November 23, 2010

Reading #4

  1. Imagine a situation that brings sci-fi writers Douglas Rushkoff, Ray Hammond, Scarlett Thomas and Markus Heitz together with experts in photonics, robotics, telematics, dynamic physical rendering and intelligent sensors. Sounds perfect, right? That’s what Intel’s Morrow Project did (follow that link to read/watch the stories). Brian David Johnson is the futurist/futurecaster responsible for this project, and although I imagine some of the benefits of a project like this would be in imaginative, unpredicted ways of putting technologies and ideas together, he’s more pragmatic:

    When we design chips, we need to do it five to 10 years in advance, so what that means is we want to have an understanding of what people will want to do with these devices long before they come out. So my job as a futurist at Intel is to have a very pragmatic vision of what people will want to do.

  2. Henry Jenkins is another MIT guru and while in the past he’s talked about the convergence of new and old media, now he’s on what he calls “spreadable media.” It’s really what we’re calling “viral” at the moment, but actually looking at what that means. In this Q&A for Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab, he takes apart that ‘given’ to reveal there’s a lot more going on under the surface:

    Many talk as if things just happened to “go viral” when they have no way to explain how or why the content has grabbed the public imagination.

    Our work starts from the idea that people are making conscious decisions to aid the circulation of certain content because they see it as a meaningful contribution to their ongoing conversations, a gift which they can share with people they care about.

    As they circulate this content, they first are playing key roles in appraising its value at a time of exploding media options; they also help to frame the content, helping it to fit better into the ongoing social interactions; they may also build upon, appropriate, transform, and remix the content further extending its shelf life and enabling its broader circulation

  3. Steven Johnson explaining he’s not a communist, even though he loves what he calls the fourth quadrant – public research, amateur labs, places where ideas are open to unfettered interaction. And he drops the example of Kickstarter as a case in point:

    Consider a recent start-up called Kickstarter, which embodies many of these complex values. Kickstarter is a site that allows individuals to fund creative projects, like movies, art installations, albums and so on. Donors may get special gifts in return for their contributions — signed copies of the final CD or an invitation to the opening — but they don’t own the creations they help support. In just two years of existence, Kickstarter has raised more than $20 million for thousands of projects, taking a small cut of each transaction.

    The economic exchange that Kickstarter enables between donors and creators works outside the traditional logic of markets. People are “investing” in others not for the promise of financial reward, but for the social rewards of supporting important work. The artists, on the other hand, are relying on a decentralized network of support, not government grants. And somehow, in the middle of these new models of collaboration, lies Kickstarter itself, a for-profit company that may well make a nice return for its own investors and founders.

  4. Australia doesn’t have Kickstarter, but we do have FundBreak. Indie opinion/analysis website New Matilda folded this year – and when it did there was a real outpouring of feeling. But with crowdsourced funding sites like this, they’re attempting to set up shop again:

    Our business model will operate more like a public radio station than a subscriber service. That is, we’re not going to paywall our content. Financial supporters will have the same access to content as first-time visitors and non-paying readers. We’re proud of our writers and we want their work to be read as widely as possible.

    So the big question is, what do you get for giving us your hard-earned cash? Quality media. It doesn’t come cheap.

    We’ve set a budget target of $175,000. This figure represents the bare minimum that we need to run the business. This is an all or nothing fundraising drive and if we don’t reach this target, we’ll cease publishing at the end of December.

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