File sharing and digital business models

September 29, 2009 | 1 comment

There were some great comments on this weekend’s guest post for Media140 about Lily Allen and sharing, so I’ve written a follow-up, exploring some ideas (and the arguments left in the comments) in a little more detail.

However, after at least a decade without tangible participation from the media industries, illegal file sharing has become mainstream. Companies, rights holders, device manufacturers and digital distributors have been engaged in difficult and important conversations for that time, while file sharers, unencumbered with that responsibility, have gone right ahead and developed easier and easier ways to share content for free. If I want to watch Up, the Disney/Pixar film that’s still awaiting release here in the UK, I can download Vuze and be downloading it inside of five minutes. To beat file sharing, any business model has to beat that experience.

Click here to read the whole article. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Writing in Oxford?

September 28, 2009 | 28 comments

Just a quick note: I’m starting an Oxford writers group.

My idea is that participants will be able to upload their work to a closed online space, so that it can be read and commented on in a more natural reading environment. Of course, if people want, they can also read their work aloud at meetings, which will be held regularly. If it works, I’ll expand the infrastructure so it can be used by local writers groups elsewhere.

The preliminary meeting, which will help determine the size and scope of the group, will take place this Wednesday, September 30th, at the Gardener’s Arms pub on Plantation Road in Oxford at 8pm. See you there?

Lily Allen, file sharing and music on the Internet

September 27, 2009 | Leave a comment

I’ve written a guest post over at the Media140 blog about Lily Allen’s file sharing stance, and the wider place of traditional record labels in the Internet economy.

If the Internet has brought us anything, it is individuality. We have the ability to publish, share and consume the media of our choice, based upon our own preferences. We are no longer happy to adhere to the conventions of broad demographic groups. This change is not just occurring in the record industry; it is happening in politics, in journalism, and across the media spectrum.

You can read the whole post here.

Networked stories

September 7, 2009 | 6 comments

I’ve been thinking a lot about storytelling on the Internet.

I’m not completely impressed with how it’s been done so far. Not that the examples I’ve seen haven’t been beautiful, but their presence on the web has been irrelevant: they’ve essentially been multimedia presentations using web technologies, rather than a different medium that uses the Internet as an intrinsic part of its fabric. A great example of this is We Tell Stories, the digital fiction project that Six to Start built for Penguin a couple of years ago.

The Internet, as I’m so fond of pointing out, is a system of interconnected people: uniquely, the audience is an intrinsic part of the medium. I don’t think that’s been exploited to its full potential, possibly because it couldn’t be until recently.

I love the idea of a plot that reacts to how the audience is interacting with it and each other – not an alternate reality game, which has set goals and tasks, nor a virtual world like Second Life, but something that uses elements from the real world as the building blocks for a story in order to raise questions and get the audience talking with each other. The journeys of storyteller and audience would be interlinked in a kind of feedback loop, which emerging augmented reality software could potentially make more immediate and visceral. The story would use the Internet as a delivery mechanism, but it would be experienced entirely outside, in the real world.

The trick wouldn’t be to get people to forget it was fictional, but to reveal talking points about the real world – a kind of epic theater approach to storytelling as opposed to naturalism. The epic theater was a style popularized by Brecht (the German playwright who most famously wrote The Threepenny Opera), which dictated that the audience should never forget it was watching a play. As well as using particular styles of acting and stage production, the lights were often left on, and the audience was encouraged to discuss the events unfolding in front of them.

In digital, networked storytelling, this effect would almost be necessary due to the limitations of the medium, but could be exploited as a powerful feature. Never before has the audience been able to discuss a story on such a scale. It’s an opportunity.