Moving image is getting quite exciting isn’t it.  I mean we are told it’s bad for us but we keep watching more of it via smaller chunks off of smaller devices.
The fragmentation of media demand and supply supposedly putting the
consumer in charge – though I’m still not sure about this when interoperability is still a huge issue and when revenue models are still not proven.

Anyway, we got to some corporate tipping point now as IBM put forward six recommendations for dealing with this ‘regime change’ in media. If a ‘regime change’ is in the offing then Get Democracy is one of the things like youtube, forcing the old guard to shit themselves. Get Democracy is a means through which to make getting moving
image content from a variety of sources using different codecs and such
like bittorrent all so-easy. It’s quite cool. Rather than trying to
resolve the technical issues – Get Democracy seems to just present them
within a shell so the end user is unaware of the ‘messiness’. Their name
suggests these guys have an ulterior motive than just allowing the
likes of my mum to get her slice of Coronation Street when she wants to.

But
ultimately is their drive actually undermining a sensible revenue model
from emerging…? What’s this going to do the content creators? How are
they gonna get their share of that slice that’s flying around the
tubes? Quality may win out, people may find the stuff they like and be
willing to pay for it.  But maybe not. One of the acid tests is Ricky Gervais’ move to subscription for his forthcoming podcasts, after wetting our appetites with the first
12 ‘episodes’ free. I won’t be buying; at 95p each for 30 mins it’s quite steep. It makes
the BBC’s annual ‘subscription’ seem incredibly good value.

If we are moving to a micro subscription model for media out at the edges – then this can only become more prevelant in mainstream media.  Like pay-as-you go models on mobile phone.  But what then
of the BBC – the ‘contract’ phone? Can they charge you for all its annual content when you’re
used to paying for bits and pieces?  And what happens when you’re accessing that
content on mobiles and other devices?  Steve Hewlett in the Guardian starts to map the issues for a multi-medium landscape :

the Television Licensing Authority (TLA) – responsible for
collecting BBC licence fees – last week scotched any notion that mobile
phone and computer-based TV viewers might be exempt. It points you to a
piece of government business called "Statutory Instrument 2004 No 692.
The Communications Act (Television Licensing) Regulations 2004", part
three sections 9, 10 and 11. Which amended existing regulations arising
from The Wireless Telegraphy Acts 1926, 1949 etc and the Communications
Act of 2003. To cut a very long story short, any device that can
receive live TV pictures, whether or not originally designed or
intended to do so, must be covered by a licence if you use it for that
purpose. What is more, the TLA will stress that 98% of households have
a TV so they already need a licence.

and…

while the regulations extend beyond traditional
broadcasting to cover internet and mobile live streaming, receiving TV
programmes on-demand, or say as part of an internet-based catch-up
service, appears not to be covered.

If correct, this would mean if you only watched programmes on
demand via new services – such as the BBC’s emerging seven-day catch-up
facility, or in any way other than via a live broadcast stream, however
delivered, you would not be liable to pay the licence fee even if you
used your old-fashioned TV.
[my emphasis]

It seems it is not just hapless producers and broadcasters who have
under-estimated the true potential significance of new media delivery
systems – witness the growing rumble over programme rights – but the
government departments who drafted the new regulations may have missed
it too. It may be that the statutory underpinning of the BBC’s
licence-fee funding, rooted in legislation dealing with "wireless
telegraphy" from the early part of the last century, could be about to
come undone.

Hey, this is serious! Short of a major change in the basis of the BBC’s
definition in law it’s not going to be necessary to pay them for some
[all!] of the content you may receive.

And even if it was how could they police
payment?  With extreme difficulty and not only because of the technological issues – they would surely lose the Public’s ‘hearts and minds’.  And that makes me quite sad. Not only because a Public Service Broadcaster like the BBC is truly a Fourth Estate  – that I would contend doesn’t exist in the US because of the small PBS system and the ‘distributed’ and corporatised network broadcasters.  Of course the BBC has to adapt but it would seem that a Public Service Broadcasting service cannot continue to
exist on the scale it does in the UK. Like those rather
over-enthusiastic neo-cons who went into Iraq, we see a LOT of enthusiasm from people enbracing the massively distributed media landscape as the White Heat of technology that truly offers something useful [lots of cheap or even free content].  But we risk moving forward
without a plan for post-Regime Change leading to a fractured and fragmented
media mess which could affect the very basis of democracy and Public Service ideals in this country.  Of course we could promote and move to the sort of ‘everyday democracy‘ that Demos have argued for.  But I’m not convinced that bottom up ‘guerilla’ style political systems work… their are many such initiatives in North America that work well for their ‘members’ but such a system comes at the cost of a coherent sense of community that covers the nation as a whole.

