This behavioural group began as an observation that a key segment of our conversations were not trying to create new ideas or amplify them but were bringing content together and adapting the idea. 

When we began to look at this behaviour in more detail the degree of adaption seemed less important than the act of gathering and sharing this information.  In many cases the content was not being changed greatly from the essential meme or idea, but was  being put into context and given greater definition and relevance.

Over time we began to refer to this group as ‘curators’ (rather than adaptors) as this seemed to explain the deeper motivation for this group.  There is a degree of ambiguity to this description as many curators were also adapting content; for instance taking quotes or references from other articles and by placing them in a new context and adding to the meaning of the original idea.  Indeed, a small minority of them were significantly adapting the original idea.  But we do feel that curators is the better description, and to explain why I want to refer to a post written by Steve Rubel several years ago when he gave a succinct explanation of curation:

The Internet has empowered billions of people and is distributing their creativity across millions of niches and dozens of formats. Quality and accuracy, of course, can vary. However, virtually every subject either is or will be addressed with excellence – by someone, somewhere.

“However, the glut of content as we all know also has a major downside. Our information and entertainment options greatly outweigh the time we have to consume it. Even if one were to only focus on micro-niche interests and snack on bite-sized content, demand could never ever scale to match the supply. Content is a commodity. The Attention Crash is real and – make no mistake – it will deepen.  Enter the Digital Curator.”

Steve outlines how important this digital curator is in the development of influence and authority on the Internet.  It is this motivation for sharing, giving meaning, and identifying where excellence resides that can help make sense of digital chaos.  This wonderful need for people online to help curate what is and what is not so important online is a key dynamic of the topology of influence.

In acknowledging this a digital curator is different from the traditionally defined cultural curator, who is a crucial guardian or overseer of tangible objects.  A digital curator is working with electronic material and where it is linked and interconnected and even by putting it into context, (because the digital curator is a part of authority ranking), this act alone adapts the content.  Additionally digital is a different world from online, as its democratic instinct means that few curators can resist a tweak or adaptation to content that would be completely taboo to the traditional definition. 

So our definition of digital curator is different from the traditional; it allows for adaptation of the idea in giving it context but importantly it does not mean the curator starts a new idea or meme.  If this was the case they would be an idea starter not a curator and it appears that few curators want to start new ideas afresh; they are largely satisfied and motivated by this role of creating context. 

Given the time it takes to curate even the smallest conversation there is a practical force behind this. However, there is also the point that they are two different acts; one more organisational and sharing, the other more inspirational and isolated.

Augmented reality is set to drive a deeper wedge in the digital divide.

According to Internet World Stats, only 28.7% of people in the world are online. In simple terms, that means if I have five kids only one gets access to the internet. As I sit in a developed economy in Western Europe, the digital divide is not always well recognized or understood. That means that four of my kids aren’t seeing any internet content and getting the benefit of the largest knowledge sharing network the world has ever seen. One child will be given the advantage of the world’s information being organized and widely accessible while the others will be have to get by with what they can access locally.

Most recession-affected countries have proposed some sort of broadband stimulus project to increase the number of people using the internet and develop their digital economy. Emerging markets are rolling out infrastructure to increase uptake and bring more people online.

Discussions around the infrastructure side of the digital divide leads to a lot of trolling through stats and not much understanding of what the gap means. In developed markets the digital divide often means that the less money you have the less likely you are to be on the internet, own a smartphone or enjoy tablet computing. This is a divide between the rich and the poor and Russell M Davies proposes in his Wired column “Imagine the worst bits of Facebook, only they’re everywhere” that augmented reality could lead to a kind of “premium reality” for those that pay for better versions of everyday life.

Augmented reality offers users the opportunity to access information or alter landscapes through digital imagery on mobile devices that interact with their surroundings. Davies notes that this has so far amounted to pizza vouchers and works of art. As the potential of augmented reality is just beginning to come into focus, it illustrates how pronounced the digital divide can become.

