chris Messina does nibble away at it, but the focus is on the mashup, not the value added; that is the extention use of the platform or at least the evolution of messaging. Something marketing should be fixated by.

Would the grass root community within the Twitter wiki be outraged if planners, creatives and technologists within agencies and brands started requesting features and interface suggestions? I doubt it. And there’s only one way to find out.

So never stop playing. Never stop learning. And never fear the future.

Further recommended reading:-

Stamen’s Mike Migurski’s notes on Blocks and ‘Uselessness’.

Tom Carden’s responses to the criticisms of Blocks

Definitely the most significant reappraisal of image creation value has arrived. Shai Avidan and Ariel Shamir have published this paper describing a process to ‘retarget’ images for viewing contexts. But, by doing this, they’ve uncovered something about the properties of an image that has never been seen: Seams of Meaningless.

By filtering the image to see energy maps, the software ‘optimises’ the ‘content’ to remove or expand apon intent. This approach was conceived as a way to avoid the scale/crop approach to remove unnecessary information in an image.

Watch the above Youtube video for full details and application examples.

If this ever gets released, our perception of images will never be the same again. For a start, the shared experience of an image vanishes outside perfectly mapped geo-temporal contexts. Further, our semantic relationship to information exponentially expands – every image becomes a catalyst of singularities – a far cry from any notion that an image ‘can be read’.

This Seam Carving brings not a new dimension to image making, but a distinction of re-co-ordinating information – Polyphonic Targeting. Compositions will be considered inspiring for manipulation not a destination for knowledge transfer. Editing will be acute to use. Publishing will be Rejection because the release of information will be accepted as a juncture of simulacra not simulation. Meaning becomes Indifference.

And it’ll play havoc with Photosynth. Mwahaah!

We should consider how this innovation could be received commercial. Betting that patients are being written; what we have here is an approach – a grammar in information design. The principles are in the open – these cant be guarded of with IP laws. Absurd as this sounds, the future looks more Open and Meaningless than ever before.

More details about ‘Seam Carving for Content-Aware Image Resizing’ here: http://www.faculty.idc.ac.il/arik/

Free Gift Wrapping Paper

August 5, 2007

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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.

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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 .

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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

Crazy

June 24, 2007

Sheer brilliant productions are inspired, inspired by the brilliance of technique and collaboration, in turn creating insight into design. When Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo Green collaborated as Gnarls Barkley and released Crazy in 2006 we all stopped to listen and watch the video directed by Robert Hales.

Watch the original here, as Youtube/Gnarls and Co. have stopped embedded sharing for this video.

Laughing Squid posted Randy George of The Ether and Aether Experiment cover of Crazy, highlighting the mastery of the Theremin – an instrument with complete hands off approach to performing music. Here, watch in awe.

The Gnarls Barkley collaboration, the ‘touchlessness’ of Randy’s performance and the many many inspired productions based upon Crazy show the real values in design, production and distribution – that being the ability to learn and build upon what inspires and challenges you.

When I was playing around with Flitter (in the same way as Karsten and Tim had. Do check out their uber mashup screensaver Fotzam) , I was interested in the video synthesis possibilities that were built upon RSS based services.

I wondered if I could take the Flitter experiment and reference the ‘culture of Crazy‘ – so this is what I did: -

First, Googled for the lyrics of Crazy. Not so hard. [Link]

Copied the lyrics into a Google spreadsheet and generated an RSS feed from that. [Link]

Used Feedburner to stablise the RSS feed [Link]

Added the new stable RSS to a cloned Flitter application on Yahoo!Pipes so that I could call Flickr images relating to the lyrics from Crazy. [Link]

Took the Yahoo!Pipes output RSS feed to the VVVV Flitter application and hacked it so that I could get the mirror image/Rorschach effect. Mixed in the elements of this crazy patch to get a sense of space.

Record 5 minutes of live RSS video mixing straight out of VVVV and then using the Microsoft Movie Maker, mixed in the Randy George cover by using DownloadHelper Firefox extension to aquire the Youtube video and then ripping the audio using FLV Extract.

And this is what you get.

No where in the same league as any of the above productions, athough it’s seductive to watch the endlessness of the locally running VVVV client. The client app grabs fresh images in batches of 50 just like Twittervision grabs tweets.

Now, I know using the lyrics and ripping the audio is technically ‘fair use’ as what I’m trying to demonstrate is the possibilities of design, production and distribution that can be achieved through web services by using media that itself is based upon free access. Through association, it’s Semantic Broadcasting. But, as described in the whole process of making my version of Crazy, it’s not straight forward nor is it generally accepted to build upon peoples work. I’m just exploring the possibilities of design, production and distribution. Is that so crazy?

From the ever correct Wikipedia:-

The song’s lyrics, written by Cee-Lo, were inspired by a conversation he and Danger Mouse had in the studio with the instrumental playing on repeat: Danger Mouse was “caught up in thinking that people have to believe you’re crazy to think you’re an artist. After the conversation, Cee-Lo recorded the vocals for the song in just one take.” [Link]

That’s real time improvisation over a foundation of production delivering authentic media. Sweet.

