Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saturday Musings

The exponential growth of social media has to be a historically unprecedented phenomenon. What it means for the future waits to be seen, but one thing is certain... it will not leave us unchanged.

Jeff Howe, in his book Crowdsourcing, offers numerous examples of ways in which the interactive connectivity of the Internet is producing effects that could never have been achieved previous to this point in time. For example, by means of millions of volunteers, a project striving to make contact with life in outer space has logged over a trillion hours of dedicated efforts in analyzing signals from the sky. There is no way a research institute could fund any team for such a massive project, yet the avid fans of such research have demonstrated that money is not the only way to get things done.

Howe argues that technology has enabled the rise of an amateur class that is reducing the gap between non-professionals and professionals or specialists.

On the one hand, this is exactly what the pessimists have feared. Page layout software programs enable nearly anyone to produce brochures, handbills and posters. The naysayers point out that, yes, this may be true but what we have is a lot of bad looking stuff because these untrained people have no sense of design.

The same goes for writers. In fact, with the advent of blogging, we may have more writers than readers!

Other controversial features of this new phenomenon include the pittance wages that can result as companies turn to the crowds to produce work that they might otherwise pay real workers a living wage for. Look, if you will, for freelance writing jobs online and you will find plenty... most of which pay pennies for content that helps make the "content provider" dollars.

Another form of crowdsourcing has been the emergence of microlending clubs where globs of people will pool their resources to give loans to people who are being turned down by banks. The problem is when the recipient of the loan defaults, how much money are you going to spend on legal fees when you only lost a hundred dollars that was pooled together with thousands of other suckers. (O.K., that is the more onerous spin and I should retract the "sucker" epithet.)

Anyways, there have been plenty of movements amongst artists to work collaboratively, even before all this high tech fandango. And I know many today for whom the Internet is simply a means for broadening the collaborative possibilities of creatives.
In the meantime, life goes on all around you. Make the most of it.

Noteworthy Blog of the Day: Ricelander's Art Gallery

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