I was looking at this video of Clay Shirky presentation to TED TV today. It’s a little long ( 17 minutes) but very informative. especially the middle part.
What made me thinking is how he portrays the development of media. If you do not have the time to look at the video, here is part of what he says, in a nutshell :
There has been 5 major media revolutions, in order of appearance:
- The movable type and the printing press. This allowed for one message to reach one person, regardless of distance and time, but only through physical replication of the message. Print magazines and newspapers press fall into that category. The more people you want to reach, the more you need to replicate.
- The telephone . The first “one to one” live communication
- The information storage. Mostly photography, film and sound.
- The broadcast information. The “one to many”, live and with no need to replicate.
- The internet. The “many to many”, live medium.
Clay Shirky goes on by saying that on top of shattering the existing mediums, the internet has also brought participation from the consumers, the producing consumers, the many that add their content to the medium ( aka the prosumers) . Not only the many to many receive information, but they add to it, alter it, share it, and redistribute it.
What made me think is where does photography fit in all this? Obviously, the amateur, as we have seen it with Flickr or Microstock, is now a full participant of the marketplace. And since there is many more of them then pros, it will only get more overwhelming. That is already a well-known fact. However, how do we make our photography something that the consumer can interact and participate with ?
Currently, editorial pro photography is mostly a one to many medium with no interaction. An image is published with no option for interactivity besides sharing it. However, companies like CNN and Msnbc.com are trying to break the barrier. Both launched during Obama’s inauguration, a collective photosynth. A place where people attending the ceremony could upload their images and have them stitched to compose a global picture. As in any infancy project, it was not a total success. But its getting there.
Because of the failure of traditional media, our pictures of Iran ‘s current protest are also composed of a patchwork of a multitude of amateur images of variable quality being uploaded. That is another form of prosumer based photographic content.
Rick Smolan’s “time capsule’ is another alteration of the same idea using a mix media format.
We could go on and on with current experiment and proof of concepts. Giant media company are currently either fighting this idea while other are embracing it. It is clear that the solution will be to make photography that people can participate with, interact, maybe alter and send back through the network. Something more contemporary then the current broadcasting model of the one to many.
How do we transform pro photography so that it can survive in this new many to many model. And how do we succeed in finding a beneficial and sustainable business model ?
While I am not at liberty to expand on this here, I can leave you with a visualisation of the new marketplace:
That is the Cheswick/Burch Map of the Internet , showing the inter connectivity of the networks and its traffic.
This baby needs to be fed and just looooves photography, like nothing before.