Monday, March 13

The mass distribution of communications and innovation

We will undergo another revolution when we give 100 million kids a smart cell phone or a low-cost laptop, and bootstrap the way they learn outside of school. We think of games as a way to kill time, but in the future I think it will be a major vehicle for learning.

Creative expression (is another area). No longer will just a few write or create music. We will see 100 million people creating the content and art shared among them. Easy-to-use programs allow kids to compose everything form ringtones to full-fledged operas. It will change the meaning of creative art in our society.

We are already seeing early signs of it in blogs. The source of creative content is coming from the world. That revolution will go well outside of the written word to all forms of visual and performing arts.
I don't know anymore wether I'm just slanted because of the part MIT and Nicholas Negroponte have played in inspiring my own interests in architecting media as an instrument for social change, but this Business Week interview with the new head of the Media Lab, Frank Moss, hit on the heart of why it is I do what I do.

Growing up with a knack for arts and going to school to study the arts I've always been endowed not only with a tremendous love for the artifact, but especially for the systems that support and encourage them. So much so that my "art" has shifted to the mediated systems that support the arts themself.

From film, to music, to painting to language and storytelling a passionate mind needs access to not just the tools but an audience, an endless bounty of knowlede, and most importantly of all, a group of peers whom are as passionate as they are. The biggest obstacle to young minds in the past was access to peers with common special interests. The internet is creating a revolution among young minds by breaking the bonds of geographical and real world isolation giving them a new ecology who's only obstacle is their own patience, passion, and interest. To put it in short... any mind can find it's match.

But as I like to put more poetically since I never had a musical talent, "What audience does a gifted young tuba player have?" Who truely appreciates a tuba players craft? What peers does one have? If they're lucky beyond the support of a parent, perhaps a band teacher. If they're really lucky a few fellow students in their junior high or high school whom are less than critical and more than disinterested. Luckier still they might see another across the field of competition whom they see not as an adversary, but as an equal.

Now along comes the internet and a whole world of special interests is open to anyone. Increasingly the student has access to specialized peer groups around the world, and this of course changes everything because this tuba player is in ALL of us. We never stop being a student... we never stop learning, evolving and we never stop following our passions now matter how obscure. I can only speculate that many only stop wanting on their death beds if they don't carry their passions with them into the afterlife. Clearly many even pass them on in their legacy so that their passions never die.

But, for many of us our passions are not defined by the most popular notions of our culture. They are in fact ground by the constraints of, and general lack of capacity in the systems and fabric that support our society. Often they are ground untill we "accept" our place in a homogenous society.

These systems that are ever incresingly coming to defining our culture have until recently lacked the capacity for the diversity of our interests. Our passions ARE in fact by definition as diverse as our numbers, even infinitely more so. The equation for human capacity is no longer constrained by geography, or by the band, the airwaves, the channels on the telivision, the number of editors on staff... Our capacity for culture and humanity is now at least theoretically constrained only by our minds. The capcity of the pipe is the capacity of the participants itself. Now for every art there is an audience.

And this much is obvious... for every thing we create will always consume infinitely more. After a century or more of being "consumers" it's un-thinkable that we'll ever spend more time creating than we do consuming. There can never be to much music, to much art, whatever we create we can consume, for every art there is an audience... if you don't have one, then you just haven't found it yet, keep looking.

Therefore I suspect just from looking at the surface of this move to a media rich two-way world that creativity and innovation is just beginning to explode and that the student will find their diverse paths faster and truer, and be spurned on with increasing energy to reach new heights, and to sustain their interest and wonder far longer before being worn down by time and age.

Mass media is the new frontier of literacy, language and culture. Todays children will be bold and fluid communicators in all forms of media and the bounty of this metaverse will not only be spurn further innovation, not only further democratization of mass communications, but with a little luck and hard work a more equitable distribution of wealth and power for all humanity.

Anyway, thats the sort of big fluffy idea that pops into my head at 7am when I've been up working all night. I have to have something to justify the time and lack of sleep. :)

Read whole BW interview, it's good really: How the Masses Will Innovate

Disclaimer: I didn't proofread or spell check. Deal with it.

