Saturday, May 17, 2014

Rules of change: how the next big thing out did Facebook, Twitter and video

In 1974, Ghana, a progressive country in Africa with a population of 10 million, overnight switched from driving on the left hand drive to the right. 

2012 saw Facebook change a rule on users' photographs after it acquired Instagram. Instagram could use user's photographs as they wished. Onliners apoplectic with rage voted with their feet causing Facebook to renege. 

In his John Ford's epic 1939 Western Stagecoach, one of the fundamental 'rules' of filmmaking was shredded. Ford's chase scene continually and wilfully crosses the line. One moment, the chase is left to right, then its right to left.

What these all have in common is that a rule has been overturned and by default demonstrates 'rules', are not fixed. 

Rules exist as an agreement between users, often created by powerful bodies to create commercial enterprise.

I mean would you buy a book that didn't teach you how to tweet, how to film with the rule of thirds, how to sample sound. These rules derive from agreements, whose origins can often be questionable. 

One of the biggest contentious so called rules, is the way television news is made. Have you ever asked how it came to be made that way, and then realised, a couple of people, with no TV experience came up with an idea and that was that?

Today, television is produced in a uniform, world-wide govern rule. funny! Rules, however are transient and none more so that in the creative fields. 

In the arts, fashion, music - fields that thrive on innovation and creativity, the very idea of a rule is bunkum.  A rule is nothing more than a guideline to aid the novice.   

And if a rule, or to be precise a convention did exist, the innovative creative lot would just as well break it.

Twitter experts state you need a hashtag, link to something and a couple of @s to make your tweet fly. But this 'rule' only works when users of a certain place, time, culture agree. 

In five months time, it could be something else. In five months time, the seeds of a new 'Twitter-like' app may be in the throes to go big, because our habits have changed.

And that's the key. So called 'rules' which are really guidelines exist because of the patterns of behaviour, a certain set of people exhibit.

We like volume, so 33m followers is better than 3000. But at some point 33m users becomes meaningless when in the 3000 followers the user gets quality feedback.

In the digital age, the concept of the 'rule' that defines what we should do is  contestable and malleable.  The very idea of a 'rule' is nonsense because of the 'mutability' of digital. Concepts and materials in digital can change and be transported elsewhere.

What exists in a photoshop image can be manipulated to become a data visual set in data journalism and also inserted into a film. 

The practical outcome at realising the rule, is that in order to be on top of your game, you need to be aware what your target audience agrees.

Society sets itself up in a Darwinian fashion. Twitter would not have worked in the 1950s post-war because we were a society that hid things, suspicious of the enemy in our midst.

Decades on we've forgotten and become blase to security. This coupled with the rise and rise of the 1960s fame culture means we're all too ready to a) become stars, b) share what we're doing.

In years time, that behaviour will change. Will, because the trends have shown that societies and cultures do change and when they do, the agreement of users breaks down to evolve into something else.

Facebook connects us virtually, but what about an app that does it metaphysically? I have seen this on display in China. Or what about a time when we generally don't want to be connected in the way Facebook manages our affairs.

What if we didn't need to tweet, because an app existed that allowed us to store voice data,  which was accessible via speech. Think Star Trek's Holodeck. Again I have seen this work.

The reason why they haven't taken shape is that society as a movement has not made those demands on the technology. But it will, in the same way, one moment we had no use for 3D and now 3D Ocular glasses could be all the rage soon in sharing virtual communities.