So,what…?  what are the scenarios we see for a future media landscape….?

Thirty minutes into my daily commute this morning I realised that Edward Stourton wasn’t informing me of the news agenda on BBC Radio 4 but rather Chris Moyles was uttering inane gobbledygook.  It took me thirty minutes to realise someone had reset the car radio from Radio 4 to Radio 1.  Thirty minutes!

My_space_moyles

There was one interesting thing to come out of this babble which was that Moyles is using MySpace to connect to:
"… would be happy seeing some hot chicks! Really – only hot people get in"
Par for the course with Moyles.  But it’s significant in the sense that he really is connecting with his audience on their terms, using their medium of choice, albeit in a rather tongue in cheek way.  You certainly get a better sense of the man on myspace than on Radio1′s own site Aled, who works on the show [and from what I heard was the best thing about it], seems to be making the most of his position to network – he has 2306 ‘friends’. 

Culturesponge has a series of Vespa adverts from the 1950s and 1960s which are really compelling.  My favourite are a set of Modern illustrations [as opposed to the iconographic pretty lady posters] of urban and rural life – positioning the scooter very much as a facilitator of freedom and self expression within the ‘progressive’ discourses of modernity.  I’m surprised scooter manufacturers have not tried to offer a contemporary take on this…. in the way that advertising around urban redevelopment has sought to highlight the sense of "city living" as sophisticated, as the cultural body of existence and the scooter as a way to navigate this space, this ‘cultural life’.  No,  the images we get now are perhaps symbolic of the way we see urban life – of machines capable of dominating a space of speed and aggression and that from mostly the 50cc market aimed at late teens.  There is another market though – of people engaging in city living and who can’t be arsed to cycle. I’m surprised no-one except Vespa get this.

The image reminds me of Trumpton the kids series from the late 60s and 70s [part of the "Watch with Mother" series] which has recently been re-ssued by the beeb – and from something I overheard on the radio the other day, and corroborated here [in a brief biog of Alison Price - the writer] is that the fire crew of "Pugh, (Pugh), Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb!" never put out a fire because they couldn’t animate fire at the time!  Excellent – this belief in the ‘real’ in what was ostensibly a glorified childrens play set is quite charming.


Link: YouTube – Brokeback to the future.

Brokebacktothefuture

Some clever work went down to marry Brokeback Mountain and Back to the Future. You Tube is just chocka full of great stuff and some really turgid compelling crap too.   Like Video Nation on acid. 

 


the social life of information, originally uploaded by JamesB.

I’m digging digg at the moment particularly seeing news ‘move’ in real time.  It’s quite compelling – not particularly radical, in the sense that there are so many ways to see information now – search by tags; search by popular tag or post etc etc that the very life of information seems laid bare, ready for forensic examination.  In this information ‘ecosystem’ to what extent is the message actually the metadata, the context that we’re reading?

Jeff Jarvis makes reference to some Google bashing future where organisations rail against their shop front monopoly by taking their products away.  That ain’t gonna happen as he says,

… Google is everyone’s front page. And, yes, that can make life difficult. Google kills brands; Google commodifies everything. But that’s not Google’s fault. That comes part-and-parcel with this new, distributed world where we control the entry to the content we want and where there is no longer a scarcity of content that lets a few big players control it and us. Wishing this weren’t so won’t make it not so.

It’s something of a paradox that this new distributed medium that is possibly the greatest democratising media in history where the many can speak to the many and make sure the few are accountable, is reliant upon commodification to re-distribute the distributed. It’s interesting to think that a truly democratic future may actually be offline, against current rhetoric and away from information aggregators and information commodification. On the subject of politics, Bruno Latour has put together a collection of thinkers to tackle what non-’formal’ politics might be; a material politics of [excuse the obfuscating academic language] political assemblages – the things that make public, that allow for democracy.  Worth a look. 

Vidalia suspects Sony have been using graffiti to generate a some ‘street’ cred’.  Large corporations using street art aesthetics to align themselves with the values of the younger generation is annoying, especially when you know it’s a marketing ploy and so disengenuous.

