We had about 100 people out last night in the rain for NYSIA's panel on DIY Media Technology, and overall, it was a terrific, wide-ranging discussion. After my opening remarks (more in a second), we started out with a demo by Pat Cummings, CEO of iGuitar, which is developing USB-wired guitars for plug-and-play recordings. Fred blogged about this a while ago, asking whether his many guitar-playing buddies might adapt to the USB guitar - answer, hell yeah. The demo had the crowd at JPMorgan Chase buzzing, as Pat played a bunch of licks and chords directly into Apple's terrific Garage Band program - and using internal controllers on the guitar and the software - also performed on "piano, harp, organ, and bass" - yeah, software instrument models for the keyboard-challenged.
Clearly, the ultimate prosumer tool and a great lead-off for the panel - led by Chervokas, and featuring Don Loeb, veep for biz dev at FeedBurner, Charlie Matheson, media and entertainment software specialist for IBM, and Chris O'Brien, founder of the pre-beta video network company MotionBox, which operates out of NYSIA's (totally full) incubator space at 55 Broad. Jason, who runs one of the best podcasts extant and is what I'd call an "uber-prosumer," had the topic nailed and led the panelists through a discussion that included every-fragmenting audiences, advertising models, youth culture, and distribution models.
Here are some of the notes I used for the introduction, which was aimed at setting the stage for a wide-ranging discussion (audience questions were great, as well) - see if you agree:
Technorati Tags: prosumer | toffler | web 2.0 | feedburner | NYSIA
More than a decade ago, I helped put a panel discussion together for the Columbia School of Journalism that examined the future role of the “gatekeeper” – in journalism specifically, in media more generally. The panel included some of the bigger lights in media: all of whom have, shall we say, moved on to other careers. Except one – Barry Diller. At that time, Diller was a movie studio guy who greenlighted mega projects and billion-dollar entertainment deals - but he had a different vision of the future (this after he’d stepped from his chauffer-driven, cream-colored Bentley outside the school). Diller thought gatekeepers were done – that in the future, users would create and distribute content over ever-faster networks using better software tools.
He was right – the rare mogul to see that clearly.
Alvin Toffler had been there 15 years earlier of course – when he identified a coming shift in consumer consumption – from pure, lemming-like buying of packaged goods to the actual creation of things – including media – he called these future consumers “prosumers” – the people who produced and consumed. I listened to Toffler speak two weeks ago in L.A. and he’s not resting on his FutureShock laurels. Hardly. Now Toffler has a new vision for his “prosumer” vision – now a quarter century down the road, and brought to palpable fruition by the Internet. That vision is of a vast, partially hidden economy – one that doesn’t included currency, or accounting – but one that he believes rivals the trillions of the world’s monied economy.
Another 25 years may or may not prove Toffler right, but Barry Diller and those like him aren’t waiting around. That unmonied economy – people who Do It Themselves – is moving to the fore, on the back of ever-more-open software standards.
At the same conference in LA, there was Edgar Bronfman, head of Warner Records, talking about easing up on digital rights management and attacking his own industry for being short-sighted, for slighting prosumers. And of course, Bronfman is a prosumer himself, a songwriter with a home studio (though of course, it’s pretty damned high-end), a mogul who just might use some of the gear we’re going to see demonstrated in a minute.
Blogs are all around us – open sharing of information by DIY publishers. David Sifry says his search engine now tracks 37.3 million blogs. People creating content for other people, with little or no money changing hands in most cases. Prosumers are building wikis the size of vast encyclopedia. They are creating virtual stores and video games inside a virtual landscape on Second Life. Google Earth is run by and for DIY types, who create their own geographic overlays. Video mashups are all the rage, despite what some would see as their quasi-legality. Flickr users build tricked-up photo maps. Even the big consumer companies are experimenting with allowing users to create advertisements.
In New York, especially over the past decade since the advent of the commercial Internet, we talk a lot about media technology without ever really defining it. The problem is, I think, one of separation. We approach the question with the notion that media and technology are separate things—separate disciplines, separate industries. But in fact, media — movies, television, video games, books, magazines, recorded music — can't exist without technology. Media is nothing more than the commercial exploitation of the creative arts. And the process of turning a creative work into a commercial media product is entirely dependent on technology. As Jason said to me last week, A Grateful Dead concert isn't necessarily media. But a CD recording of that concert IS.
Prosumerism is a big movement, and a change that goes beyond blogs and RSS - which are terrific, generally lightweight software that rely on tecnhique and strategy as much as millions of lines of code in a tightly-controlled working group in a software lab. This goes past the PC - Tehnologies not talked about as prosumer – yet I believe will be at heart of DIY in future – voice recognition and gps.
Investment follows innovation and acceptance (and sometimes, profits). So why are two Web 1.0 old guys here tonight? Because it’s happening again – what happened in New York in 1994 and 1995 and 1996 . Innovation (and I hope, not an overvaluation bubble).