Today it means that if you don’t have access to a smart mobile device you are being denied access to some less than essential information but as the technology develops it could mean that you are only seeing half the picture that others are. Once the technology has seen widespread adoption this could mean aggressive advertising models shaping the world you see through your mobile device.

Davis sees this world evolving along a similar path as television broadcasting with advertising cluttering the world of poorer users while those that can pay accessing premium content. He says:

“…businesses will pay to target the rich and end up only addressing the poor because the rich have paid extra to avoid being targeted. So if you’ve got enough money, your world could look like HBO on a Sunday night — high quality and commercial free. If you don’t, it’ll look like the nether regions of your guide — softcore chat offers and lawyers who’ve paid an actor to assure you that they really are lawyers. Which would be fine, except these people won’t be on your telly;  they’ll be in your world.”

This means that the one child in five who gets to enjoy the riches of the internet still might not be getting an optimum experience and getting every advantage the web has to offer.  As augmented reality technology proliferates we will see how access to these new means of information sharing evolves.

@Matthew_Whalley

You wouldn't though, would you?

You wouldn't though, would you?

It’s not an original observation to say that the rise of social media and networking has paved the way a breed of self-obsessed, self serving, egoists. And whilst that might be the extreme end of the spectrum, it’s hard to deny that we have adopted a culture where we are continually encouraged to ‘broadcast yourself’.

We all know why it has proved to be so popular, we’re inherently nosey and want to know instantly what our family/peers/crushes are getting up to, wherever they happen to be and vice versa. Social networking is the perfect tool to do this.

Plus, it has also given people the chance to move out of obscurity and into the limelight. Scantily clad girls and women are plastered across profile pages everywhere – social networking sites these days often look like the equivalent of a third division Miss World contest. The words of Bros, ‘when will I be famous’ ring in my ears…

What are the consequences of this self promotion? One is to give airtime (and I’m sure a huge pay packet) to the likes of Tila Tequila, ‘the most popular artist’ on MySpace. Tila’s antics I’m sure will inspire other young ladies to follow her example in bid to be recognised as a sex symbol on a global level. Sadly, these D level celebrities used to be confined to their national borders, but we have technology to thank for their springboard to stardom. Social media has the ability for an individual to reach people across the world and make them an international phenomenon.

But even if fame isn’t on the agenda – what is? Why are people so willing to be poked by people they don’t know? Technology has given us a new forum to meet people, and social networks are a safe haven to promote our better assets and also hide our unattractive traits. Let’s hope there aren’t any nasty surprises when you take things offline and into the real world! For 2009 the online dating industry is expected to top $1.049 billion and is likely to grow at a rate of 10 percent. These stats support that technology has opened the flood gates for singletons, ready to find love, or simply get a leg over.

Recently asked in the Evening Standard- respondents were asked if they would you use Facebook to get sex – where a number of them answered yes. It begs the question, has technology made us more daring, or simply more desperate?

Against our better judgements, it’s not uncommon to befriend people online we don’t know- the caution we would use in our everyday lives is somehow forgotten. Maybe it’s the stroking of egos, or just the fun of flirting, but striking up ‘friendships’ with strangers online is a growing trend. But all this talk of me, me, me, means that actually you might be playing into the hands of someone more sinister. When you think of online predators, we can be quick to dismiss that we’re not at risk. But, the fact that sex offenders in Illinois have been prohibited from using social networking sites goes to show that social networks are places where victims are identified, targeted and also where personal information can be obtained and used against you.

From a personal experience, posting even the most minor piece of information duped me talking to someone I don’t know online. I thought I knew ‘John Taylor’ who befriended me on Facebook, through university. We shared the same city and some friends, so when he struck up a conversation I assumed we might know each other. It didn’t take too long for me to find out actually, I had no relation to this person at all – and in fact – he was messaging me from a prison cell!

