Is (social media) production the new consumption?

The written word is going through a renaissance. OK,I admit, I have been using a keyboard  for so long now that I struggle to read my own spidery scribbles, but we are writing more than ever.

The panicky predictions of the web turning us all into anti-social, procrastinating cyber slobs are quickly fading away as we spend more time reading, writing, interacting with, producing and sharing content than ever. The web is rapidly encroaching on TV’s territory, (arguably the most passive of all media), and is not far away from absorbing it entirley.

Production and consumption theory initially wrestled with the problem of how man can produce enough to meet our insatiable demands. Cue the industrial revolution. With that problem solved, somewhere along the line the problem mutated. How can we fuel enough demand to sustain a level of production that keeps workers in jobs and capitalists capitalizing?

So for better or worse, God created marketers:

[Our economy] demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption. The measure of social status, of social acceptance, of prestige, is now to be found in our consumptive patterns […]

We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing pace. We need to have people eat, drink, dress, ride, live, with ever more complicated and, therefore, constantly more expensive consumption.

~American retail analyst Victor Lebow (and cheers to Raptitude reader  Anna for this)

The question I’m toying with is are we in the middle of a third shift? Is the line between consuming and producing blurring?

Or even, could production be the new consumption?

I’ve been reflecting on Lebow’s words against today’s context when our rituals are increasingly moving into the digital space and so many seek their spiritual and ego satisfactions via online interactions.

Social media - an early example of self publishing
An early example of self publishing

“Social status”, “acceptance”, “prestige” – Mark Zuckerburg tapped into some deep primal needs which partly explains the phenomenal growth of 500 miliion Facebook users in two years.

When we use Google or Facebook, we are consuming a digital product, but we are also producing content at the same time. Innocently updating your profile, rating a product, writing a review, sharing a Tweet – all feed the ever growing content snowball as it  roars down the fast lane of the super information highway.

The production and consumption of the social web are inextricably linked, there is no one with out the other.

The dizzying number of options to self-publish seems to increase daily, and shows no signs of letting up. Stick any daft sounding nonsensical word into Google and the chances are you’ll find a new obscure social network.

Mobile phones are mutating out of control into the portable multimedia production devices with even a basic model to day will feature digital camera, video recording and dictaphone as standard.

Digital media production and consumption

One thing is for sure, the digital ape loves to produce and the means of digital media production are well and truly in his hands.

Looking beyond the sometimes narcissistic characteristics of social media use, the web has empowered us with the mechanic to collaborate, share ideas, solve problems, protest and immerse ourselves in creativity and culture.

As you can clearly see – we are not wasting the opportunity.

AT-AT Day Afternoon from Patrick Boivin

AT-AT Day Afternoon

“When I was a kid, there are two things I wanted badly and never got… A real dog and a Kenner AT-AT Walker”

A cracking piece of digital media from Patrick Boivin has allowed his childhood dreams to come true. It’s hard to believe this amazing short film isn’t produced solely using CGI.

Watch out for the hilarious guest appearance from “Jabba the Poo”.  The stop animation and use of green screen is first class, if you are wondering how this piece of video wizardry was created, Boivin also created the making of this video.

Digital graffiti with lazer tagging

Digital Graffiti
Digital Graffiti – Lazer tagging

An aerospace engineer and designer of some of NASA’s latest projects has jacked in his day job to explore the space between new media art and “super genius” technology. Based from Eyebeam, a US based creative technology center, James Powderly and partner in pixel crime, Evan Roth are creating some very clever experiments in modern digital technology and urban creativity.

The video below shows their impressive lazer tagging technique, which allows these digital vandals to  slap their tags on the world’s famous landmarks and cities, and all with out any risk of being arrested.

But the most impressive part of this story is what the duo managed to achieve with leading LA graffiti artist, Tony Quan, AKA Tempt. A pioneer of the 80’s LA graffiti scene, Quan has suffered from a rare disease which has left him largely paralyzed since 2003, but he retains full mental capability and eye movement. The frustration he must feel at not being able to express his highly creative mind is unimaginable.

But within just a few day, Powderly and Roth adapted the lazer tagging system to create the Eye Writer system specifically for Quan, so he can once again make his mark on the urban landscape.   Truly inspiring stuff !

Check out more digital vandalism and even a robo-tagger over at Temptone.

[piecemaker id=1/]

Will HTML5 leave Flash extinct?

Will the Ipad make Flash extinct

On a recent trip to London, in a quiet pub, a fellow punter unboxed their shiny new IPad to the coos, aahs and oohs of a growing love-struck crowd surrounding the lucky bugger. Anyone would have thought a new born giraffe was taking its’ first cute stumbles judging the reaction from the awestruck lunch time drinkers.

Practically every digital billboard in the London underground featured provocative shots of the iPad’s lusty particulars, male and female eyes just couldn’t avert their gaze. One thing is for sure, the iPad is an object of exquisite technological beauty, and we are rapidly falling in love. Even die-hard PC fans may not be able to resist the temptress for long and could soon be bowing down in submission to Apples’ evangelists.

You only have to check out their HTML 5 showcase (you will need to browse in Safari, as the showcase uses non-finalized web standards) to see how Apple are going to take the driving seat in pushing the web and mobile technologies of the future. But Steve Jobs has confirmed that Adobe Flash will definitely not be coming along for the ride.

Jobs’ statement may seem a little harsh, and the ending to this ‘will they, won’t they’ storyline between Apple and Adobe isn’t a happy one,  but it’s difficult not to appreciate the logic behind the decision to not support Flash on the Apple mobile OS. Pixel perfect transitions, slick animations and  video are all achievable through the open standards of HTML 5, CSS3 Javascript. Free, openness and sharing are all concepts synonymous with the web and Apple at least seems to be embracing these with their development strategy.

If developing in open standards is the only way you are going to get an application on the iPhone and iPad – where does this leave Adobe’s licensed development platform?

If I were a Flash developer for web, I might be starting to rethink my long term career path. One reason is most Flash sites depend on hover-overs – an alien concept to the growing number of devices using touch screen navigation. So there will be plenty of companies looking to redevelop their Flash sites…………. just not in Flash when there are more accessible options available.

Power consumption is an issue every mobile device manufacturer faces, and how to get the most out of a single charge. So even the rise of the non-Apple smart phones that will support Flash, does not look likely to be throwing a lifeline when it comes to mobile, as the technology is more demanding on power. Large, battery heavy devices will not survive in the market and besides, manufacturers have to keep making devices smaller – so we keep losing them and buying more!

But where do the users loyalties lie? YouTube and all the major content providers support H.264 codec, so non Flash users aren’t missing out on much when it comes to video. Most of us couldn’t care less if we are viewing content using Flash or Javascript and the majority of us don’t know what this geeky nonsense even means!

So the allure of the Apple style mobile OS will swoon us in the end, and non Apple developers will be following the leader when attempting to emulate the Apple experience. They already are. Flash looks likely to retreat away from the web content arena but that doesn’t mean it’s multimedia applications are dead and buried, Flash still has it’s niches.

Before the pro-Adobe rent a mob (and the Flash team at my agency) get their backs up – there is no doubting Flash’s capability to create gorgeous animated web content, but recently the Adobe developer community seem to feeling the heat in advertising  the fact more than ever. Perhaps this will drive Flash developers to create even more innovative content. But open web standards are catching up – fast.

Sorry Flash, I think  it might be over. It’s not you, OR me. It’s Apple.

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