Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Deja Vu dot Zero

I couldn't decide whether Andrew Keen is the modern equivalent of King Canute or akin to the wandering minstrel of old who lamented the invention of sheet music or the great digital hypocrite promoting himself by the same means which he lambasts or some great visionary?

So I attended his lecture at the RSA, to try and get a clearer picture. He received a luke warm but polite reception and by all appearances has somewhat mellowed his viewpoints.

He puts forward a case that what we need is acceptance and understanding of expertise through education, that trained gatekeepers are needed for the internet, that real artists need to be paid and that content given away freely will never make any money and may undermine the whole system.

If you take his arguments at face value - then on one side you have a litany of self selecting experts, creating "high" quality output, demanding payment and authority Vs a mob of amateurs, creating "poor" quality output and providing their work for free.

This sounds somewhat familiar?

Oh my word, it's not just the meme of "open" that has traversed from one boundary (software) to another (content) but also the entire same debate - lock, stock and barrel - has followed it as well.

Jenny Ambrozek asked me some incredibly insightful questions about open source communities which I completely missed the point of. This really is just closed source vs open source all over again, which would suggest common underlying processes. Jenny, you're star!

It's all interconnected with the ideas of commoditisation. It's worth re-reading David Stutz work and re-applying these concepts to content.

"Open source is about consumer demand, political process, and community involvement, rather than about software or hardware innovation. To stay relevant during a shift to commodity software, open source communities will need to claim part of the power that has historically accompanied the definition and regulation of commodity networks. Open source constituents will need to actively participate in the creation of standards and legal frameworks in order to avoid marginalization. Without participation, the dynamic interaction of commodification, global capital markets, and political interests will likely result in the subjugation of open source and standards to corporate and national interests. In fact, judging by the history of other commodities, this outcome is actually most likely."

At least I can finally make up my mind. King Canute - but only if we make it so.