Saturday, May 04, 2013

How sharing became the new anti capitalism/ softer capitalism : innovation web and videojournalism

Mark Little CEO Storyful hosting at NewsXchange - Pic David Dunkley Gyimah

"People say to me, what's your business model, and you know first of all  if I knew I wouldn't tell you"... Mark Little's remark eighteen minutes into this video: Innovating in tough times raised a chuckle from his fellow panelist.

Out of camera view, there were no audible gasps or sighs of despairs. After all you could argue the reason why delegates attend any number of media gatherings is to learn methodologies of success from the innovators.

And they're entitled to their pound of flesh, except perhaps where the theme is explicit e.g. How to be an innovator in tough times, is about innovation and not revelations of a company's business model.

Overall a schema, if not an overall methodology, is to attend a conferences where the jewel crowns are of any small, to successful company, is likely to be on display. Between 2001 and 2008 by my own estimates this was rife as web 2.0 and the conversational tone engineered into the web took hold.

The most prominent in the news rooms became the heart model for the news workflow. Gone was the cinema stall arrangement to a theory of funnelling the news into the centre of the news space and metaphorically the heart of operations.

BBC's heart model in construction - taken in 2012 before their launch

Now, largely the strategy for writing a blog, creating a social universe or showing how to crack your head open for a You tube laugh is common practice.

But look hard enough and the same subjects recycle various conferences, unless that is it involves pedagogy in research, and even then. In the latter case you'll likely to pay a prettyish penny.  Take knowledge that is a unique commodity e.g. Financial Times data news, or how the Concord Monitor made good on its paywall. Both good examples of info that is rarely, if ever free.

How to learn how to shoot  as a videojournalist is another.  Otherwise, you're never short of digital know-how boxed as your cure-all coming your way at the next conference.

The Sharing Theory 
The sharing theory, which has engulfed the internet is a combination of cognitive practices as  ecclesiastically old as Adam offering Eve an apple and more contemporary and postmodernism partnerships, which involve BOGOF, buy one, get one free, or GOFTU Get one free then upgrade.

The latter surfaced in the mid 90s following Marc Andressen's Netscape breakthrough. Whilst Andressen subscribed to the true spirit of disruptive anti-capitalist economics in his ground breaking work, by the time Microsoft frankensteined Moasic to Internet Explorer, the idea that nothing is really free was crystallising fast.

The push for sharing as a theory can be attributed to one of the most remarkable doctrines of its time, which was so alarming when it emerged, it was as much ridiculed as it was adopted by the new evangelists.  Doc Searls, Christopher Locke, Rick Levine and David Weinberger published their opus de The Clue Train Manifesto.

Its 95 thesis read as a social, cultural and economics panacea to the status quo. Anti-capitalism was the new hip with decrees such as:
  • Don't worry, you can still make money. That is, as long as it's not the only thing on your mind.
  • Have you noticed that, in itself, money is kind of one-dimensional and boring? What else can we talk about? 
  • Markets are conversations.
It's good to give became the new mantra, because sharing ultimately is altruistic, though that is a myth.  While that has currency for those who are clearly selfless in their aims e.g. Gates' charity, many of us share because it buys us credibility. It's a social badge of sorts. On the other hand businesses threatened by Net's anarchy re-engineered their own business model.

By providing you a platform to speak, share and talk to one another, you become one of their matrix and if many of us sign up, to advertisers that's eyeballs. And eyeballs mean (all together now ) MONEY!

Ten years ago, I can still hear the howling laughter of BBC types as I,  a zerozen tried to get a commission for a programme. There are citizens and netizens, but in the early days any netizen without any successful scars from the maddening dotcom boom was a waster, a zero.

Why does this matter at this moment and time. I have been musing over what I do with the pragmatic sections of my PhD practice which takes a deep look at developing a theory that would underpin videojournalism on the web.

That research over six years, involving four continents, hundreds of interviews needs to be shared, but its intellectual property is, I'm told by my supervisors, worthy of a book.

It's a no brainer really, but more importantly, it underpins a new tide that is grabbing hold of the web, a softer form of capitalism, a new Clue Train Manifesto that says we love to share, but truly not all things are sharable, which makes Mark Little's opening remark refreshingly candid.

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David Dunkley Gyimah is an Knight Batten award winner in Innovation in Journalism and International videojournalism winner. He is completing his PhD which examines and posits ideas for an evolving story form. The grand theory encapsulates various media and storyform theories. David has previously worked for BBC Newsnight, Channel 4 News and ABC News in South Africa in 1994.
He is an artist-in-residence at the Southbank Centre and a senior lecturer and academic supervisor for a number of companies. His work can be found on his site