See also !Habit Forming photo’s of other Fony Sony street ‘art

The romp to own what were once considered the boring classifieds at the back of the newspaper is going mental.   We know newspapers are losing money from the loss of these itty bitty classified ads to online which is searchable, up-to-date and dynamic but the land grab amongst the digital media giants to get this boring information so other people can eyeball it is quite astonishing.  This is so-we-are-told big money, but big money not through paid ads but through selling associated relevant advertising next to your boring information.  Craigs List on steroids. 

Google have their Google Base to suck in your info and present it any which way and Murdoch has paid $580 million for MySpace – who have just started doing classifieds – and Microsoft have their own model in test [From the FT - sub req'd]:

MSN, Microsoft’s online services arm, has been testing a new service
that would let internet users enter details of personal items in a
specially designed database. Information in the database would then be
made search-able by Microsoft’s internet search engine, or could be
restricted to a limited group of personal contacts.

The service,
code named Fremont, a reference to a Seattle neighbourhood that plays
host to a busy Sunday market, has been available in test form to
Microsoft employees since last week, and could be set for a public test
in the coming weeks, the company said.

There is of course still a specialised niche market for paid classifieds for [discerning] customers such as that provided by Private Eye and I hope this never goes away.  But amongst the major players we are just left with Yahoo’s! paid service which is now looking a bit old hat.  Be interesting to see how they respond.  And it will also be interesting to see how the different taxonomical structures play out in the inevitable classified war.  How will the information be searchable?  What ‘classification’ system will be employed.  In this folksonomied world will ‘old fashioned’ taxonomies [jobs; 'services' etc.] win out? 

see also: charlene li’s post

Link: Los Angeles Times: ( the handmade life ).

Interesting article in the LA Times [reg req'd - find here] around the craft movement which kinda supplements what I wrote earlier about Etsy.  The article is useful because it brings out some of the social and psychological drivers underpinning the new craft movement:
 

Around midnight, Vickey decided to stop for the day. She had sewn a
purse that would be going out in the morning. "I didn’t do craft for
political reasons," she said, stretching, "it just makes me feel good.
And I can make a little bit of money off it. Not much, but some. I feel
like I can actually finish something." So much in life has no endpoint.
So much is uncertain. At least when you make a pillow, you know when
you are done. ….  "I like making one thing for one
person," Vickey said. "After they get it in the mail, they write to me
and tell me that they are happy. That’s the best."

I’ve got some stick lately for using crafts as an example of a new social movement and as a metaphor for the activities of post-modern rebellion from overt consumerism, but I’m sticking to my guns [or barricades or whatever].  The craft movement has always had a rebellious and punk-art element [no surprise that it's quite feminist] and that aesthetic sensibility and attitude now seems more prevalent amongst crafty folk.  And this aesthetic is finding an audience amongst those looking for one-offs provided with honesty and transparency combined with some of the values of the folk-craft movement such as community. 

There’s a revolution going on it’s one which your mother wouldn’t recognise – a friend was recently asked to knit on stage with chicks on speed! – another example of the ‘cool’ currency of craft and why I think it’s gonna tip.  And Etsy has a model to push it over:

Etsy.com, a virtual
marketplace specifically for handmade goods, was launched this summer.
Robert Kalin, its creator, is still in his early 20s and missed out on
the dot-com bomb. He brought together the heads of the two most popular
free crafting forums, Jean Railla of Getcrafty and Leah Kramer of
Craftster (motto: "No Tea Cozies Without Irony"), and brainstormed a
crafters-only alternative to EBay. "It can be fairly difficult to set
up an e-commerce site on your own. Plus, a lot of people had criticisms
about EBay—your stuff gets buried under everyone else’s, or the items
didn’t have the irreverent feel they were looking for," said Kalin. "We
made Etsy because EBay has stopped innovating and keeps raising their
fees. In a market where competition spurs innovation and price
reductions, EBay has had little of one and none of the other." Plus,
searching for items in a text-based format, he said, is so 1999. On
Etsy you can search by color with a color-picker, or by geographic area
with a map.

