Monday, 5 February 2007
Anticipating Poppy's World
These are musings on two bold initiatives that seek to place Manchester at the forefront of the digital world.
Media City:UK. Tomorrow's media will belong to the people. This will not be naive and silly, quality will still be quality, but access and know-how will be shared much more widely. With wider access and know-how, more people will be able to say more things well. These things will be said to audiences large and small: that's the point, the new technology will not reconstruct a mass media model. Some of it will be big or bigger, but much of it will be smaller. The term 'campfire media' is very eloquent, I suggest. In essence, it is describing 'The Long Tail' effect for media.
Innovation theory tells us that successful new technologies tend to be socially inclusive (the alphabet, the printing press, the Model T, the wide-bodied jet). You can see this hallmark in the campfire concept. So, what's the next step for Media City? Well, whilst the developers get on with their side of things perhaps the city's educators should set out to see that every child is media savvy: understanding of the technology, art and psychology of media creation. Perhaps 'computer literacy' as a major educational concern was only ever a stepping-stone to 'media literacy.' Discuss.
ONE Manchester: Whilst celebrating Media City:UK, we can also cheer the ONE Manchester bid and hope that it wins the country's Digital Challenge. Have a look at the video featuring Poppy (pictured) and listen to the council folk and citizens expressing their wishes for a digital future. It is, as Poppy says, her future that is at stake. So my best advice is that we get the highest speed access to as many people as possible. The rest will follow. For the truth is that electronic media profoundly affect the economics of organisation. This is what is so often missing from the analyses of a digital future. Proponents and sceptics alike too often fail to see the link between technology and organisation. This is why people struggle to make it 'real'.
With digital technology we can organise in different ways. For example, more people can find their entrepreneurial niche because more niches can be sustained (Long Tail, again). Large corporate bodies and public institutions can divest themselves of functionality and pursue network relationships (lots of references but I like Unleashing the Killer App.) So, we get more and more organisations working with more and more organisations. The networked economy is born, new business takes advantage, builds position, and defends position as first-mover advantage is somehow made to apply. But business is still business, the winners still win and become a new sort of giant; a networked giant. The winners become intersections.