Despite technology giving us the chance to bridge the physical distance between people, it also gives people enough distance to do things they might not dare to do when face-to-face. Would John Taylor be so brave to start chatting to me online if we met in the street? Doubtful given his current housing situation…

It’s scarily easy to obtain personal information through social networking sites, and then be duped into believing you know whoever approaches you. Tech News World reported that if you’re not careful, scammers can obtain enough information about you to rip you off. And according to research from PC World, it is estimated with free dating sites at least 10 percent of new accounts created each day are from scammers.

The secondary consequence of all this self promotion means that cyber-criminals can easily find out where you live, where you work, what tube you get, what parties you’ve been too – all making a very believable story that a stalker could actually know you.

There are some things you can’t control about the internet; the rise of talentless, fame hungry, desperate and horny people are some of them, but something you can control is what you post online about yourself. It’s just a matter of modesty – broadcast yourself, but just not too much.

Pam Chowdhury (currently not on twitter… yes, yes we know… we’re working on that)

Free is a very ambiguous and imprecise term these days. Many of our everyday consumables that we often view as free (tap water, BBC etc) aren’t really free of a cost, yet their almost comforting pervasiveness means that we barely consider a financial cost for their consumption. It’s a commonly held assumption that as a good becomes increasingly common and available, its price will reduce to almost zero. The most famous example of this is of course, the aforementioned tap water. Essentially (almost) free, businesses can only charge for water by either associating it with fashion/purity/exoticism etc, or by ‘adding value’ with the likes of flavoured or vitamin-enriched water.

Much has been made in recent weeks about the cost (or not) of content on the internet. The internet changed the face of consumption of information and other forms of content across the globe because by its far reaching nature, it enabled millions of people to consume a piece of information in seconds, without such obstructive concepts such as printing or shipping.

A recent survey by Telindus (covered in the Guardian) showed that 43% of UK respondents said they never paid for digital media, regardless of whether they should or not. It also found that nearly one in five people surveyed believed that material was effectively in the public domain once it had been posted online. This kind of widespread acceptance of what is effectively piracy means that a multitude of industries are now quite intently looking at their business and distribution models.

Lionel Barber, editor of the FT is claiming: “How these online payment models work and how much revenue they can generate is still up in the air; but I confidently predict that within the next 12 months, almost all news organisations will be charging for content.”

Ashley Norris has made some very interesting insight into Mr. Barber’s comments on his blog (http://ashleynorris.posterous.com/why-the-time-might-be-right-to-ch…). Firstly he points out that it’s considerably easier for a publication like the FT with its executive readership and strong commercial ties, to charge for content than a paper like the Guardian with its readership of power to the people communists and people like me who just like the blogs.

Secondly many formerly fledging alternative news sites like the Huffington Post have now evolved to be far more similar to traditional old-world media than they had perhaps originally intended, with a considerably reduced amount of blogging going on within their remits.

So according to Ashley the two things making it hard for media organisations to charge for content are:

“Blogs – Walled content gardens could actually spark a renaissance in blogging, especially when coupled with tools like Posterous (which works incredibly well with Twitter), as bloggers simply cut and paste (either physically or intellectually) subscription content from media sources and publish it freely.
The BBC – The corp is still going to offer all its content for free, so readers can still access one of the world’s premium news sources for nothing. It makes paying that few quid each month to The Guardian looks a lot less appealing.

Here’s an idea for Brown, Cameron or whoever is running the UK next year. Develop a subscription model for the BBC’s online content. It would generate income, give the commercial sector of the UK media a level playing field and an opportunity to move forward and it would enable the government/corporation to rethink how it funded the BBC.”

What do you think of both Lionel and Ashley’s standpoints?

I for one will massively re-evaluate my media consumption habits if many of the online outlets i read start charging for content. Are some of the powerhouses of the online content industry heading for a fall if they start to charge for their media? If it remains free, will the BBC became some kind of all-encompassing Orwellian one-stop shop for all online news?

Alex Smiddy (@AlexSmiddy)

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