Great videos on the creative culture and remixing…

I’ve finally got around to watching the first two parts of ‘Everything is a Remix‘, (h/t Rubbishcorp and Only Dead Fish), and it’s a really good series of realtively short videos looking at the pervasive remix culture which has become more explicitly acknowledged in the digital era:

Part 1:

Everything is a Remix from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Part 2:

Everything is a Remix Part 2 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

It’s very well-made and crafted, and Kirby Ferguson does a great job of pulling together a huge number of sources and insights. And oddly enough in the spirit of remixing, it reminds me a lot of another great film about remix culture, RIP! A Remix Manifesto, written and directed by Brett Gaylor.

What’s particularly interesting is that Kirby lists RIP! in his references section, alongside another film, ‘Good Copy Bad Copy‘, which begins which features DJ and remixer Girl Talk from the start – who also plays a big part in RIP.

All three are worth watching, and it’s interesting to see the similarities, differences and shared influences. And if anyone goes on about how bad remix and mash-up culture is for artistic endeavours, or consumers, it gives me a lot of hope that talented filmakers around the world are creating great documantary remixes on the topic of remixes.

If you’d prefer to examine the written word when it comes to remix culture, copyright, and the legal issues involved, then you can do no better than to start with Lawrence Lessig. Code 2.0 and Remix are highly recommended and the also excellent Free Culture is available as a free download under a Creative Commons licence, from here.

The enduring power of a good mash-up…

I dashed out in my car at lunchtime to run some errands, and while I was rushing around, this famous song was being played on the radio (it’s not the official video due to all the Youtube, PRS, music industry and other licensing restrictions.

But the lyrics forming in my head, and the video being pictured in my mind as I drove along was actually:

There’s probably a lot you could imply about original creations, payment mechanisms, and music industry copyrights etc…

I’ll just sit here chuckling and thinking about the quote on a T-shirt I bought from the National Gallery (is it just me that thinks their website is shocking?) recently – ‘Bad artists copy, Good artists steal’ – Picaso.

Snow hits UK, but train travel information arrives via Twitter

The best way to get reliable UK train travel updates during the current light covering of snow appears to be the excellent uktrains service, which publishes updates to Twitter for 25 rail companies. Especially when the official website for some companies appears to be as reliable as the trains themselves.

'No trains' Pic by aburt on Flickr (CC Licence)

'No trains' Pic by aburt on Flickr (CC Licence)

Once again Twitter is showing itself as an excellent mechanism for information, following on from the #uksnow mash-up in my last post.

But although it’s still new enough to get coverage on mainstream media such as the BBC, (@bensmith is talking about UKtrains at the BBC as I type), it’s not without precedent (Not to diminish the great work by Ben Smith (uktrains) and Ben Marsh (uksnow).

Back in October 2007, Twitter users @nateritter and @viss used the hashtag #sandiegofire to distribute information on fires in California.

And then there were the earthquakes. US, UK and China.

There was the tragedy in Mumbai, and the use of Twitter to start alerting people about the status of hospitals and need for blood donations.

And some emergency services have a Twitter account, such as the LA Fire Dept.

The interesting thing about #uksnow and uktrains is how the interpretation and use of data pulled from, and pushed into Twitter is evolving to make more effective services for information.

Plenty of people have talked about how Twitter is moving into the mainstream, or how Facebook made an offer to purchase the microblogging service – but in many ways the mainstream are being sucked into Twitter – exactly as happened with Facebook en route to 150 million+ global active users.

Monitor the UK weather via Twitter mash-up

There’s a fantastic Twitter mash-up to capitalise on the UK fascination with weather – even if most of us will only see about an inch of snow at the moment.

#UKsnow Tweets

#UKsnow Tweets

Recommended via @joannejacobs, it works by Twitter users posting a Tweet with the hashtag #uksnow and the appropriate postcode. For example “#uksnow NG9 3/10″

You can see it working by clicking on the image above or visiting the site of the creator, Ben Marsh, but I don’t know how long it will be running for – you could ask him on Twitter at @benmarsh!

Is the new masterpiece just a moment in time?

I originally posted this thought as a comment on a post by David Cushman at /message, but wanted to repost it here. Partly it’s to remind me to examine it more in the future, and partly because I’m fortunate enough to have received some very insightful comments recently, and I’m hoping the same will help me form this idea.

In the broadcast era, a masterpiece was a finished product which received a response from either critics or the general populace.