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Anne Walk said...

...the bounty of this metaverse will not only be spurn further innovation...

hiya mike!

i think you meant spawn there.. :)

interesting post and very idealistic, which is good. i like idealism and am staunchly so, myself.

i'm also wary of corporate manipulations of this new "freedom of expression" however. it's a real predicament for me.

Mica said...

Great post. I needed to read this first thing in the morning, it reminds me of why I do this.
in response to Anne's comment -
I feel that, as well.

The 'Corporate' will always develop a way to manipulate and absorb inovations. They just wait to see what people do and then emulate it.
They are too big and bulky to do any inovating themselves.

But we(tuba enthusiasts, et al.) too, are a corporate. We grow faster because we are flexible and cellular. Our corporate grows stonger as we learn to use and create new tools. We have an opposite structure for sucess than the established corporations have. Or at least, it is our job to constantly innovate and to provide alternatives.

hmm.. I need to drink coffee before i start writing comments.

quirk said...

But, for many of us our passions are not defined by the most popular notions of our culture. They are in fact ground by the constraints of, and general lack of capacity in the systems and fabric that support our society.

And therein lies our mission.

If videoblogging has taught me anything, it's that nothing is impossible. Access is there for the taking.

Keep at it long enough Meiser, and we'll see these things to fruition. It's bound to happen.

Michael Meiser said...

Thanks for the comments Anne, Mica and Adam.

Anne, You are correct about spaw vs. spurn... it happens when I'm up all night and writing long rants.

Also, I'm very skeptical about corporate manipulation, particularly about lobbiest manipulation. Legislative muck-racking has the ability to detroy much of what makes this whole thing work. Right now ANYONE is free to access anything and distribute anything on the web. This is because the commodity of bandwidth has been seperated from content. If certain monkey's like Verizon, bell south and AT&T get their way it could allow businesses to comingle content and bandwidth basically rulling out ANY non-for-profit media sharing and indeed much of the so called "long tail" putting power back into the hands of a few gatekeepers... essentially just like TV. THis blows, and while it's unlikely we must remain VERY vigilant that the web isn't turned into a giant commodity. Everything in our culture is commoditized.. including the most obscure of arts... it's a disease of the capitalism life is more than a commodity.

Mica... thanks for commenting also, I resist the anti-coporate speak... a little, just because it's to easy to draw lines on... instead let me just talk about open source, it's the anti-corporation... the vision is people working collectively through loose ecologies of organizations towards common goods and yes actually turning great profits. To long has our society been bent toward hierarchical orders.. and it directly mirrors our communications systems, because in fact the "medium is the message"... society grows to reflect the systems which bind it... roadways, broadcast and satelite TV, the telephone... these are the things that shape our culture... and basically untill all methods of mass communication have been out of the hands of the individuals... only accessible to "professionals" the so called "high priests of communications"... suddenly everyone has access. Some call this the ameturization of everything... I just like to say.. Folk is back!

Adam, thanks for posting too.

Access, access, access... This is the heart of the issue... the digital divide is one side of it... and what happens on the net is the other... it means many things on many levels, from usability and readability... to having broadband acces, to having access to hardware... to building the mechanisms whereby anyone can create and share and discuss media. All issues of accessibility need our attention and there are few issues more important... I think this comes in as give a person a fish and they can feed their family for a day, teach them and they can feed for a lifetime... access to knowlege and information is central to world piece, hunger, and the basic neccesities of life. It may not always seem so clear how access plays into this... certainly it would not make sense to give people starving internet access... but there's no denying connectivity (mobile phones too) in rural developing contries can drastically improve things. cnnectivity is one of many components of social capital right alongside mobilty and trust. They are all component of the same issue and while it may not always seem like it things like blogging. vlogging, and podcasting are and will increasingly play into this.

We just need to keep the vision, because change sometimes happens much slower than we would like.

Peace, mike