We squander talent as if we didn't need it. We allow our most precious resource to lie unused in millions of citizens. We develop social networks that contain tremendous value and fritter it away.
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What does the next decade hold? Mobile tools will certainly change the
landscape, open spectrum will unleash the kind of creativity we've seen
on the wired internet, and of course there will be many more
YouTube/Facebook-class applications. But the underlying change was the
basic tools of the internet. The job of the next decade is mostly going
to be taking the raw revolutionary capability that's now apparent and
really seeing what we can do with it.
I especially like the part about the next decade being about using the whiz bang stuff we've been creating. Ever since reading this brilliant blog by Kevin Kelly, William Gibson's idea of the unevenly distributed future has been rattling around in my head. Shirky's idea is a variant: we don't really need new technical tools; we already have at our disposal what we need to create amazing, powerful services. As usual, the limiting factor is our own imaginations.
The rise of Twitter has bloggers doing more than the usual amount of navel gazing.
"Is blogging dead?," many wonder.
The online trend-setting Jason Calacanis probably did as much as anyone to get this ball rolling when he announced his retirement as a blogger back in July. Others, if not exactly calling it quits, have noticed a dip in their blogging productivity.
Regular readers of The TrueTalk Blog will undoubtedly have noticed a (blessedly welcome?) decrease in the frequency and verbosity of my posts. Mostly, that's been due to my intense focus on VloggerHeads over the past five months. But, Twitter has also had an impact.
So, does Twitter threaten blogging? Not in my view.
Every communication tool ever developed has supplemented, not replaced, the ones that existed prior to its appearance. Snail mail? Going strong. Telephones? Still here. Fax machines? Oh yeah. Printed books? Billions sold.
Why? Because each tool is well-suited to do one thing—something—better than any other. And that something can be thought of as that tool's communication niche, or "communiniche."
The novel continues to be the best method for in-depth exploration of the interior lives of characters.
Twitter is a great way to quickly capture a moment. But it sucks at capturing nuance.
Try to imagine trying to write War and Peace in smoke signals.
The key is finding the right tool for the right niche.
Take video. Today, for example, we have 12Seconds, Seesmic, VloggerHeads and YouTube. All four of these services provide an outlet for creating and uploading video material, but each is focused on a very different niche. While 12Seconds and Seesmic are geared toward top-of-the-head webcam uploads, and YouTube toward being the video repository for entertainment, VloggerHeads focuses on enabling engaging interaction around thought-through material.
Each has its place in the increasing niche-focused online world. The key is knowing which communication tool to use for which job.
So, here's a scenario for you: you discover something really cool, and start spending time finding out about it. Next thing you know, you're trying your hand at it. You connect with others who are doingthe same and get that heady feeling of being on the edge of something new. When you try to tell people who are not involved in this thing what it's about, they stare at you blankly. Sometimes they ask: "why would people want to do that?" or, "where do people get the time to do that?"
After a while, weeks, maybe months, you start to see more people doing it. It's still pretty exciting and watching the momentum build reinforces your feeling that you're on to something big. Where will it go? What's going to happen?
As time goes on, your interest in this new thing stays strong as more and more people discover it.
Then, one day, something changes.
You look at some of the people who have just discovered this thing, look at what they're doing with it, and you begin to think, "hmm, that's not very cool at all; in fact, that sucks." The new people have screwed up the thing's cool. They're breaking it! Don't they know they're not supposed to do that? This was supposed to be the different!
And then, one day, you decide not to do this thing today. Just for a day. Too much else to do. It won't matter. And then another day passes, and another.
And then, one day, you discover something really cool, and start spending time finding out about it.
Oh yeah, that other thing? I used to do that. I don't do that anymore. It sucks. It's dead.
But, this thing, this thing is gonna change everything!
Sometimes when I read the Twitterstream, I wonder what the great writers of the past would think. I mean, 140 characters at a time seriously limits what one can say, right? But, there is that elegant, haiku aspect that challenges some to be very eloquent. Others of us just drivel along!
