Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Consumer Centric Companies

When you hear about a corporate giant, I at least, have fixed expectations that they would be polished, slick and feel staged and quaffered.  I am obviously not a true child of the internet age.  For example if someone showed you google afresh and told you that it was (potentially) the worlds most important and influential company your first reaction might be 'i could have art directed this site.'  

I had the very same reaction today when i went to look at Craigs List for the first time.  It looks kind of like a place that you end up when you take a wrong turn.   In a recent podcast that i listened to the potential for the capitalisation of Craigs List and the exploitation of its vast resource of consumer data was being discussed.  The response from the company was that they only ever do things that their consumers ask them to do.  And their consumers never asked them to exploit their data to sell them stuff and so it would never occur to them to try it.  

The same podcast explained how many people from the world of business get frustrated by the 'non-strategic' behaviour of Craigs List to not milk as much profit out of the market as it can, as quickly as it can.

On a separate note I was watching a film recently about the nature of the corporation and how it evolved to win the right to operate on the same level as a person - i.e. when you enter into a contract with a corporation it is pretty much legislated for in the same way as if you are entering it with a person.

The film saw this as a bad thing which it may well be.  But if you saw the relationship between Craigs List and its audience as the relationship between two people then it would not seem so strange that they would not want to go off and sell the online behaviour of its partner to the highest bidder in order to allow 3rd parties to serve them unwanted messages.  In fact it would seem pretty odd to see that as a reasonable option.

Only ever do things that your consumers would vote for if asked.  That seems like a constitutional principal

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The second age of discovery

I am currently reading a book about search, something that's so ever present that you never give its impact or meaning any second thought.  Its actually pretty new to our lives even though it doesn't seem like it.  To give it your undivided attention for a decent period of time makes you realise how more profound its role in our lives could be, past our current level dependency.

We have created this brave new digital world that even we do not understand and it is growing by the second.  It is also starting to merge with the physical world we have charted and will start to augment and modify it in ways that we don't yet appreciate.  The key to the navigation of this new world is about the most important single thing there is as far as I can work out.  And despite all this we only really have one universal entry point which is the search engine.  

As I was thinking about this it struck me that we are perhaps entering into a new age of Discovery.  The first age of Discovery was based on lots of men in sailing boats searching and navigating their way through uncharted waters to discover new lands.  Once this task was pretty much completed we turned our attentions to the deep sea and outer-space.  But now I am starting to think that the next age of discovery will play out in the digital world.

Similar to the first discovery age its pioneers are skilled explorers who populate new environments, test new tools and find new applications for the (digital) materials that surround them.  Maybe its a relative or subjective POV but it seems to me like now is particularly relevant, as though new frontiers have only recently opened up.  

This could be the point at which social media and content media merged together.  Before this you are either connecting with other people which is a social function rather than an act of discovery, or you are finding things for your own use which is a discovery but does not establish anything or leave anything behind in its wake.  For example there is no point in discovering America if you can't tell anyone.  

Once these two things are fused together then you have the ability to both find new unexplored territories while at the same time plant your flag in order to usher in immigrant populations from anywhere else on the net.  

A great blog  (which this is not,) is one with a skilled explorer which is less about spouting off opinions (which this one is,) and is more a navigator to the brave new world of the internet.

PS the picture is not a real Time front cover its just me being dramatic.


Working it out

All of the presentations, all of the debate and case studies and the point can be explained by this one little piece of ambient media.

If you want to talk to me about a product that is going to make me fit and give me a workout then the point is elevated by something that gives me little workout.  The message is mute - its the experience that expresses the meaning...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Remix Culture

"There are no original ideas - culture is either a blending or distilling process,"  could be a pretty good summary of one of the main ideas of this blog.  The last three or four posts put this in an atomic/scientific context and so 'combining or splitting,' would be a better way to say it set against this logic.

A nice example...

These graphics look very contemporary; digital but also Illustrative like Japanese retro computer art.