Kalin, an MIT dropout, thinks in metaphors: EBay
is to Etsy as corporate agribusiness is to organic farming. EBay is
Goliath; Etsy is David. EBay has 8,900 employees and Etsy has four,
therefore EBay has mass, but Etsy has speed. [LA Times]

Etsy’s UI is getting a bit ‘messy’ with some beautiful but largely indulgent navigational tools that allow you to search by for example colour or material.  Good for PR but probably given more weight that it deserves for diving into the products on sale.  Despite losing its simplicity and logical navigation with some feature creep [though still soooo much better than ebay's] it does not affect the USP which is being bolstered with some kick-arse functionality coming through:

  • A special section where members can make requests to have things made and sellers can put in offers to make them
  • in-site messaging
  • something involving real-time interaction

These developments will really help with creating more touch points for social engagement and ‘negotiation’.  And this matters because the platform is far from being just about economics:  a search for meaning and
satisfaction in work is being complimented by the self-actualising
consumer looking to define themselves through  others, through the
provenance of the product and the values of the wider craft community and the platform needs to facilitate this if it is to succeed.  And I’m convinced it will.

Ben just alerted me to this new service from Amazon [but now I see it's gone meme mental..].

When we think of interfaces between human beings and computers, we usually assume that the human being is the one requesting that a task be completed, and the computer is completing the task and providing the results. What if this process were reversed and a computer program could ask a human being to perform a task and return the results? What if it could coordinate many human beings to perform a task?

What if? indeed…

The latest Amazon initiative is very ambitious, not in its ‘technicalness’ but in its sociality.  This is a big deal.  It’s applying the dynamics of adwords which pushes ‘appropriate’ content to websites, to ‘pull’ in appropriate information and convert that into usable computer readable data.

… the Amazon Mechanical Turk web service solves the problem of building
applications that until now have not worked well because they lack
human intelligence. Humans are much more effective than computers at
solving some types of problems, like finding specific objects in
pictures, evaluating beauty, or translating text. The idea of the
Amazon Mechanical Turk web service is to give developers a programmable
interface to a network of humans to solve these kinds of problems and
incorporate this human intelligence into their applications.

The "Mechanical Turk" is e ssentially a labour exchange for micro-tasks, or Human Intelligence Tasks [vis a vis Artificial Intellugence]- the kind of things that computer-based intelligence just can’t do as effectively as you or me – such as finding objects in pictures. 

What kind of micro tasks?  Well if these were personal tasks they’d be of the scratching your arse variety.  They’re *that* micro.   But these tasks being predominantly around product and editorial opinion the micro-tasks range from your "image adjustment" [i.e. finding objects or views on appropriate images] to "produce desciption content" [i.e. does this describe your understanding of a product well.] One of the main uses at the moment is from Amazon’s search A9 – which is trying to find best fit pictures of businesses in street level photography – which will improve their search ‘effectiveness’.

But let’s be straight here – your views don’t matter on their own.  You’re one of a crowd. And in one case a 16367 big crowd where your views can be  quantified and statistical significance can be achieved and the data munged so scripts can use it. 

So, Amazon and their clients are paying for consumer research?  Kind of.  Some of it is sub-editing, proofing work but all of it is by your customers, by ‘real’ people – and that constitutes research.  It’s the ideal business scenario – getting your customers to describe the things that they would buy, findging out what matters to them.  But instead of analysing the information there are scripts used to transfer it straight to use.

The Mechanical Turk is a great concept for exchange.  But my final point is that I believe MT is also an extension of the loyalty card scheme, an extension of customer-centric marketing, for two reasons:

1. Amazon is too big to do effective "marketing as conversation" type customer engagement – it just can’t. But Amazon is as Chris Anderson states a "Long Tail" business, perhaps the best example of all, and it needs to deal with its customers personally – have a high level of interaction.  So how can Amazon ‘reward’ people for their contribution to their effort if it can’t thank you in person?  Financially, of course.  These payments are nothing more than the financial equivalent of saying "thank you".   The payments are *tiny*.  To make it worthwhile you’d have to be doing a lot of HITS.  And to actually understand the task and then undertake it takes a minimum of a few minutes.  $.03 for a few minutes work? Perhaps if you were so on the margins of the economy – but who, with a computer and a bank account ‘is’?  You’re likely to do this work, this HIT, as a loyal customer.

2. As your HITS payments literally hit your Amazon account you are able to use them to buy good or "Transfer your earnings to your bank account or to your Amazon.com gift certificate balance.".   Would you really exchange that $1.20 into cash? Or would you use it to ‘subsidise’ that "special offer" that Amazon is thrusting at you?  Is it worth transfering such low amounts?  I’m sure Amazon expect most customers to retain their balance in Bank Amazon and redeem tham as you would Nectar points.