In the new era just arriving, the influential content creators will produce masterpieces, but these will be moments frozen in time in the evolution of a piece of content as it continues to evolve.

The masterpiece may not be Back to the Future, but it may be Brokeback to the Future. Which could then lead to Microsoft Goes Back to the Future. We see it already in the constant evolution and improvement to a Wikipedia article. But with the more gradual evolution of content or an idea across websites, blogs, comments, lifestreams, emails, microblogging, video and audio sites,  there will be certain revisions and remixes which stand out as most relevant or informative for each of us. And those which are adopted by influential individuals or a critical mass of groups will be retained as a classic.
Ideas have always evolved in a similar fashion, but generally Hollywood sequels and remakes are perceived as lower quality, with notable exceptions (Aliens, Dawn of the Dead, possibly The Empire Strikes Back and The Godfather Part 2). But rather than watching Sylvester Stallone or Jude Law fail to match Michael Caine in the originals of Get Carter and Alfie, or an Italian Job which takes place in America with modern Minis, we’ll get new versions every year, month or week, with different actors, different interpretations and different outcomes.

The original creator and creation will still have a venerable position as the archetype, but it’s relevance starts to fade as soon as it has been consumed, and only re-emerges once it has been reinterpreted time and time again.

A step towards furthering The Long Tail

As I said previously, the excellent Long Tail theory implies how major media companies will continue to co-exist with the long tail of prosumers, but doesn’t justify their continued existence.

That posed me with enough of a problem to email the author (and Wired Editor-in-Chief) Chris Anderson, who inspired me to continue with a thoughtful response. And to discuss the concept further with fellow blogger Dave Cushman from Faster Future.

Although I see major media companies forced to adapt to become agents for content creators, rather than creators themselves, there are some good reasons why we need these big players to continue, rather than fading away, or choosing to plug-in unpaid user generated content rather than backing artists with significant funding.

One major reason is Context. As much as we want increasingly more personal relevance from our niche entertainment, we still want to be indentifiable to larger groups. Tagging yourself with your favourite films on a site like Facebook is an art in itself, as you move between common signposts (Star Wars, Titanic, etc), and more obscure arthouse or indie movies. As much as the watercooler discussions about the latest hits have diminished, they’ve migrated to online debates on forums and message boards, and the cult of celebrity is as strong as ever.

Much of the current crop of user generated content is also based upon these reference points, whether it’s a mash-up of famous films (my favourite, here), a parody, or fan fiction based upon these titles. It can be much easier to gain popularity for an unknown prosumer by referencing these common cultural signposts than to begin with totally original material. How many film fans wouldn’t recognise the sound of a lightsaber being drawn in Star Wars?

Another main reason is Inspiration. Whilst the likes of Speilberg, Lucas, Cameron or Kubrick made interesting student films and could doubtless do wonders with the technology available to home users at the moment, there are still differences in what becomes available when you have several million or more to spend. And while OK Go can inspire a certain time of fan film for Youtube, there are doubtless many amateur filmmakers who aspire to making Schindlers List, or 2001.

The final of the trio of reasons in Financial Aspiration, often sidestepped in studies which proclaim prosumers just do it for the love of it and the recognition.
Many people do co-create and share to exchange knowledge and ideas, and to simply get their voice out there. Any audience they receive is valued and appreciated, and they fit their creative sides around their day jobs.

But that isn’t the total picture. Many amateur musicians, film makers and writers would give various body parts to ‘make it’ in ever bigger arenas. Partly for financial reward, and partly because, if you strive to do something better, it takes more time and effort. And the demands of a 9-5 job might not stop you from achieving your dream, but they complicate it immensely. Lauded indie directors such as Kevin Smith and Richard Linklater made their names with tiny budgets but certainly didn’t hide from major studios when they got the chance. Partly the old methods of film distribution made it a neccessity, but partly it meant they could get paid, use studio lots, and get access to a whole world of professional film casts and employees.

Writing, making music, or making movies isn’t easy. There are those who are naturally talented, and there are more resources than ever online to help guide aspiring talent. But in order to reach a reasonable level of quality takes time and practice, especially to hit that level consistently. If hopeful artists can’t aspire to paid employment then there is no opportunity for university, for example, which gives many people the time and space to find their voice, or for any further training, without indulgent and wealthy parents.

Artistic endeavour has always been interlinked with financial reward, since the first wandering minstrel received a meal and a pint of ale for producing entertainment.