Now, I know that sounds dramatic. After all, there are plenty of sleepy businesses doing quite well, thank you very much, in tired markets. But, come the apocalypse, those businesses will be in a world of hurt.
Yeah, think about advertising. Was there a more established formula than advertising's? The past 50 years had taught everyone what ads were: messages beamed at eyeballs. Oh, sure, people complained, but we kept buying and buying and buying.
Then, the apocalypse.
The Internet showed advertisers that their customers were sick of being interrupted and spoken to like idiots. So sick, in fact, that we'd do anything in our power to shut off those interruptions.
But that didn't make us unwilling to buy, nor did it make us any less curious about what to buy. It just made us less willing to listen to those blaring, blinking irritants.
So...what's a marketer to do?
Well, how 'bout what Diesel's doing? How about not just affiliating your brand with all things hip, but actually doing hip things? Like sponsoring a competition amongst artists and designers to create something interesting, provocative, beautiful on a very large scale. That's what they did in Diesel Wall.
And then, just to be sure we all understand why they're doing this, they speak to us in a voice that very many of us find very familiar:
In any given moment in our daily lives we are bombarded
by messages we didn't ask to see. A never ending stream of mass
produced cerebral pollution offering at absolute best nothing more than
needless want. Diesel Wall was born out of a need to salvage what
precious public space is left and to fill it with something worth
saying. We will take your powers of disuasion [sic]; your ability to disrupt;
incite; excite; inspire and intrigue; to make comment; to make
beautiful; to make real; to make people think again.The ultimate goal of Diesel Wall is to create a fusion between the
private space of galleries/institutions and the open space of the
city…to drive new direction in urban landscapes and recharge them with
"Cerebral pollution." Doesn't sound like the kind of thing a brand would want to be associated with today. Is your company, "message green"?
See? That's the difference relentless creativity makes.
Why people engage with others in social networks is a key question today. The other day, I made a video giving my thoughts about the adoption of video uploads. Now, I'm reading Charlene Li's new book, Groundswell, which only strengthens those opinions.
One key question remains: what are the most important social incentives for engaging in social networking? We know that "belonging" or "affiliation" are important motivators, as are "recognition" and "status." But, what about you? Why do you participate in networks? Why do you create material for blogs or vlogs? What's in it for you?
It just means that when you live in the world—a temporary, provisional
world—you’re a temporary, provisional being. I think the blog, in its
defense —my blog at least —is very candid about that. It doesn’t
pretend any great deal of authority.
Learning to have an idea, write it down at that moment, and let it go has been one of blogging's most liberating side effects for me. In earlier days, I would only permit my name to adorn painstakingly crafted prose; in other words, I wrote nothing that anybody else ever read. What a liberating treat to be able to write without every single thing needing to be something for the ages!
Mike Figgis, director of Leaving Las Vegas, gave a talk entitled "Is there too much culture?" that was recently recorded by the BBC. Figgis says a lot of thought provoking things in the talk, the gist of which is, plenitude degrades value; the more there is, the less any single thing means.
OK, I get that.
But his most interesting idea for me was this one: as a culture we are stuck in 1957.
Music? Stuck in 1957 rock 'n roll.
Fashion? Stuck in emulation of 1957 Elvis-cool.
Films? Stuck in a 1957, post-color, post-fast-film-and-lots-of-lighting vocabulary.
Why is this? Because the replication of all things 1957 viral technology means we can never forget anything ever again. Or, more accurately, we can never again filter our experiences through the incomplete distortion field that is our memory; the distortion field that enables us to take up the perceived essence of a moment in a creative way and distort it still further. Instead, we are doomed to watching those old Elvis performances over and over; seeing Hendrix at Woodstock over and over; trying to look up Marilyn Monroe's windblown skirt one more time. We have recordings from the 20s and films from the 30s, but they are
technologically flawed, making them feel, in Figgis' mind, more like
analog poems than digital clones.
This, Figgis says, is too much culture; too much backing up without being allowed to be flushed away by the tide of the new; like the cultural version of global warming.
I found the talk riveting.
Oh, and all of that is besides what he says about the imminent demise of Hollywood.