If anyone wants the VVVV patch, leave a message below.

Update: You can grab the patch from here. [Link] . Enjoy.

Where are the Joneses?

June 17, 2007

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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.

London, June 16/17 2007
Right, I’m attending with
Bob and Keith, though I’ll be arriving late on Saturday as Interesting2007 is happening during the day. Armed with a laptop and copy of VVVV, I’m looking to do some audio and visual synthesis at Hackday based upon web API calls.


Judging by the size of the venue this is going to messy. Fun, but messy.

It’s a shame these 2 events are overlapping in time. Both are encouraging the media meddling mentality. Interesting2007 is encouraging/challenging the emotions of engagement, whilst Hackday is exploring the techniques of engagement.

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.

Pwned laughter

May 8, 2007

Whilst I’ve been working on a longer text about the relationship between agile software development and comedy, I spotted this clip via Kottke.

Whether it can be argued that the Simpson’s have ‘done every possible script’ is nonsense or if Family Guy makes no issue about parodying, mocking and eschewing the values from the dominate Matt Groening show; either way, the laughter belongs not to the publisher but the audience. No laughs, no more shows.

SouthPark produced a machinima wonder of an episode ‘Make Love, Not Warcraft‘, playing the lead characters within WoW. Youtube has removed the episode several times, but here’s a UGC cut of the scenes. It no way conveys the funniness, but you get the idea.

Pwned (slang, with furiously debated origins) laughter is where the audience has to be aware that the focus of their enjoyment is proprietary. Canned laughter on the other hand is where the producer enhances a production , so that it acts as cue for the audience to laugh. Essentially it’s a post-production technique.

But isn’t all media-directed laughter a post-production technique for improving the production for the rest of the audience? If a laugh track is used, an executive somewhere has deemed it because of panic of a failing show. But does the audience needs to be encouraged to laugh?

True laughter is infectious, laughter lowers barriers. But laughter is not a right, it’s an impulse, essential to group communications. If you are being ‘encouraged’ to laugh, perhaps you should consider why. Especially if your laughter is selling the show to others.

Restricting, or controlling this impulse, raises questions over possession of stimuli; If something made you laugh and you want to share that joy with someone else, the ability to ‘freely laugh’ becomes a right allowed to an individual if the owner of the recorded gag says ‘yay’.

A comedy production brings a value to society in being able to concisely define our shortcomings; in definition of comedy, it’s something that ends well out of the turbulence that is life. At what cost of needing to empathise and understand our turbulent existence effecting of our peer communications? Should comedy not afford the same freedom that laughter has?

The irony in this is, animated or not, a sitcom borrows from daily life. May this be a crusade in WoW, a dysfunctional family farce or the adolescence of Canadians, the source to media based comedy is our lives. Once transferred to a production environment, ownership of the absurdities of life become restricted viewing. Perhaps it can be argues that ‘fair use’ is viable as the best sitcoms critique our lives, but I’ve not seen one yet that critiques infringed media rights. Possibly because it aint that funny.

In the recent debacle over the HD-DVD encryption hack sent the Digg community into hysterics. This is surely a sign that the laughter track of the networked society is based upon the light relief that an era of pwned entertainment is about to come to pass. Now that’s how to crack a joke, eh Stewie.

Update: Here’s the SouthPark episode in question. But don’t tell anyone. Will you?

Last year I started a project called Datama - using vvvv as a playback device for remixing media on the web. There’s been no time to push on with it, but this morning I rolled up the sleeves and started to remember the vvvvay forward.

Last week I did a few petty hacks on Yahoo!Pipes, creating mashups with twitter, wordie, 43things with youtube, then using Wikidot to render the results. You can see them here: TwitterTube WordieTube 43Tubes. (You might need to refresh the pages a few times as the wikidot page renders faster than Pipes can serve up the feed.)

So now we have Flitter (beta, of course). A mashup between Twitter and Flickr: Using Yahoo!Pipes to aggregate the lastest Twitterings of the public timeline, then it matches up these texts with Flickr image descriptions. This creates an RSS feed which I pull into VVVV running on my local machine, which basically creates a slide show of the resulting matches.

Not the most fascinating animation, but the role of Twitter to edit/select/sequence the images from Flickr is what I’m interested in here. Unlike the inspirational Ad Generator, which is a random matching of image and text, or We Feel Fine, which creates a soup of matches, Flitter aims at creating media that reflects what is happening as close to realtime as possible. Not as an ontology of the present, but towards the significance of relationships within the audiences ‘loose couplings’ . Less the uncanny,more like a live semantic broadcasting.

If you want to use the feed from Pipes – it’s here. If you want the vvvv patch it’s here. (vvvv is Windows only but free to use.) Because there isn’t always perfect matches between Twitter and Flickr (mainly because of Japanese character sets) you get nothing. Bug or feature? Heck – it’s a beta..

Here’s a couple of quick video renders to see the results.

And here's the vvvv patch if you're interested. Click to enlarge.

flitter patch for vvvv

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