I’d be very interested to hear how these ideas stand up, especially as I fully intend to use them the next time I hear the cry that big companies are now dead, or that we can cull all our paid staff because users will just churn out endless reams of content without any input. So as ever I welcome all comments and feedback, good or bad. Whatever happens, it’s an interesting time, especially for someone who works for a major media company 9-5.30pm at www.motorcyclenews.com, runs a publication which aspires to make money at www.disposablemedia.co.uk, and blogs purely to have a voice. Three sides of the same coin…

What a week!

It’s been a bit of a busy 7-10 days, but I’ve finally committed to filling in the unfortunate blog deficit.

- I’ve been chatting a fair bit to Howard Webster, the creator, writer, publisher, organiser and driving force behind The Many Worlds of Jonas Moore, which is ‘second generation graphic novel’, in that it mixes comics, old black and white archive footage, and live action shot with actors including British thespian Colin Salmon. Even more interesting for me is the fact that all the assets from the ‘official’ production can be downloaded and used to create user content, with mash-ups of audio, video etc. And if that wasn’t enough, Howard has an annoying habit of just coming out with other ground-breaking ideas in the middle of a conversation. In a 30 minute catch-up he came out with two or three evolutions of the idea, all of which could stand on their own. And all of which were very interesting. I won’t say more, but I’m currently writing a feature on the project for Disposable Media, out on June 28, so make sure you check it out.

- I’ve also been contacted by Catherine Toole from Sticky Content about a variety of things, including her forthcoming presentation at Online Marketing 2007. I have to say, from previous experience, and the teaser on the Sticky Content blog, it’ll be one of the presentations worth seeing, as it’s rare to see someone combining a obvious passion for social media, with a balanced view of what can go wrong, and then coming up with the solutions that brands and managers often need spelt out for them. I’m just working out whether I can justify a day or two out of the office to pop down and give my support.

-Before this gets to epic length, I’ve also now become one of these accursed ‘evangelists’ for technology. (I’ll never use that term again, I promise). After upgrading my own aged laptop to Windows 2000 Professional (I’m a luddite geek), I suddenly twigged I didn’t have any decent Office-type programmes. No MS Word for example. So I went and downloaded Open Office.
Blimey. Everything I could need for a home PC, in one reasonably-sized download, and with no obvious problems as yet. Why would I ever bother with paying for similar programmes? The only thing I can see me doing in future is investing in a USB stick big enough to carry everything I need around with me.

Unsettling and unsubstantiated Last.fm rumour

Viacom execs are looking to buy last.fm for $450 million, in an unsubstantiated rumour story published on dealbreaker.com

As commented on before, Last.fm had recently signed a deal for content from Warner, so was, perhaps, preparing for something like this?

I’ll be keeping a close eye on this story, as although I don’t often use the last.fm player, I do enjoy seeing my MP3s listed up there, as well as using the pandora/last.fm mash-up, here.

Firefox and Vista in one post?

I’ve been a little distracted by the arrival of a new PC at work. So I now have two PCs, and three monitors on my desk! All with a rather lovely view of Seattle to remind me of the time I spent there.

Anyhoo. If you’re a keen user of Firefox, and you’re also a user of Vista, then why not get involved in the Mozilla testing process? You can find out more, here. The test day itself has passed, but you can still join in. I would, but all my work PCs are locked onto Win XP for the foreseeable future…

And in other news, I’m sure most people have now heard of Yahoo Pipes. Kudos to Yahoo for releasing the tool for creating, merging and splicing all kinds of feeds, and with an interesting graphical interface. I’ve been receiving emails from several people telling me how great it is.
Trouble is, it’s not quite user friendly yet. As zdnet pointed out.

The future of Instant Messaging…

Instant Messaging could finally be evolving and changing into something more useful, judging by the message posted on Techcrunch’s company review forum.

Imified integrates your Instant Messaging service, whether it’s MSN, AOL, Trillian, Yahoo etc, with a wide and growing number of applications. For instance, with your Google calendar, Backpack organiser, Blogger or WordPress blog.

It uses standard APIs, and will need to store some of your passwords etc. Then again, you’ve had the same passwords sat in your company or hotmail email account for two years!

It means anyone with an IM client can now seamlessly work through a range of functionality, on a range of sites, without needed to mess around opening more browser windows. Which can only be a good thing! It’s another example of the overriding ethos of the internet, which is to evolve and makes things simpler, quicker and easier.

Anyway, you can check out Imified, here.