Whereas in their original context they look like small town marketing of 20 years ago.  Remixed into a different format and used in a different context culture can be remade from the raw materials of what is already there.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


The last post as a Wordle - a site that allows you to represent a passage of text visually.  Now you don't have to read it to see that it talks about 'digital' a lot.  Thanks Dan

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Digital Thoughts

Lots of people have been talking recently about the idea that the real world and digital world are starting to become more blurred - I called it the 'environet' which is obviously a similar blurred line between the words environment and internet which as the spell checker on my computer has kindly elected to draw attention to by putting a red line below it, it could be an idea.  

My last two posts were about thought particles - the construction process of the mind and therefore everything in human culture. This one however is about Digital thinking. Not thinking about digital stuff - that thinking is itself digital. This is perhaps the biggest idea in the book 'thought particles' which inspired the last two posts.  This is the idea that experience is felt, touched, seen and in any way sensed in a digital way. This means that the way we internalize anything in the world is by translating it into binary code so that it can then be integrated into conscious understanding and ultimatley reformulated into new ideas. For example when we look at an object we are absorbing information such as form, size, colour, sound, space, smell etc. not as it really is, but as we perceive it. In order to do this every one of these variables is reduced into binary code. Though this is only a theory it kind of makes sense intuitively. You don’t see the colour blue as it really is you only see a reading of it which is a construct based on your experience of blue in the past, the processes in your eye, the things around the object etc... etc... All of this varied information needs to be combined in our heads. How could this be possible if they were not reduced down to something as simple as a series of yes' and no’s, A’s and B’s or 1’s and 0’s? 

So if our perception is itself digital then the invention of digital technology looks different - it looks a lot more like us. 

If this... 1101010111010101010101010000111101010101 was your perception of a piece of information, and this... 10101010111110001101101101110101010 was what sat behind the computer screen where you absorbed it, then surely you could cut and paste the two like this... 110101011101010101010101000011110101010110101010111110001101101101110101010, pretty easily in principle. One day we might not need to split them via two different interfaces. 

Matrix stuff!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thought Chemisty in action

When I was young one of my parents favourite shows was LA law. The theme tune was pretty memorable and was composed by a bloke who is apparently the maestro of TV and film scores. According to the book from the last post he had a methodical approach to how they are constructed. In the case of LA LAW the alto saxophone represented that the show was meant to be racy. The french horn was meant to be related to the formality of the legal profession and the heavy backbeat was meant to evoke the intensity and imposing backdrop of LA. In other words it was a formula constructed to carry meaning between the writer and the audience. When we assess any kind of creative output i suppose its this that we are trying to decode i.e. what did the artist want to say with this painting or alternatively what evidence has he unwittingly poured into the picture about his state of mind that we can interpret now that the moment has been fixed in time. Maybe these two scenarios represent the difference between strategy and creativity. One seeks to construct things based on an understanding of the formula and the other gets to the answer more subconsciously or intuitively without every trying to deconstruct the process. Both approaches whether formulaic or organic represent two potential routes to the same end point. In other words could it be that the difference between strategy and creativity is not the output or the function its just the mindset used to find the answer. I never much understood the splitting of the two functions in many types of company - maybe this is why.  

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thought Chemistry

This book confirms something that i have been thinking about for a while.  That thoughts and ideas must be made of someting that can be deconstructed in no less than a scientific way.  What science teaches you is that nothing comes from nothing.  Energy is never lost, equations always balance, atoms move into different states but don't actually go anywhere.  If you apply this to ideas then you start to see them in a different way.  What if in order to generate an idea you need to absorb thought particles through your everyday experiences and reshape them into something new based on the ones that you already have.  We all know that the best ideas people fill thier lives with stimulus.  

If any of this is right then what it means is that there must be a general theory of relativity for cultural production that explains how any kind of human development is possible.

Thats one for a rainly day.